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Title: The Time Is Out of Joint
Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Pairing: Amy/Rory/River (+ OC) family; shades of Amy/Rory and 11/River
Word Count: 3,281
Rating: K
Warnings: Spoilers through "The Wedding of River Song".
Disclaimer: I don't own them! I just borrow them.
Summary: “But things are the way they are. And the way they are now is that you have this little one.” River shifted Julian in her hold, kissed his forehead lightly. “Aunt Mel. That’s what you’ll call me.”
Notes: Written for [info]who_contest Oneshot Challenge #8 (theme: first trip). I ended up taking the prompt a little more loosely than I intended, but I hope it's still fairly obvious. If anyone so desires commentary, it can be found here! I also offer a pre-emptive apology for my brain turning out nonstop Amy/Rory angst lately (this time with added River!), and for all the Hamlet.

I.
Two weeks…

“Where do you think she is?”

He looked over at his wife when she spoke, though he didn’t know how he’d let his eyes wander in the first place. Since Julian had been born two weeks before, he’d barely let his eyes stray from the sight of his wife and their first—

Second.

—child. “Probably off finding the intergalactic Rosetta Stone or something,” he said after a moment or two, hoping she hadn’t noticed the hesitation.

She had. “Do you forget sometimes?” she asked, not looking at him, instead looking down at Julian, who was nursing calmly, completely oblivious to his parents. This was all the family he knew, Rory realized. Maybe even all the family he’d ever know. His parents. That was all.

“I do,” he admitted, but he tried to cover. “I—I wasn’t… there with you and she’s not—she’s not here with us so I…”

“It’s easy to forget,” Amy quietly commiserated. “I don’t even remember it. The pregnancy.”

He noticed the way the words caught in her throat, the way she swallowed and sighed.

Rory left their bed, going over to the chair she’d sat in to nurse and kneeling before her and their child. For a moment he stroked Julian’s head. His child was named after two Roman emperors; he had picked the name when Amy asked, because she had picked the last one and it was, she’d told him, only fair. He’d named him as he’d held him in his arms for the first time, fumbling to remember how he’d done it with their friends’ kids over the last few years, because he couldn’t quite remember holding his firstborn.

“We won’t lose him,” he said quietly, focusing on Julian, who was drowsing now, having drank his fill. “Not like we lost her.”

“I know,” Amy whispered, but he sensed it without her having to say it. She’d been lied to that way before, by the Doctor, the one who’d promised them their child but had instead given them a friend. She was used to empty promises.

So was he.

II.
Ten months…

It happened so quickly, a flash of blue electricity and then there she was, all wild hair and smiles. It nearly gave him a heart attack, but it certainly woke him up; he’d been drowsing in the nursery’s rocking chair. Unfortunately, it woke Julian as well, and before he could even get to his feet, River had taken her brother in her arms, whispering something in his ear that made him calm almost unnaturally fast.

“I’ve got him,” she told her father, giving him a faint smile. “Hello, Dad.”

“Hi,” Rory said faintly, riveted by the sight of his two children together. He hadn’t thought he’d ever see it. “When are you coming from?”

“Just after the Pandorica. You were so happy to see each other again.”

For her, it had just happened. For him, it was years ago—five at the most. He couldn’t always wrap his mind round that.

“It’s like he’s met you before,” he said finally, after the shock of her appearance had worn off. “He’s never that calm with strangers.”

“He has met me before. Not that he knows it yet—he won’t for a while. Spoilers.” She directed that to the baby, the teasing lilt in her voice the same as ever. “This is the first time you’ve seen me with him, then?”

“Yes.”

“How old is he?”

“Ten months.”

“That long?” River looked up, startled. “I’m sorry, I thought…”

“We haven’t held it against you or anything. Knew you’d show up eventually. You always do.”

“You don’t have to lie to me,” River chided him, then stopped. “Sorry. I’m not meant to do that; I always forget.”

“Bit weird to be older than your mum and dad, yeah?”

“Yes. It is.”

She crossed the room to where he sat, and he vacated the chair so she could take it. “What are you going to tell him, then?”

“About what?” he asked, even if he knew. He wanted her to say it. If he could get someone else besides him and Amy to say it, it wouldn’t sound as crazy as it did in his head.

“About me. You may as well lie to him. It’s not like you haven’t lied to everyone else.”

“We never meant to…”

“Oh, I know you didn’t,” River said consolingly, and she shifted Julian to the crook of her one arm so that she could reach out and rest her other hand over his on the arm of the chair. “But you had to, didn’t you? Yes, this is our first. – Oh, yes, it’s so exciting. When you had to be terrified. You couldn’t know what to expect.”

“I’m a nurse. Of course I knew what to expect.”

“False bravado, Dad.” She gave his hand a squeeze. “Where do you think I get it from?”

“I assumed the Doctor.”

“Ahh. Well, that is true on some fronts. But back to what I was saying earlier. You didn’t know what to expect, did you? Because it’s different when it’s happening to you. And it really is your first time with all this.”

“It is,” he said in answer to all three suppositions, after a long while in which River sat in silence, humming a melody he didn’t recognize to Julian, who reached up with one tiny hand to touch her face. That made her close her eyes and grin. She opened them when Rory spoke, her expression faltering slightly.

“I regret it,” he said when she met his gaze. “More than anything, I regret that I wasn’t there for Amy. For both of you. If the Doctor had told me, or if I’d had suspicions of my own, or if…”

“If things had been different, yes, perhaps you would have been there,” River soothed. “And I’m sure that in another world, you are.”

“There’s other worlds?”

“Other universes, if you’d like me to be more precise. There are more things in heaven and earth, Dad…”

“… than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” He finally smiled. “Shakespeare. You get that from me. Your mum used to hate it…”

“I know. I was there, remember?” A melancholy smile. “If things had been different, you would have been there. I wouldn’t have spent my childhood wishing I could tell you something you’d never believe. Something you still don’t quite believe now—am I right about that?” He didn’t have to answer. “But things are the way they are. And the way they are now is that you have this little one.” She shifted Julian in her hold, kissed his forehead lightly. “Aunt Mel. That’s what you’ll call me.”

“Spoilers?”

“Yes. It’s what he called me when he saw me. I assumed it was what you’d told him.”

“Then we will, when the time comes. … Do you know exactly when that time is?”

“Not now. I might, someday. I’ll let you know if I do.”

She rose, placing Julian back in his crib gingerly, setting the mobile above his head spinning—jungle animals. “Not stars and planets, then?” she asked as she stepped back to take a better look at it.

“No. Amy’s choice.” He shifted from one foot to the other. “She thinks he might start asking questions, someday. Thought if we didn’t encourage him with space stuff, then…”

“Then he’ll never wonder.” The sadness in her smile grew, multiplied, then fractured and fell away. “You’d have wonderful stories to tell him.”

“If we decide to.”

“You might.”

“Isn’t this normally where you say we will? You drop some vague hint about the future and then you saunter off. That’s how it works.”

“I don’t want to be a bad influence on that one. Mum wouldn’t like it, would she?” A cheeky grin. “I’ll see you, Dad. Eventually.”

“Take the front door, for once, if you can? It’s just that he’s only just got back to sleep…”

“Of course. Until the next time, then?”

“If there is one.”

It was a pity, he couldn’t help but think later, that he had so little faith in that.

III.
Two years…

Julian was two years old and testing his boundaries. He’d crawl away from her as she prepared dinner and she’d be glad she and Rory had installed locks on the cabinets, or he’d try to climb out of the cart in the shop and she’d have to belt him in after all. The last time he’d gotten away from her, she’d found him in a previously undiscovered crawl space after half an hour of desperate looking and a phone call from Rory during said looking where she’d acted, she thought, very deceptively calm. She’d called her mother after she’d placed Julian securely in his room, sitting with her back against the closed door so he couldn’t crawl out, and asked Tabetha Pond if she’d ever been that bad as a kid. Yes, Tabetha had told her laughingly, she had, and it was the mother’s curse—I hope you have one just like you!

She’d learned to keep a watchful eye on her son, but she wasn’t impervious to distractions. Today, it was a conversation with Brady Welch, the husband of one of Rory’s coworkers, who came to the park with Amy on the days both their spouses worked so that Julian and his son Theo could play. She looked away from where Theo and Julian were playing for, at most, five seconds, after Brady told her some story about his days at university that she couldn’t quite believe, and when she looked back, Julian was nowhere to be seen.

“Oh, God,” she said, standing to get a better vantage point, then looking frantically back at Brady. “Julian’s gone—did you see him walking off anywhere?”

“No, but Amy, come on, he wanders off all the t—”

“In the house; he’s never done it in public!” Amy snapped, because he never had; she’d always nipped it in the bud in the shop or in the department store where she and Rory went shopping for clothes.

(Later, she’d laugh about it—hadn’t the Doctor always told her not to wander off? She would have to tell her son those words someday, when he was old enough to understand them, when she was old enough to say them without getting a twinge of painful yet blissful remembrance in her heart.)

She was dashing about like a madwoman, Brady right behind her with Theo held at his hip, yelling for Julian and just about to call Rory and tell him that that was it, she’d done it, she’d looked away for a few seconds and Julian had been snatched by one of those murderers they show pictures of on the telly, before she caught sight of two figures on the path ahead, walking towards her.

One of them was Julian, and she thanked God for that; he was sucking his left thumb as he walked and occasionally taking glances at the woman who was leading him back to his mum, grasping his free hand gently in hers.

“Found him by the swings; I think he wanted someone to push him,” River told her mother as Amy quickly scooped her son into her arms and kissed his head wildly, scolding him softly even if he didn’t fully understand. “Poor thing was about to get kicked in the head; thought I’d better bring him back to you. I saw you with him earlier; he is yours, isn’t he?”

“Yes,” Amy said, only having to half-feign the gratefulness in her voice. She hated having to put on this act in public, when people like Brady, people who didn’t know, were around. She wanted to thank her daughter for looking out for her little brother. She wanted to cry, because she’d spent a little over a year now being jealous of Rory for having seen their two children together, and now she’d finally seen them both at once like he had, and why wasn’t he here? Would they ever be all together, a proper family? “Thank you,” she managed, through the tears building in her throat, and she felt River’s hand on her shoulder a second later, squeezing.

“Has he wandered off before?”

“Not like this, but lots of times, yeah. You’d think I’d have gotten used to it by now.”

“Oh, I don’t think anyone ever does. Especially not the first time out.”

Amy painted on a fake smile, the same one she’d put on when she’d had to lie through her teeth to her parents and Rory’s as they squealed and back-slapped and congratulated her and Rory and each other the day she’d announced her pregnancy. “I never got your name."

“Melody.” Her lips twitched a little, and Amy didn’t know if it was in irony or sorrow.

“Thank you again, Melody,” she said as River started to walk away. “For bringing him back to me.”

Later, alone in the shower, cleaning off the grass and pollen stains on her skin, she cried. At least one lost child had been returned to her.

IV.
Fourteen years, three hundred and sixty four days…

It was the night before Julian’s birthday and he was supposed to be sleeping. He had school the next day, for one thing. For another, he wasn’t a little kid anymore, and he knew it was stupid to stay up like a five-year-old the night before your fifteenth birthday. Even if he knew it was childish, he was still too excited to sleep.

He was lying in bed, reading by the light of a small book light, his body shifted so that it blocked the light from seeping out of the crack beneath the door. When he heard the door creak open, he quickly snuffed the light, ready to make excuses—Mum always told him to get more sleep, that any book can always wait a day, and if it’s schoolwork, well, then, he should have done it before two in the morning—but he heard a familiar laugh behind him.

“I’m not going to tell your mum and dad; you can put the light back on.”

“Aunt Mel!” He twisted out of the tangle of his sheets and comforter and rushed to his aunt, who’d put a finger to her lips in a warning for him to be quiet. She hugged him, still laughing softly, then closed his door and sat with him on the bed.

“What are you doing here? It’s two in the morning.”

“I could ask you what you’re doing up, but I think I can see for myself.” Mel picked up the battered copy of Hamlet, stroking its cover lightly with one manicured finger. “Your dad’s?”

“Yeah. He went looking for it in the attic when he heard I was studying it in school.”

“Are you? Good to know they’re teaching you kids something,” Mel lightly teased.

“Hey! I don’t say you’re not teaching your students.”

Touché. As for what I’m doing here, you should know, birthday boy. I wanted to wish you a happy one.”

“Thanks, Aunt Mel. But how did you get in here this late without setting off the alarm? I didn’t hear Mum and Dad get up, either…”

“Your mum won’t like me showing you, but I’ve got a little secret. Do you want to see it?”

Julian nodded, as eagerly as when he’d been a kid and Mel had brought him back presents from her archaeological digs. He’d always thought the things she showed him wouldn’t be so cool when he was older, but they still were, somehow.

Mel reached into her purse, pulled out something that looked like a long tube, fashioned of metal and plastic, with metal cylinders at one end and a grip at the other. The bit surrounded by the cylinders, the tip, lit up when Mel pressed something and made a noise unlike anything Julian had ever heard before.

“What is it?” he asked curiously as she pressed it into his hands.

“It’s called a sonic screwdriver. My husband gave it to me when we were in Darillium.”

“Where’s Darillium?”

“Tiny little place in Africa.” Julian was too focused on examining the sonic screwdriver to catch the infinitesimal hesitation before Africa. “You’d never know it even if I showed it to you on a map… anyway, that opens any door you’d like, any lock you like, so long as it’s not wood.”

“Why not wood?”

“I’ve no idea; I’ve asked him that for ages.”

“How come I’ve never met your husband?”

“Oh, because he travels; I have to beg him to drop me back here every once in a while so I can see you and your mum and dad. He’s a doctor, you know, runs about saving people—not a lot of free time. I’ve told him all about you, though. He used to know your mum and dad. I’m sure someday you’ll meet him.”

“Aunt Mel?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“How did you know your husband was in love with you?”

Mel laughed for longer than he’d ever heard her laugh. “Oh, I didn’t know that, not for a very long time. I don’t think he knew for that long time, either. Why do you ask?”

“Because there’s a girl.” Julian turned the screwdriver over and over in his hands. “And I don’t think she’s in love with me, but I think she might like me.”

“And you haven’t asked her?”

“No.”

“I see. She’d be your first girlfriend, wouldn’t she?”

“No! … Yes. … She might.”

“You,” Mel chuckled, “are exactly like your father, Julian Williams-Pond. But if you want to know, I’ll tell you. I knew he loved me because he saved my life, and because I’ve saved his. And don’t tell them I’ve told you, because they’re very determined to have you think they lead fantastically boring lives, but your parents actually did the same for each other, once upon a time. Has she saved your life, whoever she is?”

“No.” Julian paused for a moment, then grinned. “But she’s made it really interesting.”

“Those people,” Mel smiled softly, “are always the best kind.”

They talked for half an hour longer, until it was three o’clock in the morning and Mel said she had to leave or his mum and dad would kill her. He gave her back the “sonic screwdriver” and she gave him back his father’s copy of Hamlet. As he settled back into bed, Mel got up, and she was nearly at the door before she remembered something.

“I almost forgot your birthday present. That wouldn’t have done at all.”

She reached into her purse and crossed back to his bed, taking out what looked like a diary and pressing it into his waiting hands. “When you were growing up, I kept a diary of every time I saw you. I wanted to be able to remember who you used to be when you started becoming who you are today.” She smiled faintly, touching his shoulder. “You’ve grown into a fine young man, Julian. It’s time for you to have it. Make your own entries. Maybe even write about that girl.”

“You think she’d like that?”

“I used to write about my husband in my diary. I know he definitely did."

Julian reached out to hug her, still knowing it was silly, that he was fifteen years old now and that most boys his age wouldn’t be hugging their aunts. But he still smiled when Mel hugged him back, when she kissed the top of his head and whispered “Good night, sweet prince,” before she walked out of his life for good.

Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
a_phoenixdragon
Jan. 14th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
Ahhhh...

You already know how much you hurt me (and so wonderfully, too!) But this -

I could see it.

Just...sheer beauty, love. Thank you for this wonderful fiction.

*HUGS*
haveloved
Jan. 14th, 2012 03:10 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure I actually hurt myself writing this one, and a friend of mine has already told me she doesn't like me anymore after this, LOL. I'm so glad it resonated with you; thank you so much!
dqbunny
Jan. 14th, 2012 03:07 am (UTC)
Oh this is beautiful and heart-breaking at the same time. Lovely job!
haveloved
Jan. 14th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
clare009
Jan. 14th, 2012 03:22 am (UTC)
Omg that last bit just slayed me. Very well done.
haveloved
Jan. 14th, 2012 04:56 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
beerbad
Jan. 14th, 2012 03:26 am (UTC)
This is excellent. And, you know, heart-wrenching.
haveloved
Jan. 14th, 2012 04:56 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, I do know; I have a friend who yelled at me for it, ha. Thank you very much!
just_liv
Jan. 14th, 2012 05:45 am (UTC)
I love this so much! Because it seems so... canon! I love it and it breaks my heart, just like everything involving River and the Ponds always does.
haveloved
Jan. 14th, 2012 06:07 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm so flattered to hear that--this was actually my first time working with River in a non-AU, canon-compliant setting, and only my second time overall, and my longest fic for the Ponds thus far, so it was a nerve wracking undertaking, something that has definitely been lessened by your praise. Thank you so much!
(no subject) - just_liv - Jan. 14th, 2012 01:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
fleurette
Jan. 14th, 2012 01:48 pm (UTC)
That was beautiful! Very nicely done...I love Rory, Amy and River, and you've written them so well!
haveloved
Jan. 14th, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
country_who
Jan. 15th, 2012 02:54 pm (UTC)
This was wonderfully done. I really liked your addition of Julian. :)
haveloved
Jan. 15th, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm so glad you liked him; I always get nervous about adding in OCs, especially children!
(Deleted comment)
haveloved
Jan. 19th, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
hihoplastic
Jan. 17th, 2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
Gah, this is wonderful. I love all of it, and how River is always there, sort of lurking in the background, making sure he's okay. And that scene in the park, when Amy had to pretend she didn't know her own daughter? Heartbreaking. Gorgeous and wonderful and so, so heartbreaking. Thank you so much for writing this! *insta!mem*
haveloved
Jan. 19th, 2012 04:28 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so flattered! I'm particularly glad you mentioned the scene in the park, as that scene sort of took me by surprise as I wrote it (Amy's interaction with River was meant to be another incident entirely), but I ended up liking it a lot better than my initial plan. Thank you so much! :D
honeynoir
Jan. 21st, 2012 09:32 pm (UTC)
Ah, this is gorgeous! ♥
haveloved
Jan. 21st, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I was so nervous about this one (first official time working with a non-AU River!), so it means a lot to hear that. :)

(Love the icon, by the way--that's one of my favorite caps of them!)
(no subject) - honeynoir - Jan. 21st, 2012 11:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
captaintish
Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:42 am (UTC)
Lovely! And so bittersweet, with that last line. Just lovely!
haveloved
Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much--bittersweet is really what I wanted to go for; it never did seem like there was going to be a happy ending to this situation! And just so you know, you're part of why I wrote this! You told me on my 11/River meta a few months back that you wanted to see some of your favorite authors take a crack at River, and well, I tried. ;) Your encouragement really stuck with me and I'm thrilled you liked this!
(no subject) - captaintish - Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
dancingdragon3
Jan. 27th, 2012 06:57 am (UTC)
The ending was so sweet I forgot all the heartbreaking moments that came before. Great story!

The moments with Rory and River when Julian was a baby were especially touching to me.

I'd never imagined what it would be like if they have another child and this was a wonderful glimpse at that what if. Simply beautiful.

haveloved
Jan. 27th, 2012 03:19 pm (UTC)
The Rory/River scene was perhaps my favorite one to write; their dynamic got a bit undersold in canon, and I wanted to explore them most of all. I'm so glad you liked that scene!

And I'm glad to have opened your mind to this possibility somewhat--I'd been considering the idea of them having another child for a long time, but the emotions and consequences of that situation truly never occurred to me until I sat down and started writing. I'm happy you liked it; thanks so much for your kind words!
dr_helenmagnus
Feb. 8th, 2012 05:54 pm (UTC)
Nobody makes me cry quite like River.

This was really lovely!
haveloved
Feb. 8th, 2012 08:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I had a really emotional time writing this because her situation just struck me as tragic in ways I'd never fully thought about, and the tears definitely came as I worked through it. Glad you enjoyed!
lonewytch
Feb. 9th, 2012 12:27 pm (UTC)
oh what a lovely lovely fic. It's touching and heartbreaking - everything that both Amy and River have lost and what they had in its place instead. Great dialogue. The ending brought tears to me eyes.
haveloved
Feb. 9th, 2012 01:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for such kind words! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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