Rory glanced around the pub while Brian and Augustus nattered on about a mutual acquaintance. A good number of people filled the place and their voices rose and fell with the glasses clinking and the bottles being set down on wood. A healthy slice of the patrons were there for the same reason as he and Amy: they were taking their dads out for Father's Day. It was exactly what their fathers had asked for: to have some quiet time to talk with their children and enjoy the day, with plans to meet Tabitha Pond later and have a proper meal, the whole family, together.
Just another day in Leadworth. He liked that.
The two people walking into the pub let in the warm fresh air and the fading light of a summer's dusk. They swept people's attention their way including his. You knew just by looking at them that they were from outside of the small town; you would remember them if you had seen them before tonight.
The woman with warm, brown colouring glanced at the taller man with white skin, dark hair, and wearing a messenger bag across a long sleeved blue shirt, despite it being summer. They found him as soon as they came in the door and headed straight across the room. Rory didn't like that, especially with Amy and her father closer to the strangers.
Brian muttered, "Now, what's this about?"
Amy and Augustus turned in their seats to see what was the fuss and the strangers turned on bright smiles. Rory had seen some bad, bad people smile like that and not mean it. He put his hand on the back of his wife's chair and already had figured out which way they should run.
"Hello," the woman said, her voice as light as her smile, and made all the brighter against her lovely skin and upswept, straight black hair. Her light coloured, short waisted blouse framed her face at the collar. "Sorry to interrupt your evening. My name is Martha Jones, and this is my friend, Captain Jack Harkness."
Harkness held out a hand to Rory first while his eyes went up and down his body, then Amy's as he turned to her. He nodded to their fathers.
"We're here on behalf of UNIT," Martha was saying and pulled an ID from her jacket. She laid it on the table for all of them to read.
"It's a real ID," Jack suddenly spoke as his smile turned into a grin. "Not psychic paper."
Rory's eyes locked on to Amy's.
"What's this about?" she asked. "Is it because of the cubes?" She had to keep her head at a clearly uncomfortable angle to keep the two of them in sight. That and the reference to the Doctor put an edge to her voice.
Martha only smiled warmly. "No, not about them," although she glanced at the little boxes on their table. She nodded at Brian's defensive statement that he was watching them. "It's nothing bad. We're here... actually because it's Father's Day." She moved around behind Rory to be on his other side.
"We were asked us to deliver these." Harkness pulled out a red leather bound book, checked the cover, and handed it to Martha before pulling out a second one which he kept.
"The government has you handing out Father's Day cards?" Rory asked.
Jack shrugged. "No, it's more of a favour to someone. We're happy to do it."
"These are special," Martha added.
She clasped the book in front of her body and Rory was suddenly reminded of his graduation from uni. "Rory Williams, on behalf of the entire planet, UNIT wishes to thank you for your service in keeping this world safe. That's on top of the numerous people you have helped in the universe. This book is a record of all you have done so far, starting with the lives you helped save in your medical career."
His mouth parted, but he had no idea what to say. Brian blinked his blue eyes rapidly as his mouth pressed against emotion as he watched his son.
"Because today has a special nature, I present this book," she turned to Brian, "to your father. Mr. Williams, we don't just thank our dads today for everything they do for us. We recognize how much they help us to be who we are throughout our lives. After all, where would we be without you? So, please accept this record of the man your son is because of you. Happy Father's Day, sir."
Brian took the book and held it reverently. He kept his emotions quiet, but they clearly overpowered any ability he had to express them. He could only give her a little nod.
Those words – Where would we be without you – sounded so familiar as Rory watched his dad take a deep breath and finally say simply, "Thank you, my dear."
"That makes it my turn." Jack smiled down on Amy and Augustus. "And my real honour. Mr. Pond, let me start by apologizing to your beloved Scotland, because I am going to try speaking Gaelic. Your homeland has a saying: Fear gu aois, is bean gu bàs. And you, sir, are the father who brought about this exceptional daughter."
Augustus took a second to get to his feet and then shook Jack's hand in both of his. His brogue grew thicker with feeling, just as Amy's always did. "I haven't heard that expression since me Gran. You said it well, lad. Thank ye."
Rory whispered to Amy, "What did he say?"
"No idea," she whispered. "They never taught me Gaelic. Obviously something about how wonderful his daughter is."
Jack overheard them and winked. "Something about daughters anyway."
Martha smiled. "We won't interrupt your night any further – except for me to say one more thing." She looked down at Rory. "It's actually Doctor Martha Jones, and Nurse Williams, please let me know if I could ever steal you away from Leadworth. It'd be a real pleasure to work with you."
He stood up and took her offered hand. "Thank you," he answered. He choose this career to draw some of Amy's Raggedy Doctor focus his way, but he found a real love for his work. Hearing Martha Jones' recognition made him feel all over again just how right his choice had been.
Augustus said, "Sit down, please, you came all this way. We can't just send ye packing for the long trip back without a spot of something first."
"Thanks, Mr. Pond, but Jack has a shortcut home."
He obliged Martha by holding up his left arm and the open cuff of his shirt sleeve fell away from a vortex manipulator. "We'll be back literally before they know we left. Well, close to it."
She and Jack made their goodbyes with Harkness adding a kiss on Amy's hand and saluting Rory in the ancient Roman style of a fist to the chest.
"Just how accurate is this book, yeah?" Amy whispered to her husband.
He looked into Jack's eyes and recognized someone else who had seen the sun rise and set over thousands of years, far more than even the Doctor had seen. Harkness gave the barest smile and Rory gave back the barest nod.
Jack exclaimed, "Time we go. Unless I can talk you away from your husband, Dr. Jones." He held out his arm to her as she laughed and took it as they walked out.
Augustus exclaimed, "Churchill!" and looked wide-eyed at his daughter while Rory picked up the unmistakable crackle of a vortex manipulator being used outside.
She smiled back at her father, blue eyes to his brown. "Churchill."
He took her hand in his and didn't let go, no matter how awkward it was holding the book and turning the pages with his other hand. Rory smiled at his wife, even though she was busy holding on to her father, when he felt a hand clap on to his shoulder.
"Rory." Brian's eyes were wet. Apparently, not being a cool Dad was something hereditary.
Don't think about that, he told himself.
"Hello! What's this?" The Doctor suddenly appeared with all the subtly of a tornado and dropped into an empty chair at the next table. He scooched it across the floor and talked loudly over the scraping sound, causing everyone who had just gone back to their own business to turn back around. "New books? Love a new book! What's it about?"
Augustus looked nonplussed at the Doctor's abrupt and boisterous arrival, but as it scored several levels down from 'Imaginary Friend turned real at your daughter's wedding', he managed to say after a beat, "It's about Amelia and all the things she's done in her travels."
"Really? Let's have a peek, thank you! So! Life of Amelia Pond!"
"You didn't have anything to do with this?"
"No, no, not me, Senior Pond. Surprised as anyone, brilliant idea though, oh and look! The other Senior Pond has a copy!"
"Williams," Rory and Brian corrected. "And this one is about Rory," Brian finished.
"Is it? It is! So everyone's got a book? Yeah, well..." the Doctor sniffed. "Could have made one about me. I was there, you know."
Augustus squeezed Amy's hand while his other arm lay across a drawing of Nefertiti in her book. "You know who'd love this? Mels."
It was such a cliche, but Rory stiffened at the name and then swallowed at the flood of what hearing it brought back.
"Wouldn't she though?" Brian echoed. "Poor girl."
Augustus cleared his throat when he noticed the Doctor listening. "She was a friend of Amelia and Rory's."
"More than a friend," Brian said.
"That she was, Brian. Family – she was family, our Mels. Our Melody."
The alcohol rumbled in Rory's stomach, making him hot and sick. He pulled over the bowl of crisps but only picked at them.
Took me years to find you two. I'm so glad I did. And, you see, it all worked out in the end, didn't it?
He didn't look at Amy. He couldn't and the Doctor stopped leafing through the pages and instead brought the book up to cover his face.
"Wait, I'll show you a picture." Augustus took out his wallet and removed a photo that he handed to the Doctor. "That's her in the middle. Actually, you've probably seen this already. Amelia has the same one on the mantle. Not to mention all the ones in that bedroom you're using."
"Um," Amy hesitated. "Not anymore."
"Really. I thought I saw it."
"I took it down," she said in a rush. "Same with the ones in – the guest room. Just felt I needed to put them away."
Not guest room, Rory's mind automatically corrected. River's room. At least it used to be. Now it was the Doctor's room, but if it wasn't his... well, if it wasn't for – Amy stripped out everything that was River's when – when it became just the guest room.
He used to have that same picture in his wallet as well as ones with he, Amy, and River. He used to have them.
His father-in-law obviously thought Amy took them down because of Mels being gone. "Of course, dear."
"Brilliant girl," Brian said, smiling at his memories. "Simply rubbish at school because she hated it, but what she could make sense of! She'd probably even surprise you, Doctor."
A grin tugged at the Time Lord's mouth.
"Rory noticed it first or we may never have seen it – I mean, his Mum and I. But then, nobody looked after Mels more than these two did."
Rory flinched and put his eyes back down on his hands gripping his glass.
"– she'd pull all these books from the library or from the computer. Or she'd watch shows that made my eyes cross."
"History," Augustus listed, "science, technology, I don't know what else. Devoured it, that's the best way to explain it."
Brian continued. "My wife asked her to explain some theory, I don't remember what all, but it made sense when Mels told it. She drew it all out on a piece of paper and my wife took that to her Home – she was from the Children's Home here – and told them 'You got to give this girl challenges. She's bored here, that's a big part of her troubles'."
"Dad," Rory started.
The hand Augustus didn't use to hold Amy's jabbed at the table. "Those people running the place, supposedly from the Church – did they listen? No! Made it so she hid it, like it was shameful. I caught her on the computer once and she switched away from whatever she was looking at... well, what was I to think? I didn't want to embarrass her, but really, you can't allow that. So I asked Amelia about it." He chuckled. "Although with the way you attacked her, Amelia, maybe I should have done it. Launched herself at the girl shouting, 'Oi! What are you looking at!' It would have made Tabitha proud. Shoved Mels from the computer and here she was only looking at something about physics and some space matter. You should have seen the teen fit aimed at me then. Rolling her eyes and complaining how I made a fuss over Mels and her weird interests for nothing." He laughed in his drink.
In all her brilliance. Not just her mind, but that bright force of life that orbited he and Amy in a blaze that hid so much. Not from her own choice, though. The pain that she buried leaked out rarely, when it peered through the cracks like the old one in Amy's wall. A flash of expression. A nightmare that she couldn't escape when she slept.
Then, on the opposite end, the boundless love for them that she expressed in sudden hugs or laying her head against a shoulder.
When Amy said she had named their baby Melody, his head had jerked up in short lived surprise because it was Mels. Of course their daughter would be Melody.
Then the nightmare of Berlin and Mels trying one last time to hide the pain as her life bled out over his hands as he tried, he tried, to save her.
Melody, Mels, River... and the stranger in her body who spoke first in the cornfield and later again in Hitler's office until the cracks appeared in her conditioning. Then the real Melody, lost Melody, their Melody and the start of River reached out just a bit, still crying Help me! but silently now with only her eyes. Until she collapsed in a blaze of golden light.
Every bit of protectiveness he had ever felt for Mels – and Mels had needed protecting, even from herself – married with every ounce of paternal feeling he had since he heard Amy was pregnant. He sat by his daughter's side in the Sisters' hospital, taking each breath with her and begging silently as every parent does. Please. Please let her wake up. Let me take her place. I'll be the one in the bed, give me this. Not her. Please. He and Amy each holding a hand tight as if by their will alone, they would be anchors preventing their daughter from being dragged out of this life into oblivion. Turn me back to plastic if that's what it takes. Tell me I have to watch over her for another two thousand years, I don't care. I'll sit here with her. Only don't take her away again.
Then he came home one day to the new house the Doctor had bought for them and there she was. Standing in the road in jeans and a jumper, hugging herself, and...
Trembling. Her voice so small. "Hello." And before he could do anything, "I didn't know if you ever wanted to see me again."
He grabbed her up and hugged her as she clung to him. "Dad."
Brian cut into Rory's memories. "Lot about her that was broken, poor girl."
Rory sipped at his pint for want of something to do and stared at nothing in front of him.
"She did what she could," Brian continued. "Hopefully we helped."
The Doctor suddenly jammed his nose into the spine of the book. "UNIT didn't make these." He rubbed a page between his fingers and loudly sniffed along its entire length.
If he licks it, Rory thought, I'll hit him.
Thankfully the Doctor didn't do that. He flipped through the book rapidly until he came to the back cover. "Ah ha. See. Told you. Look right here." He held it up excitedly to each them. "See the emblem?"
"That bump by your finger?" Amy asked.
"Not a bump, Pond. An emblem. Gallifreyan. She made it small, but it's hers."
Rory leaned over to get a better look and saw the little symbol for himself. It was amazingly detailed despite its size, swirling and blazing up through the red cover. Definitely Gallifreyan, although he had no idea what it said.
"Knew she had to be involved," the Doctor finished.
"Who?" Brian asked. Rory would never have said it out loud. He was too afraid of the answer.
"The Tardis, naturally." He let out a breath of relief at the Doctor's answer. "Figured she made these. Who else could gather this information on you. Too detailed for anyone else to have."
"Wait." Amy leaned across the table. "UNIT asked the Tardis to make these books?"
"No, it couldn't be them. Come on, Pond, how would they get into the Tardis to even ask her?"
"But this Martha and Jack said –"
The Doctor looked up quickly. "Martha and Jack?"
"Yeah. They said they were with UNIT. He had a vortex manipulator."
The Time Lord whipped out his sonic screwdriver and scanned the air, flipping it with long experience to get the readout. "Yes. Of course. Not his," he mumbled. "She must have lent him hers."
Rory went back to being afraid of the answer.
"Hello! Back to your business," the Doctor said in his best friendly way to the other patrons. The sonic had drawn everyone's attention to their table again. "Plenty to be awed about, sonic screwdriver and all, but private goings on. Thank you!"
"What's not his?" Amy insisted. "The book?"
"No, the vortex manipulator. The signature is all wrong for Jack's. Besides," he muttered to himself again, "I'm pretty sure I left his off."
Augustus' face was screwed up in confusion as he tried to figure out anything that they were discussing. "You mean that strap he had on?"
"Yes, yes. Cheap time travel. Well," the Doctor darted glances between Rory and Amy. "Depending on who's using it."
They didn't ask who. They didn't need to ask.
Brian's expression was as confused as Amy's father's. "So who made the books then?"
Rory looked away, saw some of his neighbours still glancing in their direction, and turned his head again in an attempt to find a spot where he would avoid everyone else's gaze. The Tardis would have helped only one other person besides the Doctor.
"An old friend," the Time Lord answered.
"They said it was a personal favour," Brian kept on.
"She probably called in a few favours to get them delivered. Or she owes Martha and Jack a favour now." Something burst across The Doctor's face, and he suddenly crossed his arms and legs as his minimal eyebrows snapped into a scowl. "Don't like the idea much, her owing Jack a favour."
Rory thought about that look Jack had passed up and down Amy's body. His grip tightened on his glass. He didn't like River owing Harkness a favour either.
Augustus picked up the book the Doctor had put down. "Awfully nice of your friend to do this. I wonder why they didn't just say it was from her."
For the same reason she hadn't made one for Rory when she would have on any other Father's Day. For the same reason she hid that she had the Tardis print them - and the Tardis made sure the Doctor knew anyway.
Because of us, Rory thought. We made her do it. Only because the pain-
"You punched Hitler?" Brian stared at him over his Father's Day book.
Rory blinked at the sudden noise. "Well... yeah – he deserved it."
"Hitler?" Augustus exclaimed.
"Hitler." He reached over to his father. "Dad, let me see that book for a minute."
He flipped it to the beginning where Dr. Jones said his nursing records were listed. The name he looked for shouldn't be there since they said it was lives he had saved and Louis Baker had died. But there it was with a note from his widow: Thank you for giving us what we needed. I know we asked for something unusual, but you made all the difference by giving it to us.
He didn't actually give them anything. River had. It was the kind of thing that would have been in his Father's Day book if he hadn't –
Rory had to swallow before he looked up at his father. Brian put a hand on his wrist.
"I'm proud of you, Rory. You're a hero."
Melody Pond is a superhero.
He thought of the last thing he had said to his daughter. "No, I'm not."
Brian clapped him on the shoulder, mistaking what he said for humility.
Things were going better on the Pond side of the table. "Amelia, am I reading this right. A whale? Carrying everybody on its back?"
She sat right next to him with her arms flung around him and laughed with delight. "It did! It was amazing, Dad. Starship UK. Guess what the Scots did. Insisted on their own ship."
"Good for them."
"I know. It's what I said." She turned a few pages and pointed out something for him to read. She watched his face for his reaction and smiled all over when he pulled her hand to his chest and patted it proudly.
"Wait until your mother sees this."
"This one will be her favourite." She flipped further into the book. "That's what I'm guessing."
Amy so loved the new life she had with the parents she loved deeply, so it always amazed Rory that her personality and everything she was remained frozen in the persona from growing up with her Aunt Sharon. It was like once that Amelia Pond happened, that's who she was permanently. Her time had been rewritten, but she hadn't.
So here she was showing off for her dad. Like River taking them to a world that had been declared dead for a millennium, but whose energy was dormant with its secret written in its ancient ruins that had been mistranslated. Until one archaeologist who could see the workings of Time saw the real translation and brought her parents to see it reborn.
He and Amy had reveled in being introduced, "This is my Mother and Dad," and being able to openly brag about their daughter to people who were nearly genuflecting in front of her. He told Amy that if her telling someone "That's my daughter!" ("Our daughter!" he kept correcting) was a drinking game, he'd be good and sloshed. She retaliated that his stupid face did look squiffy from pushing his chest out when people asked if he was River Song's father. And she was right: he had grabbed River and held her tight in a cloud of being chuffed about it all. What a great day it had been.
But Brian was talking to the Doctor and it burst that cloud with the reality of now. "Augustus and I went down to the Home to talk to her guardians. I think that's what they're called. The people in charge down there."
"When are you going to give this girl some guidance? That's what we said," Augustus spat. "She's eighteen. Doesn't mean she doesn't need a guiding hand. Where are you for her? You'd think they didn't care, and yet, did they ever let anyone else take her? No. And we tried. All the other kids in there are coming and going, but Mels? You'd think they owned her."
They had. More than he and Amy had ever guessed. After all, Mels at all ages had so clearly owned herself. So did River. How could anyone imagine how far from the truth that was? They found out though, when he had brought her inside from the street, telling her that of course he wanted to see her, that he would always want to see her.
"Ferociously loyal!" Augustus exclaimed in answer to something Rory had missed. "That's how I'd describe it, Doctor. And protective! Why one day, my Tabitha had a tussle with a shop owner. The insults that woman said to her. Not that Tabitha didn't hold her own, but Mels overheard her tell me about it. She marched down to that shop and set the town buzzing over what she did." He leaned forward. "And not in the way you think. She went outside the shop and just sat on the bench there, looking through the main window. Didn't move for hours and whenever Beatrice looked up – Beatrice is the shop owner – Mels would just give that grin of hers. It was a wicked grin, but it's all she did. Sat there, looking in, watching, and then flashing that grin. Drove Bea crazy, but what could she do about it? Can't arrest somebody for sitting on a public bench, although she did call the coppers and got nothing for it. By the end of the day, Bea was on the phone to Tabitha with an apology." He shook his head and grinned as his whole face glowed with pride.
So did Brian's. "Do you know that old Mike down at Halls' DIY was telling some farce about me and before I could remember better, I thought wait until Mels hears about this."
The Doctor was smiling to himself, his eyes far away. "I met your Mels," he said.
Rory froze. What could he possibly say about Berlin?
The Time Lord glanced at Augustus from the corners of his eyes and the closed smile still took up his whole face. "She said she wanted to marry me."
"Of course, the wedding day of the Raggedy Doctor! Forgot that one. Mels married the Doctor - there's a thought. To be truthful, I still wake up some mornings surprised you exist." The elder Pond added, "No offense."
"None taken. I'm surprised when I wake up as me too. Some days."
"Well. Um... well, I'm glad you got to meet her anyway."
"She was hard to miss." The Doctor's smile changed to a grin, open and laughing. "Drove up in a Corvette and did a spin up to the Tardis."
Now Rory grinned, despite himself, since that time in the cornfield wasn't a happy one. Maybe the Doctor's mood was just infectious, but all he could think about in that minute was how many times he and Mels had poured over mags, arguing over which one of them was right about the better cars.
Brian chuckled and slapped the Doctor on the arm. "I think your friend – the one who left the bag of tools about. She might have a problem with you marrying somebody else." He looked over at Augustus. "Saw him trip over this bag that a woman – what did you say she was again?"
The Doctor's smile didn't change much from when he had talked about Mels marrying him, although he did touch his bowtie. Of course, he always touched his bowtie – but, they were talking about River and marriage and it was his bowtie. His smile was still filled with not just humour, but something else, something private, as he thought about his: "Archaeologist."
I consent and gladly give.
"Yes! Archaeologist! I'd like to meet her. I bet she carries a trowel," he remarked in aside to Rory.
His son made a face at that, but he could guess that some force in the universe enjoyed that River Song had a grandfather who took on a pterodactyl with a trowel. He could just imagine the comments the two of them would have made about it if they had ever got together.
"You should have seen him go on, Augustus. Shouting about her leaving her things wherever she pleased on his ship. Complaining about 'that woman' taking over one of his labs for herself, not to mention his library and the rest of the place."
Augustus smirked. "He's right, mate. You're married. If you're not, you'd better plan on asking her and soon, 'cause she's your wife. Judging by that look on your face, ye know it too."
"Yeah, well..." The Doctor came away from his memories, small smile still in place, to glance over at Augustus. "Certainly a popular Pond opinion I've heard before anyway."
Amy shot him a look that warned him away from that topic.
A picture of him as the Lone Centurion was suddenly held up in front of Rory's face. "Why are you dressed like a Roman soldier here?" Brian asked. "Did you go to Rome?"
"Yes and no, Dad. It's kind of complicated."
"After the things I've learned around him," Brian's head indicated the Doctor, "nothing is complicated. It looks like that fancy dress party you went to with Amy."
Rory caught his reflection in the darkened window and was startled by the look of a child's exasperation with a parent. That by itself didn't surprise him. He loved his dad, he wanted only the best for him and he'd do whatever he could to make that happen. But honestly, the man could really.. drive him mad.
But Mels used to make the same face. About him. That was the surprising bit.
He didn't get it. It wasn't like he was his father. Yes, he gave his dad credit. Who would have thought that the mild man from Leadworth could handle news about a face changing, centuries old alien that traveled in time and space? Not only running around spaceships and facing more aliens and life and death situations, but becoming a better man because of it? But honestly-
He caught Amy giving a small laugh as she watched Brian read his Father's Day book. "What?"
"Look at everyone in the pub. Know what they're thinking? They're thinking, who would have thought it, yeah? Rory Williams of Leadworth, stepping on board a spaceship? But look at you. You did all those things in your dad's book. You became the Last Centurion."
He was his dad.
Brian handled the news about the Doctor and everything about his son's time twisted life. Had an ancient time ship materialize around him, found himself in outer space, was shot by a robot, rode a dinosaur, piloted a spaceship - and thrived from the experience. Became a globe trotter, a traveler, and a new person. Like him. Tempered into the men they were now because they had learned and experienced life far beyond their initial boundaries.
He still could have done without his dad's Only my balls comment when the Doctor asked what he had in his trousers that drew a triceratop.
Still, forged by incredible experiences, like this picture that his dad studied - spending over two thousand years as a plastic Roman soldier. It was all still there, locked in a place within his own mind even though he once denied it. He let it out only that one time to go after Amy and their baby. After that, he locked it all away again never to open that door. Except... for that day when the Centurion forced his way out. The day River appeared and held his sword in her hand.
No. No, no, no!
His back ached from being hunched over the pub's table for too long. He pushed back against the hard wood of his chair and glanced over at Amy. What was she thinking about? Where the same kind of memories going through her head? It didn't look like it; she focused on Augustus pick things out of her book, but Rory knew her better than that.
She never had problems with handling their daughter's out-of-order visits and had been the one to buy a diary to keep track of them. She would even call and demand a particular River, working around spoilers with snippets and phrases to younger versions.
"Come visit when the words professor and Byzantium mean something to you." That particular River had appeared after Amy hung up her mobile and the two of them went off to conspire together. He had not eavesdropped at all; he had just needed to put some of the shopping in the pantry (that they had done last week and had already been in the pantry before he removed it, so he could walk near where they whispered as he put it all back). It wasn't his fault he overheard them planning to take him to River's university to hear her lecture. Apparently, the scourge of Leadworth's school system became a noted professor at some point and, as Amy said, "You know he'd love seeing you up there. You could make up a lecture just for him. Rome. Do the Romans!"
"Is this for you or Dad, Mother?" River had teased.
"You know it would be perfect – you could introduce us to your students!"
"I thought this was so Dad could hear me lecture –"
"No, but think about it! It'd be brilliant! You either introduce us or I will introduce myself – loudly – and then tell them what a horror you were in school. Oh, imagine Rory's reaction to that! You can just picture him burying his face in his hands."
Rory left then so he could give a victorious "Yes!" in private since the trip was a surprise. He couldn't wait for his birthday and thought of the professors who had inspired him so he found his love for nursing. Now it was his little girl and her lecture hall where she set the pace in a major university in the universe.
He would sit there and listen as River commanded the room – he had no doubt of that. In fact, he pictured it clearly. Amy would be grinning and managing to manipulate their daughter from her seat by mouthing overly emphasized words and using sharp hand gestures until their daughter would shake her head and give in. "Ladies and Gentlemen," she would say even as she smirked and rolled her eyes with the fun and pride in the whole thing. "My Mum and Dad are here."
...they had found out about not having children (not having any more children, some part of him insisted on correcting) before his birthday and the trip hadn't happened.
Augustus grumbled. "They turned down the adoption as quick as you please."
"Wait – what?!" Rory said at the same time Amy said something like, "What adoption!"
Augustus stared back at them "Didn't you know, Amelia? We didn't tell you at the time, because we wanted to be certain everything'd go through, but I thought you knew by now. Your mother and I put in to adopt Mels years ago. We did it first figuring we had you and you two were so close. She listened to you more than anybody."
Brian laughed "You were good at lecturing her. Even when you were barely more than knee high –"
"And in trouble!" Augustus added.
"And in trouble yourself. The sight of it. No wonder she called you Mum those times."
Rory's throat closed up. Mels' rebellious grin as Amy would lecture - and the day she thought she had finally gone too far with something she had done and surprised him when she grabbed his hand. She's scared, he had thought and couldn't think of what to do. So he did what his father would do without consciously thinking about it. He sat next to her, quiet and simply there, and held her hand, just as he would do later when she would show up on the doorstep and ask, "Will you talk to me?"
Amy practically yelled. "You were going to adopt Mels?"
"We were." Her father pulled her hand into both of his so he could pat it. "Amelia, she was already family." He kept looking back and forth between her eyes, not knowing why she was so upset.
Rory did. "Then why didn't you?"
Relieved, Augustus ran a hand across his bald pate and into what hair he had, sending it in different directions. "They turned us down. With no grounds whatsoever. We fought it, but they shut us down at every turn." He suddenly smiled. "Melody Pond."
Rory's heart clenched and he sat in shock, the same as Amy obviously since she stammered. "What?"
"Melody Pond – that would've been her name. Brilliant name, yeah?"
The Doctor smiled. "Brilliant," and pointedly kept his eyes away from his best friends.
Brian jumped in with, "So is Melody Williams. She was almost that too, remember."
"Wait, Dad, you tried to adopt her?"
"We did. For the same reasons Augustus and Tabitha did, but we had the same results."
Rory didn't know how much more of this he could take.
"You think they bloody well owned her," Augustus repeated, disgusted. "Then you tell me why they did everything against her best interests if they couldn't bear not to have her. I never understood it."
Brian reached across the table and clapped a hand around the other man's arm. One grandfather to another, even though they didn't know it, and Rory wished he could talk to them about it.
He wasn't the man who first followed Amy on to the Tardis. That man needed advice on nearly everything. Even though he always had been the one to point out to the Doctor when things were going too far, he still needed the Time Lord to tell him a lot. But after living more millenia than the Doctor, he found their roles reversed. He was the older one with the greater experience in life, and the Doctor came to him plenty of times. He didn't have to let out the Centurion whenever he needed to call on that experience – it was just there – but even though he and Amy joked about their big kid, he constantly was turning a corner and finding himself slamming into a wall when it came to being the man someone called their father.
River, River – Melody Pond... your daughter! I hope you're both proud!
Yes, they were. Had been. No, were, they were proud ...weren't they?
I know you're not alright. But hold tight, Amy, because you're going to be.
Amy was, but River... so many layers in her voice that had been hidden. Her voice had shook with more than fear of rejection and the weight of telling them who she was; even more than knowing she was headed into the time when they wouldn't know her.
More than all of that because it had been Demon's Run. The place that would make them reject her in a couple years: all the in utero procedures the Silence had done to make sure Melody Pond lived up to the potential the Tardis had started in her DNA. All those surgeries, all those measures to make sure their fully realized weapon was born had made Amy unable to have any children.
You want kids. You have always wanted kids. Ever since you were a kid. And I can't have them. Whatever they did to me at Demons Run, I can't ever give you children.
Any more children.
Just open your mouth and tell them, Rory pushed himself. Looked at Brian and he imagined how much his dad would love River. Grandfather and granddaughter traveling the world, trowels in hand. Or sitting back with a cup of tea discussing their thoughts as time flew by.
And Augustus and Tabitha, grandparents to another Pond. Back when – well, when things were good between them all, Amy had teased, "You can picture my Mum sitting across from River in the kitchen, can't you? Chattering on about 'Honestly, dear, how you haven't pushed that husband of yours out the door of that blue box, I have no idea!'"
But then what? Rory's smile faded as he thought of telling his dad and his father-in law, and then telling them they wouldn't see their granddaughter. Because he and Amy had told her to go away.
Brian lowered his hand from Augustus' arm. He picked up his glass again, but didn't drink from it and hunched over it instead. "It's too late for Mels, but some good came later. After she –" He took a beat to say it, like the word cut his tongue. " – after we lost her, someone else took over the Children's Home. Good people."
"Still don't know what those people were thinking," Augustus grumbled. "It's no wonder the girl went wild. It's like they wanted her to do it. I blame them for her getting killed in that accident."
Amy said too loudly, "Can we change the subject?"
Heads swung in their direction all around the pub and then very pointedly turned back like they never heard her. Brian and her father tripped over each other with apologizing. "Of course, Amelia." Her father tried putting an arm around her, but it looked like cuddling a rock.
He didn't move away; he wouldn't stop being there just because it got difficult or wasn't straightforward. That's what a father did, right?
Because as Rory had learned, it wasn't just about the baby and it wasn't just about Mels. It was about River. If she became the woman they first knew, if she would be the River who brought them to a reborn world, it was because of what they had to give her and teach her. They hadn't stopped growing when they were eighteen or first out of diapers or when they learned to ride bikes (which Rory had taught Mels to do). Neither had River.
"Parenthood does not stop at adulthood," someone had told them. It hadn't meant just Mels and their unknowing battle against the Silence's conditioning. It meant from the moment she showed up in the road outside their house, wondering if they would talk to her. River needed her parents. She always would.
She would only be the person she would become if they helped her.
'Where would I have been without you two?'
That was where he had first heard the words Martha Jones had used. Mels had said them in Berlin before she regenerated. After that, she was lost between Kovarian's Melody and the Doctor's River. She struggled with reclaiming Melody Pond and discovering River Song for herself without their foreknowledge, but with their hands solidly grasped in hers.
After Berlin and Utah, she needed the Dad who understood staring into the eyes of the person he loved when Amy didn't know him. The father who had been turned into a weapon as he begged Run! You've got to run! I don't want to kill you! But the gun fires on its own anyway and the one loved most is falling to the ground...
Even their being alive after that didn't wipe out that moment.
And then giving up whatever life you might have had to protect them, for years, for centuries, no matter what it cost you.
His daughter needed him when those moments haunted her. Because she inherited it from him.
And for the same reasons every child needs their father at any age. To listen. To be there. To share with them. To let them know they're not alone. To be loved.
What was it Amy had promised Melody when she was a baby? Something about –
There's a man who's never going to let us down.
Yeah, well. That hadn't been true.
If only - damn, Demon's Run! If they hadn't linked River to what happened there. If they hadn't - blamed her. Or if they had dealt with it right away instead of avoiding it because the wounds were so fresh right after he and Amy were back together. Then it became something they would fix later, with a bit more time, until he automatically pushed it back in his head with a mental note of soon every time it popped up. They didn't invite her to the anniversary party, didn't even talk about her, and he couldn't remember the last time they said her name out loud. Not even in Mercy where Amy had told him, "Jax guessed I was a mum."
He had been stunned. "Did you tell him about-"
"No." She rushed to cut him off. "No, I didn't. I said it wasn't straight forward." She scowled. "And he brushed it off with 'Life rarely is' like he knew about it."
Only this morning, he woke up and remembered Father's Day with a happy burst of River will be here that quickly became Oh. Yeah. She won't. and then he buried it.
His hand slammed down on the table. Startled heads turned towards him as the cubes spilled all over and he could tell from the bartender's face that they were very close to being put outside.
The Doctor didn't look at him. The Doctor stared into the air as if he knew. Maybe he did. He certainly knew what had happened with River... which made it really odd that-
Rory suddenly leaned across the table, spilling cubes. "Why haven't you-"
He looked between his father and father-in-law who stared at him. He slowly sat back in his chair. "Never mind."
He absentmindedly re-stacked the cubes. Why hadn't the Doctor interfered? He always interfered! So why hadn't he never tried to heal the rift between them and River, the way he had done when Amy wanted a divorce?
In fact, he went far the other way. He had left River out when he normally would have made sure she was there. A spaceship hurtled to Earth out of control: but the Doctor's team to save the day included an African game hunter and not River? River who figured out the Pandorica, who could build a beacon stretching through time and the universe? River the only other person who could pilot and understand the Tardis?
It made no sense at all.
Rory looked around the pub and listened to dads bragging about what their children were doing with their lives: what university they were attending, what job they had just gotten. All said with so much pride.
He always thought of what he and Amy had lost: lost their baby, lost their best friend.
What had Melody lost?
Over and over again, she lost them.
The first couple of times were Kovarian's fault. This last time?
His hands balled into fists and he clenched them until it hurt. He shouldn't have – the things they had said – and they never took them back...
He wanted his book. Oh how desperately he suddenly wanted his Father's Day book of all his daughter's accomplishments. He wanted to yell to everyone in the pub, I have a daughter!
She went to university. She got into a doctoral program and had her dissertation accepted. That alone was an incredible feat for anyone, but with the problems River had to overcome...
Other people got sick traveling with the vortex manipulator. Not his gave new life to a world when everyone else said it was dead. She saved the universe. She sacrificed everything – her freedom, her reputation, her name that they gave her, and the life she worked so hard to build for the person she loved. So that he could be safe.
She was going to be a professor. She made Daleks afraid. She gave a family the last minutes they had together, something she'd never have with her parents or her husband.
His daughter did all that and said she could do it because he was her father.
I want my book! And I want it to say Love you, Dad! Because I never should have told her I didn't want her!
Amy was staring at him as he rambled on in his head. He felt her eyes on him and finally looked over to meet them.
She had guessed what was going on with him. Of course she did and she tried a smile. "Maybe next year. Ok? Maybe it's time."
He took hold of her free hand. "Yeah."
"By next Father's Day, yeah?"
Lorna Bucket had told Amy: Your child will always come home to you.
And she did. Across the millenniums and the light years, through different names and faces, their Melody always found her way home to them.
Took me years to find you two. I'm so glad I did.
Until they told her not to do it.