The Man Of The House
"How did you do it?" Howie asked.
Rory looked up. "Do what?"
"Get a really beautiful girl to marry you."
Rory looked at the teenage boy before him- bespecticled, awkward, reminding him a lot of himself- and wondered whether to call him an idiot. "I didn't get her to."
Howie took a seat next to Rory. Rory hadn't asked him to, but he didn't really mind. He didn't really care about anything at the moment. Howie looked exhausted, and he smelled of sweat. "I really hate this. I just wanna leave."
"You and me both."
Howie looked around the room, his gaze lingering a little on both Rita and Amy. "You're Rory, right?"
"Yeah, and you're Howie."
"So here do you and Amy come from?"
Rory was glad that he had phrased the question in that way, that the word home hadn't come into it. "Leadworth. Near Gloucester."
"I live in London." Howie was staring at Amy again. "Yeah...she's really gorgeous. Is she like a model or something?"
"Look," Rory said irritably, "you should go tell her she's gorgeous, not me."
"I d-don't like talking to girls," Howie said, his stutter suddenly flaring up again. "I was never any g-good at it."
"Well," Rory had never found himself giving advice in this manner, "you just gotta...be yourself I suppose." Howie continued to stare at Amy and Rory found himself wishing ferverently he would leave. "Howie," he eventually said, "it's really rude to just stare at people."
"Sorry," Howie said. Amy must have felt the stare, because she turned and waved at Rory, before continuing her conversation with the Doctor. Rory waved back. They sat in silence for a while.
"Where's the Doctor from?" Howie asked. "What is he?"
Rory sighed deeply. "I don't know."
Howie must have guessed that the Doctor wasn't currently Rory's favourite subject, but he pressed on anyway. "He's...there's something about him. Are you mad cos Amy really likes him? She's all over him all the time."
Rory looked at them. She wasn't. "They're just mates. Good mates."
"Why're you so...weird around him, then?"
Rory wished, once more, that Howie would leave. "He stole my daughter."
It had come out wrong. "I mean...I had a daughter. A baby. She's still alive, but...I'll never see her as a baby again. I never got to hold her." Howie stared. "I do still see her. As an adult. Her name is River. But the baby...she's gone."
"Sorry," Howie said. He sounded like he meant it, and he moved a bit closer to Rory. "I never would've guessed you were a dad. I lost my dad. Ages ago."
"Sorry," Rory said. He wondered whether to ask the usual questions. When he had been a nurse, talking to patients, he always had... "D'ya mind if I ask how he died?"
"Car accident," Howie said. "Ever since then, I had my s-stammer." He smiled ruefully. "You can't r-really tell now, I had a lot of speech therapy, but...sometimes it sort of shows up again."
"You're doing really well," Rory told him. "I mean, I think so."
"Thanks," said Howie. "My mum..." He trailed off. "I don't think she likes it. That I had to go to therapy. She wanted be to be...the m-man of the house. And I'm not. I just play on the internet and...and and act like a loser."
"Don't be stupid, you're not a loser." Both men were silent, until Rory spoke again.
"You got any brothers or sisters?"
"Only younger sisters. Twins."
"Cool. What're their names?"
"Roxanne and Jessica."
Rory smiled. "Amy's middle name is Jessica." He subconciously moved his hand to touch his wedding ring. "Going to therapy doesn't make you weak or anything. You know that, right?"
"Yeah," Howie said, glumly.
"Getting over a speech impediment is really hard," Rory said. "I bet your dad would be very proud at how far you've got."
Howie smiled, and Rory suspected this was the first proper conversation Howie had had with anyone in a while, maybe the first one ever where the concept of pride had come up. "Maybe," he said.
"Yeah," said Rory.
They both found themselves looking at the Doctor, who was deep in conversation with Amy. And then Howie looked up at Rory, hope in his eyes. "I just got out of speech therapy last week, you know," His hand was shaking a little. "I thought, you know, my whole life was ahead of me. And then this happened." He looked, very sadly, around the room. "I can't die here."
"It's okay," Rory said. He squeezed his shoulder- briefly feeling like a nurse again- and said something he didn't really believe. "The Doctor will save you."