A/N: If you recognize it, I don't own it. This is something I've wanted to write for a long time, and today I thought to myself 'You know, it's Fathers' Day, there's never going to be a better time.' So I sat down and got this out in a couple of hours. That means this is very un-beta-read, so read at your own risk.
I love Rory and River and the dynamic between them, but I'm not used to writing for either of them and I've no idea if I've done them justice. Still, I like this fic and I hope you will too.
Out of the Rain
It was so hard for him to reconcile Melody, the tiny baby he'd only held once in his life, with River, the strong, confident, and definitely-older-than-him woman who had married the Doctor in a ceremony he only vaguely remembered. He tried not to think about it very often. Mainly, he didn't like to think about it because the convolutions in their time line made his head swim if he tried to work it out, but that wasn't the only reason.
He'd always wanted to be a dad. Having kids was something he'd looked forward to for as long as he could remember. Melody had been ripped away from him, from them, and while Amy seemed to cope with it well, Rory had to push the memory out of his mind. And it wasn't like they could try again; it had been the cause of many fights, and even that horrible near-miss on the divorce, but he had finally accepted it. They couldn't have kids. No more. Melody had been taken from him, and all of the moments they could have shared were gone.
He'd never hold his daughter's hands while she took her first steps. He'd never coax her into saying dada or mama or please or no. He'd never toilet train her. He'd never quibble with Amy over whose turn it was to do the school run. Parent-teacher conferences, school dances, threatening her boyfriends when they came to pick her up, walking her up the aisle at her wedding – a million moments that had been taken from him because Melody hadn't been his to raise. It wasn't the same, growing up with Mels, because he hadn't known who she was until much too late. He'd been small and weak, and unable to protect his little girl. Mostly, she had been protecting him.
Seeing River was always bittersweet for him. Part of him still wanted desperately to treat her like his daughter, like his baby girl, but he never dared. She had been through so much in her life that, in terms of experience even if not in years, she should have been his parent. The knowing smile which she always wore told him that anything paternal he tried to do would be pointless, and would probably just give her a reason to laugh at him. So he never tried it.
And now, now that he and Amy had made a life for themselves in 1930s New York, he'd never get another chance. Time travel was impossible in the city now; there were too many distortions for anything to get in, even one of those wrist bands like River used.
That was what Rory told himself as he stared out at the woman on the doorstep, her shoulders hunched against the pouring rain and her normally bright eyes full of tears. It was impossible – and yet here she was.
"How on Earth did you get here, River?" he asked, marveling at her very existence.
"I had to land in Philadelphia. It's just far enough away that I could get in. It wasn't easy, mind, but… From there, I came by car," she said quietly, without her usual undertone of isn't it obvious? "Can I come in?"
He immediately stood aside. Amy was in Boston, attending a big publishing conference of some kind. He told River so, adding, "She'll be back the day after tomorrow. Can you stay?"
She shook her head miserably. Rory didn't try to convince her, just took her coat and ran upstairs to get her a towel and a blanket. She rubbed her hair dry – or, at least, drier – and wrapped herself in the blanket, shooting him a look of almost pathetic gratitude. He went into the kitchen and put the kettle on, then led her through to the living room.
Once they were seated on the big plush couch, he took the chance to look at her properly. She was sitting up straight, her posture as nonchalant as it ever was, but her face looked much more lined. Her eyes were tired and there wasn't even a hint of a smile on her lips.
The kettle whistled. He got up and made the tea and then took his seat again. He waited, sipping from his mug, until it became clear that she wasn't about to volunteer anything.
"Something happened," he prompted. "Something so bad that you risked tearing apart time and space to come here." She nodded and stared into the depths of her mug. Rory waited a while more and then added, "You know I can't make you talk about it, but I'm here to listen."
"Trenzalore," she murmured. "He went to Trenzalore, and –" Her voice cracked and she stopped talking. Rory knew that 'he' meant the Doctor, but he couldn't recall ever hearing the name Trenzalore before. Clearly, though, it meant something important to her.
"Do you want to tell me about it?"
Slowly, she did. Rory listened as she outlined what Trenzalore was, and why it was significant. She hadn't dared go in person, but had found a way around that by establishing a mental link with the Doctor's new companion. The Great Intelligence had destroyed itself to undo every victory the Doctor had ever won, and Clara had gone after it to mitigate the effects – and the Doctor had gone after her because he couldn't bear to lose her. Everything had turned out alright, in the end, but River had come away with her heart nearly broken.
"It's so hard," she said, "knowing I have to stay out of it. I love him so much, Daddy, but we can't – I can't ever travel with him. I couldn't help him this time. I just stood there, useless, and we don't have much time left before - " She cut herself off and then started again. "And I miss you and Mum. I didn't think I would – I'm sorry, but we saw each other so little that I thought it would be easy not to see you again – but it wasn't easy, and I miss you desperately."
Rory took her untouched mug from her hands and put it on the coffee table, next to his empty one. Then he wrapped his arms around her. River let her head rest on his shoulder, but she didn't cry. He hadn't really expected she would. "We miss you too. Me and your mum both. Not a single day goes by when I don't worry about you, River. There's not a single day when I don't wonder if you're happy, if you're safe, if you and the Doctor are out on an adventure having fun. That's what caring is all about."
"Why does it hurt so much?" she asked, and in that simple sentence he could suddenly hear the depths of her pain. He was reminded that River, for all her flirtatious and affectionate ways, had spent the earliest part of her life with people who didn't love her, and much of the rest of it hiding herself from the people she loved most. Only recently had she realized that she was allowed to love, that she wouldn't be punished for caring. In that area, she was still very immature. She was still very much a child. His arms tightened protectively. He wished Amy could be here; she was the one who was good with words. She would know what River needed to hear.
"Because that's how you know it's real," he said. She brought her arms up and clung to him, shivering with a mixture of cold and the uncontrollable emotions coursing through her. "If I could take away all your pain, I would. I'd take it all away from you so that you could live a happy life. I wish I could."
"Why?" she demanded. "You don't know half the things I've seen – the things I've done – "
"I don't need to. I'd do it because – " Rory paused and pressed a kiss to her brow. "Because you're my little girl, and I love you with all my heart. And I can't take all of your pain away, but when you need me, I'll be there for you, even if I have to drive all the way across the country to get you."
River didn't say anything after that, but she didn't need to. Rory thought he understood.