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Father's Day

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Father's Day

It had been two months. Two months since they'd arrived in 1969, two months since Amy had shot at the little girl in the astronaut suit, and two months since she'd realized that her life was beginning to come full circle.

Her parents had no idea.

She'd known that for awhile now, of course. It had been some time, by her estimate, since they had known who she was, and by extension, who they were. The longstanding nature of their ignorance didn't mean it hurt less, just that she had to try a little harder not to inadvertently cause a paradox.

Days like today were harder, but she still chose not to ignore them.

"Hello, Rory."

He turned around, clearly startled at hearing her voice – any voice – alongside him as he walked down a deserted highway toward a still-distant spot of civilization.  She was surprised he hadn’t heard the car as it had approached.  River spent a moment appreciating the kindness behind the smile that stretched across his face when he saw her. He was covered in red dust, his hair was bleached from prolonged exposure to the sun, and his fair skin had long since been burned and tanned into a shade much darker than the one she was most familiar with.  A canteen hung heavily from his belt, the only sign that he wasn’t as lost as he looked.

"River! I didn't - I mean, how did you find me? I thought we weren't-"

"Supposed to contact each other. Yes, I know." She smiled one of her more enigmatic smiles (oh yes, she knew exactly how to use those smiles. How could she not?) and held a small duffel bag out the window. "Care for a shower and a shave?"


Contrary to expectations, she didn't really have a plan. She hadn't missed a Father's Day yet, though, and was determined not to break that streak even if they were supposed to be running for their lives and investigating the Silence across the empty spaces of America. So she'd packed a razor and a clean change of clothes for him, and planned to wing it from there.

Still, now that they were safely ensconced in a hotel room in the middle of a tiny town in southern New Mexico and he was getting cleaned up, she had no idea what to do next. They'd gone mini golfing last year, but that had been back when he'd known he was her dad and had been amenable to what passed for normal father/daughter activities as a Father's Day treat - partly because he did have an appreciation for irony, and partially because it made them both feel a bit better to have a few of those memories, albeit several decades late on her part.

That wouldn't work now.

Now they had a tiny, dusty town; a dingy hotel room that had seen better days - likely in the middle of the Great Depression; and a vast, hot desert. As Father's Days went, it wasn't shaping up to be a great one.

"Thank you," he said, emerging from the bathroom wearing the clean shirt and shorts she'd brought, and rubbing his still-damp hair with a towel. "I was beginning to forget what it felt like to be clean."

"Anytime," she offered limply. "So, what have you been up to?"

"Oh, you know, running from the FBI, which is soft-of pretending to chase us. Running from the Silence, which actually is. Sleeping under what passes for shrubbery in this godforsaken corner of the planet. Same old, same old."

That garnered an actual smile. "You should really consider a career change – does the tourism industry know about your way with words?"

He laughed. It was a short laugh, and it was tinged with bitterness, but it was still a laugh. Her heart swelled.

"Where have you been? I thought the Doctor wanted you to stay nearer the East Cost than this."

"Oh, you know me. Never really been one for following directions." She was suddenly overwhelmed by the memory of Rory, aged fifteen, ranting at Mels for skipping detention for the third time in a week. "Why can't you ever just do as you're told?" he'd asked, and she'd been so tempted to tell him to stop acting like her dad. Except that he was. He'd always been.

Rory shook his head, but said nothing. It was to be expected. To him, she was still the enigmatic Dr. River Song - she wasn't even really human in his eyes. She knew that. She hated it. Back when they'd been in that warehouse in Florida (had it only been last month?) she'd told him her deepest secret: that she knew her (metaphorical, though possibly also literal – the thought had occurred to her) death would come on the day the Doctor no longer knew who she was. She'd made herself completely vulnerable in that moment to the one man she knew she could trust with anything - her father - and he hadn't even known why. It hurt then, and it still hurt now.

"Have you seen him recently?" Rory asked, and it took River a moment to realize that he was talking about the Doctor.

"Hm? No, not since we all split up. I think Canton was planning to keep him somewhere safe, near the TARDIS.”


“Wouldn’t that require putting him in prison?  I thought they were keeping the TARDIS at Area 51.”  Rory settled down next to her on the bed.


She smiled fondly, “In handcuffs, no doubt.  Bless.”


“So what are you doing here, River?”


She didn’t answer for a moment.  Obviously, the truth was out.  It usually was, come to think of it.  She didn’t feel like making up something outlandish, though, not today.  “I thought you might want some company, and I was in the neighborhood.”  Well, it was the truth, if a highly edited version.


He looked at her then, cocking his head as if considering whether or not to believe her.  “Did you just come from Amy, then?”


Her brow furrowed as she tried to follow his line of thought.  “No, why?”


“Well, I just figured that you would have stopped to see her, and she would have told you that we split up a couple weeks back.  Otherwise how would you have known I needed company?”


Think fast, River.  “I have my ways.”  That was the thing about being known as an enigmatic woman full of secrets – you could get away with crap explanations fairly frequently and everyone would just assume you were avoiding history-altering spoilers.


Rory nodded slowly.  “Will you go see her after this?”


“Amy?  Of course.” Actually, a visit to her mother hadn’t been on her ‘to do’ list, but it could be.  “Any particular reason?”


“I’d just like to know she’s safe.  It was her idea to split up so they couldn’t track us easily, and I’ve had second, third, and forty-fifth thoughts ever since.”


River’s heart swelled.  She knew what was coming for her parents – she’d lived through that and would rather not think too deeply on the subject – but this was love uncomplicated by everything that was coming for them.  Rory loved Amy, worried about her constantly, and that was something that would never change. 


“Of course.  Anything you’d like me to tell her?”


“Just that I’m fine and that I miss her.  Or, you know, add something else that sounds romantic.  I’ve never been very good at that sort of thing.”


She laughed then, a real laugh.  “And what makes you think I am?”


“Well, you’re just…you.  I don’t know.  Aren’t most women good at knowing the right thing to say?”


Oh, Dad.  I love you.  “I suppose we are.  Yes, I’m sure I’ll think of something appropriately romantic to tell Amy when I see her.”


They sat in companionable silence for a few moments until a jaw-shattering yawn shook Rory from head to toe.


“Sorry,” he mumbled.  “It’s been awhile since I had a good night’s sleep.”


“Would you like to take a nap here?  We have the room until tomorrow.”  As Father’s Day gifts went it wasn’t much, but clearly Rory needed the rest more than he needed her company at the moment.


“Do you mind terribly?”


“Of course not.  You take a rest and I’ll see if I can’t find us a hot meal.”




She returned two hours later with a cardboard box full of some kind of gravy-covered meat and limp broccoli.   Rory was still fast asleep, so she set the container down on the scratched bedside table and settled herself into the room’s only chair.  Just as she attempted to get comfortable for the tenth time, Rory began to stir.


“River?  ‘S that you?” he mumbled sleepily.  “How long was I asleep?”


“Not long.  I brought food that you should probably eat now.  I can’t imagine that it will get less appetizing, but would rather not find out.”  She pointed at the box, and he squinted at it. 


“What is that?”


“The girl told me meatloaf, but I wouldn’t look too closely if I were you.”


Rory dug in anyway, clearly famished.  He considered her closely as he chewed.  “So why didn’t you go to see Amy first?”


“Why do you find it so hard to believe that I simply wanted to have a visit with you?”  Frankly, at this point it was strange for her to be spending time with either of them without the Doctor present, but that wasn’t the question he was asking. 


“Because…well, you’re both girls,” she raised an eyebrow at that one.  “And you both have a close connection to the Doctor.  And…I don’t know.  I guess I never really thought you and I had much in common.”


“You don’t?”  That was surprising. 


“Come on, River.  You carry guns and know everything and keep the Doctor on his toes.  Most days, I’m lucky if I don’t wind up dead.”


“That’s not all I am, you know, Rory.  The parts you see – yes, I suppose I do come off quite a bit like that – but really, you just haven’t gotten to know me very well yet.  So, for the record-”


“Isn’t this usually where you refuse to talk and cite ‘spoilers’?”


“Yes, but I’m making an exception this time.  You and I do have quite a bit in common.”


“Such as?”


Her mind raced.  What could she tell him that wouldn’t give away more than it was safe for him to know at the moment?  “Puzzles.  We both like puzzles.”  Now it was his turn to raise an eyebrow.  “Not just the jigsaw kind, though that too, but working out how things fit together.  You do it all the time as a nurse.  You’re better at diagnosis than some of the doctors you work with.”  He blushed and opened his mouth to respond.  “No, I’ve seen you do it.  It’s true.  You could have been a doctor yourself, except you like providing the level of care a nurse gets to give more than writing orders and looking at charts.  You take great pride in keeping the people in your care comfortable, and that requires quite a lot of puzzle-solving.”


“Particularly when one lives with Amy and the Doctor,” he joked.  She laughed again.


“Precisely.  I’m the same way.  I love archaeology even though the Doctor is right that it is a bit silly to study ruins when one can travel through time and see a civilization as it’s actually being built.  There’s nothing to solve when you go about cheating the way he does, though – everything’s just laid out right in front of you.  Give me a mystery any day.”


Rory cocked his head and opened his mouth twice to speak before actually committing to say what was on his mind.  “If you don’t mind my saying so, I’ve always thought that’s what he’s most attracted to about you.  You’re a puzzle, and he doesn’t get many of those that can’t be solved with a few quick words, cleverness, and a mad dash to the TARDIS at the end.”


River blushed.  Oh, she hoped Rory didn’t remember the details of that comment when he finally knew that he was actually talking to his daughter about how her future/present/past husband felt about her.  Not that he was wrong, of course, but she knew he’d die of embarrassment.


“You’re probably right.”


“What’s this?” he pulled slip of paper out of the takeaway box.  “Happy Father’s Day – is it Father’s Day?”


River froze.  When the girl at the diner had asked her if the meal was for her, she’d answered that it was for her dad.  She’d hadn’t even really thought before speaking, but it had seemed like such a minor slip that she hadn’t given it a second thought. 


“They must have mixed up my order with someone else’s.  Huh.  Father’s Day.”  Rory set the note down on the table and stared at it for a minute.


They sat in silence again, less comfortable this time.


“You know, the one thing that’s been truly bizarre about the last few years – and by ‘bizarre’ I mean more so than aliens and time travel and becoming a plastic Roman for two millennia – has been the way no time has seemed to pass at all for our families.  As far as my dad is concerned, I haven’t been away from home for more than a week in seven years.”


“Do you miss him?”  This was getting into dangerous territory, but suddenly River didn’t care.


“Sometimes.  A lot, actually.  You’d like my dad.  Everyone likes my dad.”  Rory smiled at the memory, and River pictured her grandfather.  Yes, everyone did like him. She’d even liked him when she was Mels, and she hadn’t liked many adults back then.


“Do-“  Rory seemed to reconsider, then barreled ahead with his question.  “This is a silly question, but, do you have a dad, River?”


River choked on her own saliva, and Rory had to pound her back to help her catch her breath again. 


“Yes – I mean, of course I do.  Don’t we all?”  She hoped he’d drop it, but knew it wasn’t likely.


“Is it something you don’t want to talk about?”


She took a deep breath.  This was it, her get-out-of-jail-in-the-form-of-awkward-questions card. 


“No, it’s fine.  I just wasn’t expecting the question is all.”


“Can I ask, what’s he like?”


She paused.  Again, so many ways to answer, most of which would give too much away.  “He’s…he’s a good man.  The most loyal man I’ve ever met.  Brave, but not showy.  He – he’s always taken great care of me, even when I wasn’t making things easy on him.”  She suddenly found that tears were rolling down her cheeks. 


“Is he-“ Rory wasn’t going to finish the sentence, so she did it for him.


“Dead?  Oh no.  He just hasn’t seen me in a long time is all.”  Before Rory could parse her phrasing, she barreled forward.  “I suppose we all think our fathers hang the stars when we’re young, but it’s only the truly exceptional ones who keep us thinking it when we’re grown.  That’s what my dad is like.”


Rory nodded. 


This time, neither one broke the silence.




Several hours later, Rory was once again fast asleep.  River had decided discretion was the better part of valor, and warned him that she’d likely be gone before he woke up.  She had to add a trip to see Amy to her itinerary before she headed back to New York.


“Happy Father’s Day, Dad,” she whispered as she shut the door behind her.