Disclaimer: I do not own any of the situations or characters of Doctor Who. No money is being made off this story. Please do not sue me.
Author's Note: For clarity, the first scene is a couple months after "The Eleventh Hour." (Give or take.) The second is at the end of "The Wedding of River Song."
(And again, I'm American. Feel free to correct my English.)
Title: Father Material
Summary: As a young woman (sorta), Mels Zucker had a very awkward conversation with her father. A few years later (sorta), they revisited it.
Spoilers Through: 6x13—The Wedding of River Song (or mostly just through "Let's Kill Hitler")
This was the kind of thing Rory would probably go to Amy about. If he ever actually had girl problems that weren't all about her. He could talk to his dad about some things, sort of. But not this. And he had other guy friends, but he was pretty sure they would make fun of him.
Actually he was pretty sure Mels would make fun of him too, but that wouldn't be anything new.
He found her in the town's park, slouching on a bench. She was always just around. Rory wasn't really sure what kept her in Leadworth now that they were out of school. Not that he wanted her to leave. He just wished her life contained something resembling purpose.
He jumped right in. "I need some advice."
"From me?" Mels smirked. "Not one of your university friends?"
Rory had forgotten that they argued about that the last time he saw her. "All I was saying was that you are plenty smart enough to go to university and if you just applied yourself-" Mels rolled her eyes, but he pressed on. "It was a compliment."
"A backhanded compliment."
This was getting off track. "Anyway, yes, I want your advice. So you know Amy and I have been seeing each other, yeah?"
For some reason, he waited for her to confirm. Finally, she said, "I was aware."
Of course she was. "Right, well, it's been a while, and it's going well, but . . ." He was still not sure how to actually say it.
Mels sat straight up. "You are not thinking about breaking things off." It was a statement, not a question.
"No! No, god no. It's just that I think Amy might . . . I mean I think we might be at the point where she . . . expects certain . . ." Mels just stared at him, so Rory raised his eyebrows meaningfully.
"Oh." Mels's eyes went wide. "You're talking about sex."
Rory nodded, relieved.
"You think Amy might want . . . Okay." She shrugged. "So what's the problem?"
How to explain? He looked around the park to make sure no one else would be listening in. Small town and all that. "Well, I'm a nurse, so I know . . . things. But I've not actually—That is, technically . . ."
Mels held up her hand to stop him. "And what are you asking me?"
He sat next to her on the bench. "I want you to tell me what I need to know."
She shook her head vigorously, laughing. "Oh, Rory, I can't do that."
He understood that it was awkward. He really did not think of Mels that way, and he was glad if she felt the same. But this was important. "Sure you can. You talk about it all the time."
"That's different. I can't talk about you and . . . Amy . . ." She shook her head some more, almost as though she was disgusted by the thought.
Rory did not understand this reaction. "You're the one who pushed us together in the first place." He would thank her for that if he weren't so worried about screwing it up now.
"Well, yeah, because . . ."
She trailed off like she knew something he didn't, which made Rory all the more nervous. "Because of what?" he prompted, bracing himself.
Mels hesitated. "Because I knew you'd be good together," she said somewhat reluctantly. "Better than good. Perfect, really. One of those perfect couples that just gets married and stays in love forever and would have—would be great parents, and . . ." This trailing off wasn't nearly as ominous as the last.
"Wow." Rory was overwhelmed to say the least. That was quite a vote of confidence from Amy's other best friend. "You really think that? Me and Amy?"
"Don't you?" she challenged.
"I hadn't really thought that far—" That was a lie. "Yes, I want that. Exactly that. With Amy. Don't tell her I said that." Mels probably would tell Amy, but that was fine. It wasn't as though he had been playing it cool thus far. "But none of that happens if I can't . . ."
She laughed at him. "I'm sure you can." When he did not say anything, she asked, "What is it you're worried about, exactly?"
He knew what it was; he just didn't want to say it. But he did want Mels to help, so he bit the bullet. "What if I'm really bad at it?" It sounded even more plausible when he said it out loud, as he knew it would. "What if it's so bad that she doesn't want to do it anymore? Or she thinks I'm gay? Again."
"Are you gay?"
Rory buried his head in his hands. When Amy first said that, it had been probably the most devastating thing that had ever happened to him. And he supposed, the best, since it lead to her chasing him down in the street. He knew that he wasn't the kind of guy who gets the girl, especially not a girl as perfect as Amy. He was the nice, sensitive guy who just gets to be friends with the girl. And that was enough for him. Almost. Until she chased him down.
Then they were seeing if, maybe, they could transition to something more. And it was progressing nicely, until the Doctor showed up. The very, very real Raggedy Doctor, who ran around saving the world and threatening aliens. And Rory realized again how tenuous his hold on her was when he saw the way Amy looked at the other man. Because that, the heroic, charming, genius doctor, that was the kind of guy who gets the girl. Maybe Rory had been better off as the gay best friend. Except for the part where he wasn't gay. He'd thought Mels was at least on his side here though. Especially after the future she just laid out, the possibility of which—the thought that there was even the slightest chance he could have that—made being just friends with Amy unacceptable.
"I only ask," Mels continued, "because if you are, that might be an obstacle. But if you're not? If you're just a guy who's finally getting the chance to show the girl you've been in love with for ten years how much you love her, I think you're going to be fine."
Rory looked up. So she was on his side. Of course that might have been because, for some reason, despite never meeting the man, she seemed to want the Doctor all for herself. "Then help me."
Mels checked her watch. "I have to go." She stood and started backing away from him. "But don't worry so much. Just . . . do what comes naturally." Then she rushed off to what was probably a fake appointment.
Rory blew out his breath. That was fairly vague and clichéd. He'd never known Mels to be shy. In fact, if anything, he expected to be overloaded with information. Still, in some ways, she had been quite helpful with her assurances that it would all work. That he could be the guy for Amy, that they could be better than good together. He just needed to man up and do what came naturally.
Several years later . . .
For most of the night, Amy and River carried the conversation, but at some point Amy passed out on the couch, leaving Rory alone with his daughter. It wasn't the first time they had talked alone, at least not from his perspective, but everything was different now, and he didn't really know how to start.
River sat with him at the kitchen table. "Same as when we were teenagers."
"How do you mean?" He had forgotten again. Every time it came up, he had to remind himself that River was not just Melody, but also Mels. In his mind, they were three separate people, and yet they weren't.
"Amy." She nodded in that direction. "Mother. She was always a sleepy drunk."
Rory had already worked out to what she was alluding, the meaning of when we were teenagers. All of them, together. One happy, unknowing family. Mels had technically been the oldest, and yet Rory had always felt more like a big brother to her. Like no matter how old they got, she needed Amy and him to look out for her. He wanted to think about that instinct, reexamine it with this new information, but this wasn't the time. He couldn't just get lost in his thoughts and ignore River sitting right there. He needed to find something to say to his adult daughter, the Doctor's wife, his second closest childhood friend. "Now that you mention it, I'm not sure getting drunk with our teenage daughter was very solid parenting."
River smiled at him. "I thought you did quite well, all things considered." She took a slight pause. "And I think you'll be happy to know that I did eventually go to University."
He nodded. "With a doctorate in archaeology, no less. We couldn't be prouder." It made him sad to think they would never see their daughter graduate from . . . anywhere, really. Then again, he supposed they had been at her graduation from secondary school. So that was something. "And to go back for a moment, I told you you could do it."
She shook her head wistfully. "You were never more like a dad than when you were nagging me about living up to my potential."
Rory remembered those conversations, the way Mels would always get so annoyed when he was just trying to help her. It was all different in hindsight. His whole childhood was different in hindsight. "It's still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that you're Mels."
"I am, and I'm not. Regeneration is . . . Well, it's hard to explain, but it changes you. In some ways, I became a whole new person." She got a far off look. "But I remember everything. And I treasure that time, that life."
Rory thought back on those days. "Do you remember the time you told me that Amy and I would be a perfect couple?" Back then, he had found it surprising that she was such a big fan of their relationship, but it made sense now.
River nodded. "I believe you were asking me for sex advice at the time."
Rory groaned. Obviously, if he had known . . . He did not even know what to say about that, so he tried to shrug it off. "Right, turns out I didn't need it."
"Oh, I know. I was friends with Amy too. Those conversations were far more awkward." She took a sip from her wine glass.
Rory had vague flashes of things River had said in previous meetings, something about being a screamer, something about two Doctors on her birthday. And then there was Mels. God, she used to talk about it all the time. He wanted to get off that train of thought. "And that whole time, you knew we were your parents?"
She thought about it for a moment and set down her glass. Her answer surprised him. "Not exactly. When I was growing up, in Florida, I had a picture of my mother holding me as a baby, and that's all I really had of my parents. When I would ask Madame Kovarian about them, she would say they weren't important, just some boring family in England. So when I was on my own, I set out to find the boring Ponds in England. Because, see, I was always Melody Pond."
Rory tried to process what she was saying. There were implications, but he set them aside to address the name thing. "The Doctor and Amy think Williams is a boring name. Madame Kovarian too, I guess. But if I had my way, you'd be Melody Williams. In fact, yeah, your proper name is Melody Williams, no matter what you're calling yourself now." He almost threw a "young lady" on the end of that just because it sounded fatherly.
River smiled. It was such a simple thing, her father giving her his name. It was something most people took for granted, but Rory could see that it really did mean something to her. He worked through what she had said before. "So you only knew about Amy?"
She made a general noise of assent and nodded again. "I found a redheaded Pond in a very boring part of England, and she knew about the Doctor, so it all added up. But no one ever really said anything about my father, so I didn't have much to go on."
There was one thing that didn't quite make sense to him. "No, but you set us up. I mean, I've always credited Mels with that, creating that moment that changed everything between Amy and me."
"Yeah, like you said before, I knew you'd be a perfect couple."
"But if you knew Amy was . . ." He thought back to that conversation. What exactly had she said? Stay in love forever, great parents. "Are you saying you chose me to be your father?"
She shrugged like this was not a big deal. "I don't know. Maybe it always would have been you and Amy. Or maybe if I hadn't said something, it all would have been different. It's hard to tell."
"But why would you choose me? I was . . ." Rory did not really know how to describe how he was then. Not father material, he supposed. Not someone you'd chose if you had a choice.
"Well, I already knew I wouldn't get your nose," River joked. Then she grew more serious, pensive. "I used to make up stories about my father, so brave and heroic. And you weren't what I pictured at all. But I saw the way you looked at her, and I thought, 'That's him. That's the man who is going to love my mother more than anything.' And that was the most important part, so I gave up on the idea of him being some mythical hero."
Rory knew it wasn't exactly what she was saying, but he hated the thought that he was a disappointment to her in some way. He was about to apologize for not being able to live up to her unrealistic expectations, but River kept going.
"Little girls always see their fathers as these larger than life figures who can do anything, and then they grow out of it. But it was the opposite for me. Because as it turns out, you were better than the stories, so much braver and more amazing than anything I ever could have imagined. All because of how much you love my mother. So I think I chose well."
Not a disappointment then. Rory swallowed hard, trying to stop himself from getting choked up. He did not really know what to say to that. What could he possibly say? He was not even sure he trusted himself to speak. "Oh, Melody. You have no idea how hard it is to know that we couldn't protect you. I tried so hard."
She took his hand from across the table. "I know. There was nothing more you could have done, Dad." Rory saw the tears well up in her eyes, and it made him feel better about the hitch in his own voice. "Oh, I have waited my whole life to tell you that. I always knew that I had been stolen. I always knew that it wasn't your fault, and I don't blame you for anything."
It had been decades for River, but it had only been a few months for Rory. It was still raw, still hard to forgive himself. But hearing River forgive him, or really absolve him, it helped. "Can I hug you? Or would—would that be weird?"
River stood. "I would like that very much." She came around the table and pulled him to his feet.
It was probably not the first time they had hugged. He was sure at some point in his past he had thrown an arm around Mels's shoulder, but nothing counted before this moment. Even Demons Run didn't count because he rescued a fake baby, falling right into their trap, being so predictable. So this was the first time he ever held his daughter.
She held onto him just as tightly as he held onto her. It was hard for Rory to think of River as someone who still needed her father. It felt like he was coming to her too late in the game. She was a grown woman, married, with a doctorate and her own crazy, independent life. And she understood so much more about the universe than he ever would. He did not even know how to be a father to someone like that.
But as she rested her head on his shoulder, seeming so small and vulnerable, he knew none of that mattered. Somehow, despite all of it, she was still just his daughter.
Author's Note: The part about Mels/River not knowing anything about her father is extrapolated from the line, "Seriously, it's got to be you two." (Also, it got really sappy at the end. Sorry about that. It kinda got away from me there.)