Ok, super sorry for the outrageously long wait for this one guys. Just writer's block and life being extremely very not cooperative at the time. Nevertheless, I am so grateful for all your reviews, favorites, follows, and C2s! You guys are the reason I keep updating.
Now, to attempt and head-off any confusion, Brian Williams is going to feature in this chapter. The only trouble is, since I began this series pre-season seven, Brian's character didn't exist. So while I am basing the character of Rory's dad off of Mark Williams' portrayal, he has never met the Doctor, and the Doctor has never met him. Hopefully that makes sense. So, on with the fic!
Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock
As they pulled up in front of the large, yet plain, building, he felt himself tense up despite the promises he'd made himself. This was good. This was safe. If he had any doubts, Jenny's head leaning on his shoulder and River's fingers entwined with his should have dispelled them. Yet still the Doctor felt anxious.
"We're here," Rory announced, finding a parking space and shutting off the car. Amy turned around in the passenger seat to get a good look at him.
"Nothing to worry about, Doctor. It's just our stupid old school in boring Leadworth. Least it's not old people," she joked. He actually managed to crack a smile at that.
"Thank goodness for that, Pond," he replied. Jenny had opened her door and exited the car, so he slid out after her, stepping into the afternoon air. He watched as people both went into and out of the school building. Well, at least no one who was leaving looked like anything bad had happened. He took in a deep breath, glancing about to see that all four of the others had gathered around him, a silent show of support. "So," he started, wanting to think less about what they were here for, "The Ponds' alma mater. All three of you, actually," he realized, and River grimaced.
"Worse than any Stormcage sentence," she commented dryly, and he actually laughed at that. He felt at ease enough that he could begin walking, though Rory soon took up the lead.
"Dad promised to meet us in the lobby," he informed them all.
"Then let's go see Brian," Amy decided.
"Dad," Jenny murmured quietly. He looked down at her to see she was clearly thinking about something.
"Well, if Brian is Rory's dad, does that mean he's my step-great-grandfather?"
The Doctor blinked. "Er, yes. Yes, I suppose he is. You have two, actually—Amy's father is Augustus and his wife- your step-great-grandmother –is Tabetha." He had grandparents-in-law? It was shocking just to think about it.
They passed through the front entrance and joined a queue of people waiting to approach a table. There were three people manning the table, and Rory had put them in line for an older-looking male with similar facial features. The Doctor could only assume this was Brian Williams, his friend's father.
When they reached the front of the line, Mr. Williams nodded at the hospital intern. "Rory."
"Hi, dad," was the simple reply.
"Brian," Amy greeted with a smile, and the man leaned across the table to accept her hug.
"Hello, Amy. How have you both been? Everything sorted with that 'unit'-thing?" He inquired, and the Doctor exchanged a curious glance with his daughter.
"Is there a reason Rory's father likes talking to Amy more?" He whispered in his wife's ear.
"It's always been like that," River murmured. "Ever since we were kids. Rory got his quietness from his father, so I think neither really knows what to say."
"Oh, everything's fine," Amy was saying. Brian nodded before his eyes fell on the group of three he was unfamiliar with.
"I'm guessing you're the friend Rory was telling me about…?" He trailed off, and the Doctor gave a start.
"Oh! Yes, that's me. Hello, I'm- er –John Smith," he introduced, shaking the other man's hand enthusiastically. They'd decided it would be best for him to use a pseudonym in this case, especially given what they were here for.
"River Song," the curly-haired blonde held out her hand politely for her unknowing grandfather.
"Jenny Smith," his daughter piped up next, and he had to smile that she'd chosen his pseudonym for herself as well.
"Yes, well, donating blood is a simple process, it really only takes a little while. And that's mostly recuperation, making sure you're ready to get back on your feet. We have everyone read one of these," Brian told him, handing him a folder that appeared to contain specific information.
A blood drive. That was why they had come here. Yes, it seemed a crazy idea, and they'd had to debate it back and forth between everybody. He could still vividly recall how Donna had physically placed herself between him and Rory, flinging her arms out wide.
"He's given enough!" She'd declared.
But he had listened attentively to Rory's explanation. "Well, we all agree that the Doctor was having problems recovering. Because he feels like he's not doing enough to help people. And we've agreed that that's not true," the Roman had added hastily as Donna had looked about to retort. "But maybe, this is sort of a way to show that he can do something- and not more than he should. It's healthy."
So he'd agreed to go. While he'd come to terms with the fact that there were people who would die without his organs, there was still a bereft feeling. Because it felt wrong to just do nothing.
And perhaps, this could be that family of four from Pompeii he'd saved. He'd learned from each painful lesson that rarely—just once—everybody lived. But every day, some people lived. And that was enough to keep going.
He was brought back to the present when Brian handed him another sheet of paper. "This is just the donor health-check form. All you have to do is answer the questions."
"Thank you," he offered with a smile, and they left the line. Finding an empty bench, the Doctor sat, River and Jenny flanking him as per usual. Amy squeezed in next to her daughter, leaving Rory to stand next her. Retrieving a pen from his pocket, he began checking off questions. It was all rather easy, although he wondered if the section on travel might be an issue.
"It's a good thing they don't ask if you've been outside the galaxy," Jenny remarked with a grin, and he chuckled.
"I suppose it is. And maybe they don't need to know that I've visited London during the plague. Perfectly safe, Rory, I didn't get it," he added before the other could raise his concerns.
They waited for a little while, before Brian approached them again. "I'll be taking you through the process," he informed them, "so if you could give me that, we just have to have some basic information added into the database."
As they stood up and began to follow, he heard Rory mutter to the older man, "Thanks, dad."
They followed Brian into a long hallway lined with desks. Each one was manned by a person with a laptop, and Brian guided them to the nearest available one. The young man who sat on the other side smiled in greeting.
"Hi, thanks for coming. I just need you to answer a couple basic questions." He nodded, as that had already been established. "Name?"
"John Smith," he answered readily, expecting that one. The next one he was a little thrown by.
"Date of birth?"
"Er…" now that was complicated. He supposed technically this body was born Easter of 1996, but somehow he felt that was too…late? Too early? His actual birthdate was certainly too early. Or perhaps it was too late, considering that this was the twenty-first century.
River placed one hand on either side of his face, turning it towards her, and she studied him for a moment. "Hm…April 7th, 1990."
"Uh…ok," the man at the laptop said, shrugging and entering it in. "Address?"
"I got it," Amy said, and so he used the diversion she had caused to raise an eyebrow at his wife.
"I'm twenty-five?" He hissed incredulously.
She smirked. "You should be flattered. I could have gone with thirty."
"Thirty! Ha!" He huffed, crossing his arms. Dimly, he noted that the address Amy was giving the man was her own, the Pond residence. And he supposed he couldn't be too upset with the archeologist. After all, April 7th…it was the day he'd met his little Amelia and all this had begun.
"You have to admit it's a bit funny," Jenny said, seeming to side with her step-mum. "I mean, just going by appearance, most people would think you're my older brother!" The blonde giggled a bit at that, so he reached out and poked her in the nose.
"Oi, that is not funny." They left the man and his laptop and followed Brian again.
"It is a little bit, dad."
They had reached a screened-off area, behind which sat a woman at another desk. "This is the health-screening section. You can go in alone, if you like," Brian started, but the others had already followed him in, not that he objected. He was sure, though, that the other man was likely wondering just what sort of person needed four other people to go with him for something so simple.
The fact of the matter was, the further they went, the more uncertain and even anxious he became. If he had come here alone, he wasn't sure he could do it. He never did anything alone, really, always needing someone to travel with him, someone to be brave for. He could be brave for his family.
The woman smiled just as the previous man had done. "Hello. First time, huh? Which of you is here to donate?"
"That's me," he replied, taking the chair on the other side of the desk. They went through the usual set of questions, and she looked over the form Brian had had him fill out. Aside from raising her eyebrow at the travel section, she made no other comment.
"Alright, John, then I just need to check your hemoglobin level. It's to make sure you're not anemic." He nearly told her not to bother, and that he was positive he was not, but not feeling very bold at the moment, the Doctor merely held out his hand. She swabbed one of his fingers to sterilize it, before retrieving a little device. "This is called a lancet. It's just going to prick your finger, you'll barely feel it."
"Right," he nodded, though his voice sounded a bit faint to his ears. He'd gone through so much worse, why was this any more difficult?
"We use a new one for every donor, so no need to worry about infection," she continued and he nodded along, before jerking back sharply in his seat. Had that been it? "See?" She laughed kindly at his no doubt wide-eyed expression. "Just pricked the surface. Now I use this," she produced a small white pipette, "to collect the drop of blood, and then it can be tested. Shouldn't take more than a minute." She transferred the drop into some green tubing and they watched it sink to the bottom. "Ok, you've got enough hemoglobin. Brian will take you to a donation bed."
He stood back up, scrutinizing his finger. But whatever puncture hole had been made was so little as to be barely noticed at all. "Thank you."
"Thank you for donating," she returned, and then disappeared behind the screen as he followed Brian away. They entered what he supposed was the gymnasium on school days, and he noticed that it was filled with rows of beds. Cots, really. People were lying down or getting up, and always moving. So many of them here to donate, just doing what they could. Keeping that in mind, the Doctor found it easier to continue on with the others.
He was brought to an unoccupied cot and sat on it. River gently pressed on his shoulders, easing him back onto the mattress. Amy, Rory, and Jenny all stood with her to his side, Brian hanging back a bit.
"It'll only be a few minutes, right?" Amy inquired of either Williams, clearly in a fussing sort of mood.
"Ten is the average," Brian offered.
"No worries then, yeah?" She checked with him and he managed a smile for her.
A young woman approached them. "Thank you for coming," she began. He could see she was holding something. "If you could take off your jacket and roll up your sleeve, I'm going to put this cuff on your arm. That makes it easier to find a vein." The Doctor did as asked, removing the tweed coat and handing it off to Rory, and then rolled up his one shirt-sleeve. As the cuff was attached he could feel the circulation being limited and his arm start to get that feeling of strange almost-numbness.
"You don't have to watch if you don't want to," the woman spoke up, and he was surprised to realize he'd been staring rather intently at his own arm.
"Sorry, just a bit curious, I suppose. First time doing something like this." Willingly, that was. Somehow it gave a whole different perspective to the entire thing. A stiff, standard-issue mat at his back instead a cold, metal slab, freedom to move his limbs if he wished, and just a few of the people he cared about here with him.
"Well, we're glad you decided to give it a try. What's your name?" She was wiping part of his arm to make sure it was sterile, clearly just making small talk to distract him.
"John Smith," he stated simply, and felt bewildered when she did a double-take and gasped.
"Oh my God…it's you!"
He glanced at one of the others for help, but they seemed just as stunned as he was. "Sorry?" He tried, wondering if maybe she'd just mistaken him for someone else. It was a common name, after all, and he was absolutely certain he had never met this human in his life.
"You're that guy from the YouTube video—the one that saved that woman and got hurt in the construction accident!" Her excited smile belied her otherwise alarming words.
"Oh," he replied, comprehension dawning. Had he really done that? He'd nearly forgotten- but it had been him, as the human John Smith, who had rushed to Donna Noble's rescue on that fateful day. "Yes, yes, that's me."
"And now you do blood drives?" She laughed in amazement. "You're like a hero!"
"Wh- what?" He gaped, hardly believing the woman's words. When he caught sight of his family again, Amy was smirking with a raised eyebrow as if daring him to object, Rory had an amused smile on his face, River had that knowing look in her eye as she nodded ever so slightly, and Jenny was practically beaming. "I- I'm not—ow!"
He looked down sharply to see that the woman had used his astonishment as a distraction to insert the needle. The Doctor wasn't sure if he should resent or praise such a tactic, but at the least all the anticipation was over. Now his blood simply drained into the bag below.
Instead of watching that however, he allowed his eyes to wander over the room, to take in all the other people here for this same purpose. Each doing the little bit that they could. These humans…these were the heroes. He could only just try to be a small part of it all. Yet it still filled him with a sort of warmth. It was…freeing, somehow. That ever-present guilt that had been plaguing him seemed less.
"Ok, that's it," the woman was saying before he even knew it, and the needle was removed to be replaced by a strip of gauze. "Just hold your fingers over it for about two minutes to stop any bleeding," she instructed, and he moved his other arm to do so. "So just relax for a bit until you think you're ready to get up. There's refreshments on a table at that end of the room, make sure you get something to eat and drink."
He nodded, resting back against the mat once more and still applying pressure to the gauze on his arm. "Thank you."
She smiled rather prettily again before heading off to continue her work.
"So…good. Everything's ok?" Rory asked somewhat nervously. Obviously, the other was having the usual doubts and insecurity about his ideas.
"Everything's brilliant, Rory," he assured, shutting his eyes. "Just need a minute to rest."
"Take all the time you need," Amy was quick to say.
"Yes, Pond. But I'm already starting to feel normal. It won't take so long for me."
"Why?" And she sounded worried, though he couldn't think of why—Oh. She was worried about him having to use his regenerative abilities.
"Two hearts. His blood is replenished twice as fast," River spoke quietly into her mother's ear, and the redhead relaxed. He'd cracked his eye open to see Rory's dad still distanced from them, just out of earshot if they talked quietly.
"Brian," he called, and the other man came up to his cot.
"Thank you for showing us around. I truly appreciate it." Brian seemed somewhat thrown by the sincerity of his words and expression.
"Well, it really wasn't anything, and—you probably shouldn't be getting up yet." But the Doctor was sitting up anyway, stretching his arms over his head before bringing them back down and holding them out for his jacket. Rory obliged, though his father tutted disapprovingly. "It's barely been five minutes, Rory."
"I know, dad, but I trust- er –John's judgment," the hospital intern defended. He turned to him with a rather stern expression, adding, "But if you aren't steady on your feet, it's straight back to the cot."
He pouted a bit. "Yes fine, Rory," he acquiesced under the continued serious stare. Swinging his legs around to the side, he eased slowly onto his feet. The Doctor wasn't lying, he did feel fine. But he was also tired of feeling vulnerable, of being the one they were all watching over. It wasn't something the Time Lord was used to, and he doubted he ever would be.
No matter how terrible a job he did of it half the time, these people he cared about he felt the need to protect. And he couldn't do that by just rolling over and giving up, becoming a mere laboratory thing. So he was determined to find his usual high-spirits and confidence again, if only to return things to normal where he was not the one being constantly fussed over.
"So, she said refreshments, yes?"
Amy rolled her eyes, but other than that the group made no comment, instead heading over to a table laden with food and drink.
He sighed in relief, prepared to follow the others. To be honest, Rory had been having serious doubts about the whole thing almost the entire time they'd been here. He'd begun to worry that his idea had been stupid and reckless and maybe ultimately damaging. But it turned out he'd just been second-guessing himself.
When he'd answered his father's call, Rory had felt a little guilty for not keeping in touch with the man better. He was sure his dad had been over to their house every day, watering plants that Amy and Rory never bothered too and fixing little things like the fitting for the one light that kept going out. So he'd listened patiently, doing his best to encourage his father to actually talk to him.
Then Brian Williams had mentioned he was volunteering at the blood drive happening at the school, and Rory had had a thought. What if they'd been going about this all wrong? What if telling the Doctor no, that he couldn't, that there wasn't anything he could do was the wrong way to go about it? What if that was what was truly depressing him?
Even then some fear had gripped him, reminding him that pointing his alien friend in the direction of where he could repeat, on an incredibly smaller and more humane scale, the torture he'd undergone during his capture was a very bad idea. The Time Lord was in such a fragile state already.
Yet he'd been able to think of little else that might help, that might make moving on seem less like giving up on other humans.
As he had entered the console room at the sound of his friend's almost joyful shouts, he'd been thrilled to witness his return to near-exuberance. And so he'd proposed his idea. Now he was glad he had.
Rory started to head in the direction the Doctor had gone, wanting to be there in case the alien lost his balance from dizziness and stubbornness, but felt a tug on his arm. Glancing over his shoulder, he was surprised to find it was Jenny who had hung back since he figured she would be following right after her father.
"Rory," she began softly, eyes darting to the others.
"What is it, Jenny?" He prompted, wanting to make her feel at ease. Rory wanted his granddaughter—and wasn't that weird to think—to feel free to come to him about anything, just like River.
"If Brian is your father, why did we introduce ourselves with fake names?"
He glanced away at that, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. "Oh…well, my father doesn't really know about- all that."
"All that?" She repeated curiously, one eyebrow quirked as her head tilted to the side. "You mean my dad being the Doctor and travelling through time and space?"
"Right, exactly," he nodded, glad that the girl had also been gifted with her father's insane intellect as it made explaining things much easier for him.
"Isn't he confused why you have a daughter who looks older than you?" She inquired instead, and then in that very Doctorish- or perhaps just Time Lordish –way, answered her own question instead of letting him. "No! He doesn't know. You haven't told him," Jenny realized in a hushed voice. "You haven't told him he's a grandfather?" She was looking up at him now with big, wide eyes that looked almost ready to cry.
"Er, no, we haven't," Rory replied, unable to lie, but feeling ashamed as he suddenly understood just to what depths they'd kept his father in the dark. And Amy's parents! None of them ever knowing.
Donna's family was obviously aware of the Doctor and everything that entailed- her grandfather was even good friends with the Time Lord. From what he gathered, Martha's family knew, though her mother was very disapproving. Sarah Jane had a son who'd met the Doctor at least once or twice. Mickey and Jack had no families of their own to tell, but from what little bits he'd been able to glean from the two men, even Rose Tyler's family had known the Doctor.
But not the Ponds. Not Amy and Rory, they just ran off in the big blue box and came back a few days later with no one the wiser. Why was that?
He supposed he couldn't truly blame his wife. Amy had told people for years about her friend the Raggedy Doctor, and she'd been laughed at and sent to therapists. Why would she want to risk being hurt and humiliated all over again? But he didn't understand his own secretiveness.
As he looked at his father—nice, normal, unassuming Brian Williams, the man he might have grown up to be had Amy and the Doctor not shown up in his life—he wondered though if he could do it. Just simply tell him and irrevocably change his world.
Maybe…but not today. Today was a day to be cheerful and thankful and to feel so, so glad that everything looked like it just might be ok again, at last.
Rory was snapped abruptly from his reverie when the Doctor called out, "Rory, Jenny, they have Jammie Dodgers! Jammie Dodgers are good!"
Jenny giggled. "Let's get over there, then, eh?" She suggested to him, all serious questions aside. He agreed and so they at last came up to the table where Amy appeared to be making a plate up for the Time Lord.
"You can't just have Jammie Dodgers, D—er, John. And get some water."
"But, Amy, Jammie Dodgers are good! Maybe not fish fingers and custard good, but pretty close."
"You should really sit down and write a list some time," River remarked, sounding amused in that way where you couldn't tell if she even meant it.
"If I did, they'd certainly be on there, right after bananas and Jelly Babies," the Doctor declared, obviously not caring if his wife had merely been having a laugh at him. "It's a shame they don't have Jelly Babies."
"I think I've got some in a bag on the—I mean, at home," Jenny told him, and his face spilt into an overjoyed grin.
"Jenny, you are a miracle worker!"
Rory turned to his father who was watching the exchange with some confusion and interest, and perhaps just the tiniest hint of amusement. "Dad," he ventured cautiously, and Brian looked at him. "Do you want to go golfing some time?"
"Yes, Rory, I think I'd like that," his father said after a moment, and they offered stiff, uncertain smiles to each other.
Of course the Doctor whirled about to include them in this moment. "Have a Jammie Dodger, Mr. Pond. You too, Brian Pond!"
"I'm not a Pond," his dad said, looking somewhat affronted.
"Yes, you are." And that was how it worked.
At last! Finished! Wooo! So again, super-super-super sorry for the intolerably long wait, but I hope it was worth it. So, really not that much left for this story, just tying up some loose ends, so I hope it's been enjoyable so far. Thanks for reading and please review!