The first Father's Day after Melody was born was the worst. Rory saw babies everywhere. At Tesco's, at the dentist, at the shopping centres, all over the hospital. He didn't say a word of it to Amy. She was handling things bad enough, tearing up when they watched television and commercials for diapers, formulas and toys aired. They finally unplugged the TV and settled for reading. Mels tried her best, but both of them quickly cut Amy off when she decided that the bottle was a handy place for drowning her sorrows.
No, it was far better if he buried it. Besides, it wasn't like he was there for that much of it, right? He saved little Melody, or thought he had. He held her in his arms, and she stared up at him while the Doctor babbled on about what she was saying. Then, she was gone. Then, she was River. Then, she was gone again. All that remained in the six weeks since they were deposited back in Leadworth was this aching feeling of loss that felt like it was clawing through his chest, one painful scrape at a time.
Rory Williams stood on the pavement in the busiest street in Leadworth and didn't realize he was crying.
The sea of people parted and he barely noticed the halo of curls before a familiar voice spoke up.
He dashed a hand over the back of his eyes and looked into the face of his adult daughter. He saw the fine lines around her eyes and mouth and could only feel resentment in that she looked, was older than he. "I was wondering when you were going to show up. When is it for you? Suppose I should ask this sort of thing now."
"I've done Demon's Run." River Song held a decorated bag in her hands and gave him a sad, knowing expression. "Happy Father's Day."
He laughed a bit bitterly. "Am I really a father? Doesn't feel like it. Didn't go through the cravings, the labor. Barely even held you before you were gone. And I didn't even save you. I'm not going to, am I? Neither is the Doctor."
He could see the word forming on her lips before she changed her mind. "No," she acknowledged. "No, he's not. He's not going to save Melody. But, you do save me. All of you. You, Mum, and the Doctor. You've got to remember that, Dad, no matter what happens in the next few weeks. You're going to save me."
"I find it hard to believe that." Rory sighed and gestured toward a cafe. "Want to sit? I'd take you home, but Amy … your mother … she's not taking this very well. You probably know of our friend, Mels."
"Oh, I know all about her."
"Yeah, they're out at the shops. Still, I don't think she's ready to see you yet. To be honest, I don't think I am either."
He knew that had to hurt, but if it did, River didn't show any signs of it affecting her. She merely led the way to the cafe, paid for coffee without asking his preference (he wasn't surprised she already knew) and settled across from him in the back. She handed over the bag after a few minutes of sitting in silence.
He pulled out a framed picture. The drawing was done on lined manuscript paper, the sort used to teach children how to write. It depicted a Roman waving a sword and a little girl in a nightgown. Underneath, printed in scrawling block type, were the words "DADDY AND ME."
"Time Lords are blessed with an eidetic memory," River explained, "going almost back to childbirth. Even altered humans like me. The first memory I ever had was of Mum telling me about you, telling me to be brave. I drew this when I was in Florida. Mr. Renfrew saved it. I went back for it after Demon's Run, sneaking it out of his office."
He was crying again. He knew it this time. "I'm so sorry, River," he sobbed.
"It's not your fault," she soothed, but he saw the tears in her eyes now. She laid a hand on his, and he marveled at the prominent veins snaking down the back of her hand. "None of this is your fault. Nor Mum's."
"It's the Doctor's." The resentment spewed forth now, the words he would dare never say around Amy. He probably shouldn't say them to River either. He knew his daughter was in love with him, suspected they were married. But River also saw his faults in a way Amy never would, and for that, Rory knew he could say this to her. "If it wasn't for the Doctor, we'd have a completely different life."
"If it wasn't for the Doctor, you wouldn't have a life. Not here, not anywhere. He's saved us all so many times, even before any of us were born." River squeezed his hand. "Dad, I could have been kidnapped from my pram at the park. I could have been hit by a car. Anything could have happened. This isn't the Doctor's fault either. It's the Silence's. It's Kovarian's. And believe me, they'll pay for stealing that child."
His gaze met hers, and what he saw in her eyes satisfied him. He tucked the picture back in the bag. "I'll wait a bit before hanging this up. Still … thanks, River."
"You're welcome." River took a sip of her coffee and flashed him a cheeky grin. "Just remember that you love me next time I accidentally set fire to your stove."
"When will you do that?"
Eight months later for Rory and 17 years earlier for River, she did indeed set fire to the Williams' stove as she did her best to make omelettes at Amy's request. As Rory sprayed the smouldering remains of the stove with the fire extinguisher ("Did you really have to shoot it, River?" "I panicked, Mother."), he grinned from ear to ear. He really did love his daughter.
Then he sent his son-in-law the bill.