title: of terrible jumpers and banana ice-cream
summary: Rory and River share a bonding moment.
notes: Because while everyone seems to focus on the River/Amy relationship, I personally believe that Rory the Roman would make the most badass Dad in the history of the world...
"Oi! Hands off my daughter!"
For maybe the first time in her life, River Song is quite speechless.
Not that she's helpless. Of course she's not helpless. She has never, as far as she can recall, felt helpless. She's River Song, after all, and that name says a hell of a lot more than one might think. Plus, it's not even as if she needs help, thank-you-very-much, because honestly? Who hasn't been trapped in the royal box at the New New Royal Albert Hall, fighting off seven 25th century robots oh-so-cunningly disguised as ticket salesmen, at one point or another in their lives? It's nothing a girl can't handle quite well on her own – the flamethrowers have only done the teensiest bit of damage, really, and she's already defended herself quite well with little more than her opera glasses and intermission-snack pot of ice cream (Banana. Honestly. It's just one of those little things she's picked up while travelling with the Doctor), so honestly, what's the problem?
King Charles V is cowering under the seat even as she speaks. Honestly. The ears had been bad enough – is that kind of thing hereditary? - but this kind of behaviour is really putting her off.
Fine. It's perfectly fine. Well, until one of them lunges, grabs her by the hair and yanks, hard. Barrel of a gun, pressing against her neck.
And then the shout.
For one moment she doesn't quite recognise the voice – and that's ridiculous in itself, because God, who doesn't recognise their own father's voice? Isn't that something you should be programmed to recognise from the start, you know, if you're born into a normal home in a normal family when the first person to pick you up and give you a cuddle was Mummy and Daddy and not people with names like Madame Kovarian and Colonel Manton? And then she turns, just slightly, owing to the huge lump of metal still holding on to her hair, and the door's been flung open and there he is, not the Doctor, not her knight in shining armour, but Rory, still as scruffy and hapless as the day she met him, with his hair all messed up and his jumper on inside out, and – is that a sword he's holding?
Yup, it's a sword, a great big five-foot something broadsword that demands he clutch it with two trembling hands and could, in fact, be bigger than her. River's never actually seen a broadsword being wielded by a man with a poorly knitted maroon sweater before, but there's a first time for everything. Even the giant tin-men currently intent on assassinating the last living member of the English royal family exchange doubtful – albeit slightly electronic – glances.
One of the robots lunges forward towards her, evidently intent on reducing River into a desecrated pile of bone, guts and banana ice cream. And then – well, there's a horrific grating sound and River's entire world is filled with blinding light and sparks flying everywhere – and when the smoke as passed there's a sword, yes, a broadsword, sticking out of mister metal-man's head.
"I mean it," Rory growls as the robot slowly falls to the ground. "You. All of you. Let go of my daughter – now."
And here's the thing. For a minute, just for one minute, even though these creatures are little more than hard-drives and metal, she's convinced she can detect a tremor of fear in their eyes.
…That is, until Rory realises that he's now weaponless, than his sword is quite literally embedded in a robot's head, and no matter how much he yanks and heaves, he cannot get it out.
Luckily they are joined quite speedily at this point by Amy, who's carrying not only a heavily-modified sub-machine gun but a particularly vicious expression, and – ooh, there goes her heart all fluttery again – the Doctor, who carries neither sword or gun but, rather inexplicably, a chewy Swizzels drumstick, which he proceeds to snack on quite cheerfully as he talks to the assassins. Rather happily. There's much hand-gesturing and mixing of metaphors as he spins round the royal box in that whee, isn't this fun, look at how cool this is, isn't life grand that she can't help but smile at, despite the aforementioned gun pressing into her skin. Things are explained. Like yes, he realises that the life of a robot assassin must be pretty gloomy at the best of time but really, can life be so bad that they've decided to murder the last member of a dying royal house – a house which, indirectly, owing to a number of circumstances kick-started by a chance meeting between himself and a particular lady during a rather rambunctious opening night party of Two Gentlemen of Verona, he is very nearly related to himself. Almost. Nearly. If he hadn't, you know, lost track of time a bit while exploring the Lost Jungles of Katroon and subsequently jilted the Queen of England and earned her undying enmity – but really, what was he supposed to do? It's not as if he hadn't meant to come back, but you know how it is when you're a Timelord, things get in the way – or a Timelady, in fact. Like the one kneeling on the floor there. Are the robots aware that that's River Song they're holding hostage? Heard of her, have they?
There's some electronic beeping going on behind her. River's rather gratified to discover that they have.
Anyway, as the Doctor was saying -
" – Doctor. Robots holding my daughter hostage."
Ah. Right, Sorry Amy.
It's all sorted out eventually, and the robots surrender their weapons, and Charles V is discovered to have fainted dead away in the corner. Amy embraces her warmly.
"First time we've had to rescue you, eh?"
River laughs, kisses her on the cheek, slaps the Doctor playfully on the rear. She's gratified to see him jump nearly a foot in the air. Rory's still struggling with the sword. Rather haplessly, as a matter of fact.
She can't help but chuckle at that.
It's just that for the first time she feels – well, melty. And not that kind of good, exciting, ooh-it's-the-Doctor-oh-hello-sailor kind of melty. More a sort of Gaw. That's my Dad kind of feeling.
He looks up, grins – a little bashfully, a kind of lop-sided grin, and shrugs helplessly. "Hi River."
Amy tried, a couple of times in the beginning (from her mother's perspective, not her own. She pretends it's easy to understand, but it isn't, it never will be) to call her Melody, until River quite calmly and sadly, sat her down and told her that she wasn't that girl, not any more. Rory's never tried. She appreciates that.
She never had a father. Dr Renfrew in the orphanage was half-mad by the time she arrived, pale and shaking and scribbling frantic messages on the wall which he never seemed to read. When she arrived in Leadworth it was to be adopted by a childless older woman, lovely in a bland sort of way, who had been widowed long before Mels ever entered the scene. There's never been a Dad, a Dad who's there, who she can laugh at with her friends and whose shoulder she can cry on when her heart's broken, who gives her biscuits and sweeties when Mum's not looking. And now there's Rory, and he's wearing the most disastrous sweatshirt in the whole history of knitting and his hair's all spiked up the wrong way, and she's quite certain those are mismatched socks on his feet, and he's struggling to remove a sword from a robot head, and he may have very well just saved her life, and all she can think is Yes, that's my Dad, that's my Dad.
She swallows down, hard, pretends there's not a lump in her throat, because River Song? Crying? Not on your life. "Hi, Rory."
Here's the brutal and honest truth: originally, she was far more interested in Amy than Rory.
Because let's be honest, Amy? Yeah, she can kind of see where she got it from, the whole feistiness and the flirting and total badass-attitude. She can sometimes see her laugh mirrored on Amy's lips, the same roll of the eyes when someone – alright, the Doctor – is being particularly impossible, the same way they carry themselves. River finds herself studying Amy so carefully, watching for her mannerisms within this young body, that sometimes she forgets who's actually the mother.
They're best friends. Or were, once upon a time, a whole other lifetime ago. They've laughed together, talked together, danced together. One time they giggled over bizarre haircuts and the new boys in the sixth form, now it's over bizarre species and her new guards in Stormcage. And the Doctor. They've always giggled over the Doctor.
It always felt easy with Amy. Even as Mels, when the secret of who she was and what the was weighed her down so heavily that sometimes it hurt to even breathe, she'd look at Amy, all responsible noises and reproving looks and think Mum. Huh, Mum. Well, you've been bringing me up since we were all of – what? – six years old? Whenever the boys used to tease me for being strange and different and still talking about some stupid imaginary friend, you'd send them all packing.
And Rory. Then there's Rory.
He was always around. Always. Always two steps behind, always hurrying to catch up. Where Amy was loud, he was quiet; where Amy was confident, he was unsure. He made bad jokes and recited useless facts for his nursing degree, and one time drove Amy quite mad by reciting the entire script of Monty Python and the Holy Grail while the actual film was playing. Whenever Mels did something stupid, like steal a bus or sell her foster mother's furniture for tickets to a Snow Patrol concert in Venezuala - she maintains this was still a good idea - he would bury his head in his hands and let Amy rant until she was exhausted. And then hug them both and go fetch chocolate to calm them both down.
He was so...ordinary.
Sometimes she'd listen to Amy's stories back when they were kids, back when Amy believed that doctors could fall out of the sky and she was Melody Pond even if no-one knew it, and she had a job to do even if no-one could ever ever find out – all she'd do was listen to her stories of the Doctor and then look over at Rory and think: God, I wish you'd been with him, I wish the Doctor was my dad instead of this quiet little boy. And then half the time she'd think no, actually, not my dad, I'd never want someone like that as a dad.
She'd always known what she wanted, even then.
But Rory, it wasn't as if she didn't like Rory, she loved him, with his stupid haircuts and his frantic attempts to learn how to drive before the two girls did, and his even more frantic attempts to learn how to play guitar as a direct result of, let's be honest, the stupid haircuts. When he and Amy finally got together it was all she could do to stop herself from giggling with sheer glee. But she was a kid back then, hell, they were all just kids back then, the only problem is she's all grown up and they're not.
Sometimes she looks at him, her dad, still bickering with Amy over failed driving tests and old music bands, and sighs. God, he is still just a kid. He recites the scripts to old movies and trips over his feet and still 'phones his mum on weekends just because. He's a kid. They both are. They're far too young, young enough to make a whole lifetime of mistakes.
They just never should have become saddled with a mistaken like her.
When they were growing up, barely teenagers, she'd grin at Rory and underneath she'd be thinking You're my dad. One day you're going to find out you're my dad. You can barely look after me now, how in the hell are you ever going to cope?
She can't help but remember, years and years ago, worlds and worlds away – the crash of the TARDIS, the shattering of glass and the crack of a gunshot, and then BAM. Like nothing else she'd ever see on earth. Rory Williams, socking Hitler straight in the nose.
For a second there, through the chaos and the madness and the blinding pain, all she could think of was: Hey, that's my dad. A dad that punches out Nazis. I could get on board with this.
The Doctor and Amy skip ahead, after the greetings and the teasings, and the restoration of the English monarch to his throne. Dinner! the Doctor proclaims, dinner with the family, dinner with the wifey and the in-laws. Amy biffs him on the shoulder for that, none too gently. Still, they're all hungry, and so they all set off, the Doctor and Amy rushing ahead, trading stories like popcorn.
River falls into step next to Rory. The sweatshirt is, rather mercifully, now the right way round.
"Mad, aren't they?" she chuckles. The tale of the time Audrey Hepburn through an entire plate of pasta right at the Doctor's head echoed through the night air.
"You've got that right." He shakes his head, looks at the ground, and laughs. It's a little wistful, after all these years.
Still grinning, she opens her mouth, before closing it again. All the little quips, dirty jokes, dry remarks – they all seem somehow false, fabricated, when walking alongside him. Her father.
It can't be easy for him either. He keeps on taking doubtful little looks at her. She does the mental arithmetic in her head, even without the diary she's gotten quite used to this. How soon after they've found out? Reasonably soon. Quite soon? Who knows. How long does it take someone to get used to this? She can't entirely say that she's 'used to this', and she's had a lifetime to adjust.
The Doctor's simple. The Doctor's easy. He's mad and brilliant and wonderful and, once she'd got past that little 'brought up entirely to kill you' thing, she loved him. That was it. Whereas parents and children, fathers and daughters…that never stops being complicated.
"So – um…" he begins, and River just knows this is him trying, trying to be a good dad, because that's what Rory always is, he's good. "Have you been looking after yourself?"
"I…yes." There's the unexpected urge to show-off, to boast. With a hopeful smile she gives him her first little offering, like a child presenting some tatty, hand-made present. "I was in a shoot-out with the Uvodni last week."
"Ah. Um." Rory nods intelligently, and cocks a wary eye at her. "Is that a good thing?"
"Yes," she informs him. "I won."
There's another pause, lying heavy and pregnant between them. River sighs. He probably expected different conversations, snippets of an entirely different life. I got an A+ in my geography exam. Me and my friends went riding our bikes for hours and hours. A boy asked me to the Spring Dance today. Something like that. Today I blew up an entire Sontaran spaceship, Daddy doesn't quite come close.
He didn't sign up for this, poor thing. None of them did.
"Nice jumper, by the way."
Rory starts suddenly. "My mum made it for me. Um. Your Grandma, actually." He blinks, confused at the statement as if hearing it for the first time. "I…ah…I could ask her to make one for you, the next time we're home. You know. If you want."
"I'd like that."
This is not, strictly speaking, a lie. No longer being inside out has hardly improved the creation: it's ill-fitting and maroon and has bizarre little reindeer stitched all along the bottom under a cloud of what appear to be misshapen snowflakes fluttering down across his chest. One of the reindeers' eyes have become rather cross-eyed with time; it seems to be giving her a somewhat angry look. Nonetheless. She's like something like that, an heirloom, something she can laugh over and hug to her chest and wear in the cold dead of night in the depths of her prison cell when the Doctor isn't coming and she's too damn tired to think about all the things in her life that could have gone differently if only, if only, if only.Just something to hold and think mine, part of me.
For a second he pauses, still staring at the monstrosity draped over his skinny form as if it's the most fascinating thing on earth. His throat clears awkwardly. "It's hideous."
Well, she can't argue with that. "Yes. Yes it is."
Unexpectedly, they both burst out laughing. Proper, full-on, keep-on-going-until-your-sides-hurt-and-your-eyes-weep laughter. Up ahead the Doctor briefly glances back to see them both chortling together, River clutching onto Rory's shoulder to steady herself, and smiles a little in that soft, sad but oh God so happysort of way he has. She can't help but give him a thumbs up.
As their laughter slowly softens into smiles, River slips her arm softly through his. "But I'd still like it if – if she wouldn't mind making me one, that is."
Rory nods. Grins.
She nudges him, almost companionably, squeezes his arm. "And thanks. For the whole 'saving my life' thing."
"Oh – well, I really didn't do much. That was all the Doctor doing – well, what he usually does, you know."
"No, really. Stabbing a robot assassin in the head?" She shrugs. "That's pretty badass."
"Well. You know. They were trying to hurt you."
Maybe she didn't get it all from Amy. And if you've got a dad who knocks out Nazis and duels futuristic robots just for you - well, you can count yourself pretty damn lucky.
River's hand squeezes his arm gently and they fall back into silence once more – comfortable this time, easy, as if this was what she'd been born to do from the start. She feels suddenly, absurdly happy. And why shouldn't she? The moon is full and glints brightly off the buildings that tower above her, she's strolling down the street of 25th century London, she's with her family, and all's right with the world.
Rory points conspiratorially to an ice-cream parlour just ahead. Several steps before them, the Doctor and Amy's combined laughter rings out through the silent streets. "Do you want to get some? It's just before dinner, but," and here he grins, a proper, mischievous little grin, and she can just tell he's been dreaming of saying this ever since he first heard that Amy was pregnant, "we don't have to tell your mother."
Her eyes sparkle. She leans her head into the crook of his shoulder.
"Lead the way, Dad."