such_heights: amy and rory looking at a pile of post (who: amy [tardis light])
Amy ([personal profile] such_heights) wrote2011-08-25 12:04 am

fic: only my hands to guide me (Doctor Who, Amy, River)

only my hands to guide me
Doctor Who ; Amy, River (background Amy/Rory) ; PG-13 ; 7200 words ; also at the AO3.
Amy had always liked kids, provided that she could give them back at the end of the day.

content notes: discussion of non-consensual medical procedures and related issues from Doctor Who S6.
author notes: Spoilers through 6x07. Many thanks to [personal profile] liseuse and [personal profile] purplefringe for the beta. Title from Vienna Teng's 'Now Three'. Written for [livejournal.com profile] femgenficathon

---

Amy had always liked kids, provided that she could give them back at the end of the day. She was the babysitter of choice for her neighbours, and happily ran around in the back garden with Charlie and Lizzie, read stories with Jonathan, and helped Suilin with her homework. She had to give it up when she turned eighteen and started working down at her local pub most evenings, but she still saw her kids around Leadworth sometimes, and they were always pleased to see her.

(Well, mostly, anyway. There was also the time that Jonathan showed up in her pub one night, all of fourteen and cocky enough to think he'd get served. The look on his face when he spotted her was priceless.)

So in theory, at least, she was entirely pro-children. Other people's children, that is. She hadn't ever given that much consideration to the question of whether she'd want kids of her own - that sounded like something grown-ups dealt with, and Amy wasn't a grown-up, not really. Mostly, she just nodded and smiled whenever anyone starting saying something like, 'well, when you have children of your own'. She'd worry about it later.

That was more or less the extent of the conversation she and Rory had had on the subject, too. He'd brought it up one morning over tea, about two months after they'd got engaged.

"Should we be having the kids conversation at some point?" he asked.

"Sorry, what?"

He shrugged. "My mum's been asking."

"Your mum's already got grandchildren, I don't know what she's fussing about."

"Yeah, well, now she wants cousins for them." Rory looked apologetic. "If you don't want to talk about it, that's fine. Just thought I'd mention it."

"Well." Amy pushed herself back in her chair, wobbling on two legs in the way that always used to get her into trouble at school. She smiled at Rory, buying herself a moment while she tried to calm the disquieting twist in her stomach that always seemed to arrive whenever their conversations swung around to the wedding and related topics. "I just think we're a bit young to be worrying about it, yeah?"

Rory laughed. "God, yeah, I didn't mean right now. But whenever I'm round at my sister's, and see how happy she is, I think that yeah, I'd like that. It'd be nice." He pulled a face. "'Nice'. Oh, great, I'm really selling this." He looked down at the table and fiddled with the teapot, flushing.

Amy caught his hand. "Oi, stupid. I'm not up for it right now, but someday? Yeah, maybe. So you can tell your mum that next time she asks."

"Yeah. Yeah, okay." He smiled, and took their mugs over to the sink.

Amy shook her head, and thought back to what he'd said about his sister and her family.

Julia and her wife had three kids and a fourth on the way - that, combined with a dog, two cats and a parakeet ensured that their house was a constant source of cheerful mayhem. Amy loved going to visit them. Rory did too, but every now and then he'd disappear to go stick his head in a book for a bit. Julia would always just laugh and beckon Amy over for some girl time with her and Sam, each of them picking up the small child or animal of their choice.

Rory's family had more or less adopted her shortly after she'd moved to Leadworth, perhaps recognising that Amy's Aunt Sharon wasn't quite the warm and openly affectionate guardian that young Amelia wanted. So she went round to their house a lot after school and at the weekends, and she'd always been a bit in awe of Julia, who was ten years older than her and incredibly cool. Nowadays, she was like a sister even without the wedding to make it official.

The next time Amy was there, after Rory had brought up the whole kids thing, she couldn't help but picture it - her theoretical future offspring running around with Julia's kids, growing up and having that big, loving family that Amy never had. Rory had it right, she thought. It did sound nice.

"So you'd recommend it, then," she asked Julia, helping her peel potatoes in the kitchen while shrieks from elsewhere suggested that somewhere, someone was getting extravagantly murdered. "The kids thing, I mean."

"Ah. Mum's been on at you already?" Julia asked sympathetically.

"Not me, yet, just Rory."

"Oh dear, poor sod. Well, you're hardly in any hurry, are you? I'd say don't rush into something just because you think you're supposed to, but that's never really been your problem."

Amy couldn't argue with that.

Julia shook her head. "I don't know, I swear it was only five minutes ago you and Rory were just kids, what happened?"

"We grew up." If Amy told herself that enough times, maybe it would be true.

---

Beneath all the practical reasons why kids weren't a viable option at the moment, there was the real reason Amy didn't want to think about it. Children meant ties, ones you couldn't shake off or leave behind. If she was a mother and the Doctor ever came back again, it would be too late.

She'd always believed that she'd see that strange blue box and its stranger inhabitant again one day. Then she had, and he had left her all over again. It was hard, after that, hard in ways that only Rory even tried to understand, because maybe it would have been better if he'd never come back at all, if he'd just been a story in her head forever, full of days that never came.

That wasn't true, though. If she ever heard that whirring sound again -- a noise that had embedded itself in her heart by now, the sound of infinite promise being snatched away -- she would still leave in a heartbeat.

If she had a child, she couldn't. She wouldn't. Amy knew what it was to be an abandoned child, and she'd never pass that legacy of loneliness on to someone else.

But then there was Rory. Rory, the only good thing about Leadworth, the gangly and big-hearted boy who turned into a man when she wasn't looking. He loved her more than she thought she deserved, and she didn't know what to do with it. She looked at him sometimes and her heart felt so full and so fragile that it frightened her.

In all likelihood, she would never see the Doctor again, and the choice she'd have to make would never present itself. But that didn't mean she didn't know that in the end, Rory wouldn't be enough to stop her leaving.

The box was a time machine, Amy told herself. Rory might never even know she'd been gone.

Except he already knew. Every time they talked about the Doctor, she could see it in the way he looked at her, like he was terrified of losing her. She wished she could tell him he was wrong.

In her dreams, Amy imagined that the Doctor would return and take her away to see the universe. They'd travel for weeks, months maybe, but she'd always come home in the end. And Rory would forgive her, and somehow everything would be all right.

Of course, things didn't quite work out like that. Amy had never really imagined that the two of them could go together, that there was a whole life out there in the stars just waiting for them. She'd never dreamed that Rory would be willing to give up everything he knew in exchange for a life of uncertainty and danger, just to be with her.

The truth of it was, she'd never had to choose.

---

Looking back, Amy supposed that rebooting the universe was enough to make anyone forgot about little things like contraception. Her wedding day had been quite the event, after all, and what with one thing and another, by the time they were finally alone it never even occurred to her or to Rory.

Hours later, when she was drifting off to sleep and still grinning to herself, it did cross her mind. But the chances were fairly small, and besides, would it really be so bad? She'd already done the impossible today, and proven to herself that she didn't have to choose any more between the two lives that had always called to her: adventure and family.

If she did end up having a kid along the way somewhere, they'd make it work. She knew they would. The thought made her smile, like a hopeful, secret promise.

But that was the trouble with travelling in the TARDIS. It meant that everything was possible, the good and the bad. When Amy found herself on Demon's Run, she couldn't afford to mourn all the damage that had already happened - the violation of her body, the forced ignorance of her pregnancy, the time when Amy should have been most able to keep her daughter safe. She couldn't think about any of that, because the only thing she could do, right now, was protect her daughter. With no resources and no help.

Her captors seemed content to wait - for what, Amy didn't know. She hated the way that everything she did seemed to play right into their hands, as though they wanted her to bond with her daughter, to whisper to her about a father who loved her and a magical box coming to save her. But she could hardly do otherwise.

She named her baby Melody, a name that made her think of hope and stories and art, the things that could save the world if you could only remember them. She thought of Vincent, and the TARDIS's lilting voice, and the song of the universe that she heard out among the stars, and poured all of that wonder into her daughter, in the hope that one day, she'd be safe and could learn to love those things for herself.

Then a good man went to war, and everything was lost. Amy hadn't known anything could hurt so much.

---

"I don't believe you," Amy said, the prayer leaf clutched in her hand. She stared at River, unable to process how anything she said could possibly be true, yet equally unable to provide any other explanation.

She leaned into Rory, her anger rapidly fading to be replaced with desperation. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, not taking his eyes off River.

"How?" he asked, his voice flat.

River smiled. Her eyes were warm and her expression was kind and Amy had always trusted her instinctively. Why would she lie about something like this? But the alternative was too terrible to contemplate, the idea that her daughter's whole life had just vanished before her eyes.

"It's a long story," River said, "and I can't tell you all of it, I'm sorry. But I promise you, it is going to be all right. Amy, I know what you're thinking, and don't worry. You are going to see your little girl again. But you have to rest now, there's a lot still to come. You're going to need all your strength, both of you."

River looked over to Jenny and Vastra, who both nodded and came closer. River started firing up her vortex manipulator.

"Wait, that's it?" Amy asked. "That's seriously all you're going to say?"

River shook her head sadly, and pressed all of their hands onto her wrist. She punched a button, and they were flung into the vortex.

First, Victorian London. The smog and the smell were dizzying, and Amy barely followed as Vastra and Jenny said their goodbyes, Jenny's hand warm on her shoulder. Then they were travelling again, and Amy thought she might be sick, and then they were home. Leadworth, right outside their house.

Amy leaned back heavily against the front door, her whole body aching, and from Rory's groan, he felt much the same way.

"Sorry," River said. "Not much of a way to travel, especially as a group. But you're home now. It's --" she checked the manipulator "-- April eighteenth, just a few days after you left for America." There was a catch in her voice when she next spoke. "I have to go, but I'll be back soon." She didn't take her eyes off Amy as she put new coordinates into her manipulator and vanished away.

"Wait, you can't --" Rory started, but he was too late. River was gone.

They stared at each other, and Amy could see the desolation she felt written right across his face. They stood in silence for a moment, and then Rory's shoulders slumped and he rummaged inside one of the flowerpots to fetch their spare key.

Amy felt numb as she walked back into their house. Everything looked exactly the same -- half-done crossword on the table, US travel guides stacked up by the sofa, two cereal bowls sitting in the sink. She felt sick. Nothing was the same, and it was as though nothing had happened. She felt like their perfectly ordinary house was mocking her.

"Come on," said Rory quietly, squeezing her hand. "Let's get you changed."

That was a good idea, now she thought about it. She'd happily take these scrubs off and burn them. Rory looked small in his Centurion's uniform, too, all the bravado drained from him. He sighed with relief as he unbuckled his armour and slung it onto the bed. Amy smiled faintly as she watched him, remembering the day they'd gone to get it custom-made, a far better version of Rory's old fancy dress outfit.

That was all a long time ago.

She shrugged off the formless white shirt and picked up a t-shirt, the soft cotton a physical comfort. Rory found a clean shirt and started to look more like himself again. He reached out to her, resting a hand on her hip and drawing her close, leading her back to the kitchen, where they made tea that they drank in silence.

"What do we do now?" she asked, when she thought she could speak without shaking.

Rory's answering expression held no solutions.

---

Rory went back to work. Amy didn't. She'd been between jobs in any case, and she couldn't bring herself to go job-hunting just now, given the circumstances. She couldn't begin to imagine how she could explain what had happened to her friends or her family, so she ended up not speaking to them at all - for all they knew, Amy was still away on her extended honeymoon.

Some days, she longed to just drive straight back to her parents' house and cry on her mother's shoulder, but she didn't see how she could without worrying them half to death.

So she spent a lot of time out in their back garden, attacking the weeds with a venom that was disproportionate to their offence. And when Rory came home from his shifts she would cling to him fiercely, curled up beside him during the long and frequently sleepless nights. Sleep was no match for the sharp ache in her heart, a pain she had never felt before, and borne of a love she hadn't known she could feel.

She called the Doctor whenever she couldn't stand it any longer. He never answered. She wondered if he even got the messages she left.

---

Three months passed before a familiar clattering knock rang out from the hallway. Amy raced to answer it, not knowing whether she could dare to hope.

The Doctor stood on the doorstep, an infant gently held in the crook of his arm. He looked wrecked and anxious as he searched Amy's face. Amy struggled to feel anything more complex than shock.

"Is she --?"

"She's fine," the Doctor said. "She's fine, and she's real. She's really, really your daughter. And she isn't going anywhere, I promise."

"How?"

The Doctor smiled. "A long story for another day. There are more important things right now." He looked away.

Breathless and filled with a sudden rush of forgiveness, Amy grabbed his wrist and pulled him close. She picked Melody up and cradled her against her shoulder, and the dark storm of the last few months all faded away to nothing but a wash of relief.

"Amy --" he began.

"It's all right," she said. "You brought her home. It's all right."

She rested one hand on his shoulder and kissed his forehead. She could feel him shaking and hugged him tightly. For a minute, neither of them moved, and Amy could hear nothing but Melody's contented gurgles and the Doctor's ragged breathing.

He broke away and scrubbed at his face, smiling lopsidedly. "Okay. Goodbye, Ponds. I'll be seeing you."

He bent down and gently tapped Melody's nose, a real smile crossing his face. He stared at Amy for a moment, then turned and walked away.

"Wait --" she started, but he didn't look back. She watched him leave, then she shut the door, and yelled for Rory, making Melody stir fractiously in her arms.

When Rory skidded into the hallway, his mouth dropped open, and neither of them had any pretence about wanting to be cool.

---

"Time can be rewritten," Amy would whisper to Melody as she lay in her crib, setting the mobile of stars above her head into gentle rotation. "You will have the most wonderful adventures, sweetheart, but not before you're ready. You will be safe, and so loved, and wherever you go, we will always be able find you."

Melody gurgled, her eyes bright in the dimness of the room, and Amy had never truly planned for this, but now she knew she wouldn't give it up for anything in the cosmos.

---

When Melody was three, they decided it was time to leave Leadworth. Amy couldn't deny that having their families around for babysitting and morale purposes had been invaluable, but motherhood hadn't changed her overall opinion that Leadworth was deadly dull. Rory had found an opening at a hospital over in Brighton, complete with a small pay rise, and they left in two weeks, in time for Melody to start nursery there in September.

Julia threw them a going-away garden party, and pretty much the whole village showed up. It was nice, actually. Amy supposed that even if she wouldn't miss the place, maybe she would miss the people.

"Amy," Jeff said, walking over to her and looking slightly perplexed, "Melody just asked to see my phone and then explained how it worked. How does a three year old know about things like CPUs?"

Amy laughed. "Oh, yeah. She does that."

Jeff snorted. "Should have known your kid would be precocious."

Amy grinned and punched him in the arm. Jeff rolled his eyes and wandered off to look for Rory.

Melody ran up to Amy, hair wild and cake smeared around her beaming face. Amy picked her up and found a napkin to make an attempt at some damage control. She rested Melody on her hip and looked around the crowd. It seemed hard to believe that they were really leaving, and by perfectly ordinary means this time. She'd been counting the years until she could leave Leadworth ever since she got here, but now the time had finally come, it felt a little bittersweet.

Her mum came up to them, and Melody happily clambered over for a hug.

"The village won't be the same without you," Tabetha said.

"Bit quieter for one thing." Amy laughed. "I'll miss you and Dad, you know."

Tabetha smiled. "Only for the free babysitting, I'll bet. Don't you worry about us, we'll find a way to occupy the time. I promise I'll make your father restrain himself from dropping in on you unexpectedly, just so long as you do let us visit sometimes."

"Of course! Melody will want to see her grandma and granddad, won't you, sweetheart?"

Melody nodded and curled a little more into Tabetha's arms.

Amy smiled, and hugged them both. Tabetha kissed her cheek.

"I won't pretend to understand what happened to you back when Melody was born," Tabetha said quietly. "But I'm just glad you're okay now."

Amy swallowed. The enormity of her own loss had drowned out everything else, including her parents, and they'd been blindsided at being presented with an infant granddaughter out of the blue, especially when Amy couldn't bring herself to explain anything about what had happened to them both. But they'd always loved Amy, even when they didn't understand her, and she'd come to realise that would always be enough.

She remembered another life, when her parents were gone. Aunt Sharon had loved her too, but she hadn't known how to show it, and the sense of cool distance stayed with Amy after the timeline disappeared. The love and support she had from her parents now still felt a little overwhelming sometimes, because she knew what it was to grow up without it.

"I'm okay," she told her mum. "I really, really am." She smiled wide, kissing the top of her daughter's curls as the truth of that spread through her, warm and real and good.

---

Rory was strapping Melody into her car seat when Amy spotted movement over on the other side of the road. She stared as she watched River step into view.

"Rory," she whispered. "Stay with Melody. Don't her let see us."

Rory looked up, startled, and his jaw dropped a little. "Okay," he murmured, moving to block Melody's view and pretending to fiddle with the bike rack on top of the car.

Amy darted across the road and grabbed River's wrist, tugging her behind a tree. "What are you doing here?" she hissed.

River smiled. "Hello, Amy. It's good to see you. And I'm sorry, I just wanted to check up on you."

"Well, okay, but what about timelines? You can't see yourself!"

River glanced over Amy's shoulder. "Rory seems to be looking after that nicely. Anyway, what's the point of rules if you can't bend them sometimes?"

Amy looked sceptical. "Why are you really here?"

River's face changed, growing soft. Amy's heart clenched as she suddenly recognised her baby girl in this amazing, impossible woman.

"Something's changing," River said. "I can feel my own timeline shifting. Amy, the thing is, I never knew you as a child. Kovarian raised me to be the perfect weapon, and I don't recall a lot of it. When we were in America, those things we saw - I knew they were to do with me, but I really didn't remember. There's just a lot of blank space when my childhood should be, right up until the Doctor found me. But it's changing, I can feel new memories forming."

"Like when I got my parents back," Amy said, amazed by the implications of what River was telling her. "Like I'd had two childhoods, one on top of the other."

River nodded. "Exactly. I can remember all kinds of things now - trips to the beach, birthday parties, school. You did it. You really did it."

There was a catch in River's voice, and Amy could do nothing but wrap her up in a fierce hug that River returned with equal force.

"Oh, I'm sorry," River said, pulling away again. "This is all back to front, I shouldn't be here. But I thought you should know that everything really is going to be okay. And thank you." She smiled a little. "Mum."

Amy laughed. "We don't exactly have the most traditional mother-daughter relationship, do we?"

"Oh, Amy." River regained her composure, and her eyes were twinkling. "It's so much better than that."

---

They settled into Brighton pretty quickly. Rory started a job at the university hospital while taking a part-time course in neurological patient care. Melody started going to nursery three days a week and promptly became benevolent queen of the playground, alarming all of her teachers in the process with her extensive vocabulary and composed disposition. Amy spent a lot of time feeling like she had to reassure the staff that no, her daughter wasn't a tiny evil overlord and they weren't secretly tutoring the life out of her.

Amy found herself reconsidering what it was she wanted to do now. When they'd finally got Melody back, there hadn't been much of a question that Amy would stay at home with her. Neither of them felt comfortable entrusting her to a childminder or anyone else for an extended period of time, not after everything, and Rory had ended up being the one with the vocation and the steady job and the long-term career prospects. His nursing salary wasn't much, but that combined with Amy's savings were enough for them to get by okay, and neither of them had extravagant tastes.

As far as Amy was concerned, work was something you did so you could have money for everything else. She'd enjoyed bar work back in Leadworth, and the kissogram gig had been a lot of fun, not to mention easy money. Working in the evenings wasn't really going to cut it these days, though, not when Rory kept getting stuck with the worst shifts while he was the new boy at work.

She might not need a job, but she did need something to occupy her time that wasn't simply focused around the wants and needs of a three-year-old. The best three-year-old ever, in Amy's highly subjective opinion, but a three-year-old nonetheless.

The idea first came to her when she was picking Melody's crayons up off the floor one afternoon. The kid was already threatening to understand computers better than either of her parents, but apparently simple instructions like 'tidy up after yourself' were still far beyond her comprehension. Amy deposited the stack of crayons on the table, a sea of bright colours, and then sat down and grabbed a piece of scrap paper.

She hadn't drawn in ages, not properly, and it suddenly occurred to her that she missed it. Crayons hadn't been her preferred medium in a long time, but it was oddly satisfying to start creating broad, bright smears on the paper. She started simply and did a sketch of the three of them that frankly wasn't much more advanced than one of Melody's own drawings. Then she moved onto some of the sights of Brighton - the beach, the pier, a stick of rock. She grabbed the blue and yellow crayons and did a very rough sketch of Vincent's Starry Night, smiling a little sadly to herself.

She returned to the old favourite - the Raggedy Doctor and his magical blue box. She kept the ragged shirt, but gave him a bow tie and a fez. She drew a little girl next to him, but paused before she adorned her with red hair. She picked up the yellow crayon instead and gave the girl a mass of blonde ringlets.

Melody and the Raggedy Doctor, she wrote underneath.

She crossed it out and tried again.

Emily and the Raggedy Doctor.

She grabbed more paper, sketching haphazardly as ideas started to come, images of a little girl and her imaginary friend off to see the universe. By the time Rory got back from work, she had a stack of drawings to show for her afternoon.

"I think I've got a new project," she said happily.

Melody sat on her lap and leafed through the pages, her smile huge.

"This one," she said, pointing to a picture of Emily, the Raggedy Doctor, and a painter with an impressive straw hat.

Amy hugged Melody close, and told her a story about Vincent van Gogh. "I'll take you to see some of his paintings when you're a bit older," she promised.

---

Lila Thompson, Guardian Book Blog

The Last Star Whale is a mesmerising children's fable from new Brighton-based talent Amy Pond. The first in what we can only hope will be a series, The Last Star Whale tells the story of a little girl called Emily whose imaginary friend, a charmingly eccentric character known only as the Raggedy Doctor, comes to life one day and takes her away in a time machine.

Emily's first adventure sees her in a Britain of the far future, a Britain that is travelling through space on a fantastical ship, one with an intriguing mystery at its heart.

The illustrations, also done by Pond, are vibrant and whimsical and sure to appeal to younger readers. As for this older reader, well, I can only hope that another one of Emily's adventures will be appearing in bookshops soon.


---

"You plagiarised me!" the Doctor spluttered, leafing through Emily and the Raggedy Doctor meet Vincent van Gogh as they sat in a café by her house. "That's -- I should get royalties or something!"

"Fat chance," Amy laughed.

He looked affronted, but also maybe a bit pleased. Amy smiled and patted his hand. "It's good to see you," she said.

The Doctor beamed back at her.

---

As it turned out, raising a supergenius child who was a little bit Time Lord was even more challenging at times than Amy would have predicted. Melody ended up several years ahead of herself at school, being both socially and intellectually well advanced of her peers, and Amy and Rory quickly found that the usual rules of parenting didn't always apply.

They couldn't stop her growing up, Amy quickly realised. All they could do was hold her hand for as long as they could.

---

Rory poked his head round the door to Amy's study one evening after dinner.

"Uh, Melody appears to be getting ready to go out," he said.

"What?' Amy looked up, shaking off the drawing-induced haze she'd been in for the last half an hour. "It's a school night!"

"Well that's what I thought."

Amy rolled her eyes. "But you thought you'd leave it to me to actually say anything. Right." She got up, and bumped Rory's shoulder as she went past. "You are such a pushover."

She went up the stairs and walked into Melody's room. The walls were covered with an eclectic array of posters - bands, abstract colours, astronomy charts cut out from science magazines, and more recently a few newspaper clippings about museums and archaeological digs. Amy had been trying very hard not to express undue excitement at this interest of Melody's over and above any others, but Melody seemed to have started to find her calling all on her own.

"Hey, Mum," Melody said distractedly as Amy appeared, leaning in front of her mirror and applying mascara.

Amy folded her arms. "Going somewhere?"

"Yep. Meeting a friend."

Amy said nothing, just raised her eyebrows until Melody turned around, looking a little guilty. "I've finished my homework already," she protested. "And I promise to be back home by ten."

Amy eyed her daughter, taking in the new shirt and artfully-styled hair. "Melody Pond, do you have a date?"

"Um." Melody didn't meet her eye. "Maybe?"

Amy burst out laughing.

"What? It's not funny, Mum."

"Oh, I'm sorry, darling." Amy tried to keep her giggles to a minimum, unaccountably amused by the whole situation. "And who is the lucky person? Do I know them?"

Melody shuffled her feet. "Kinda. Jen, from school."

"Really? Sorry, sorry," Amy said again. "This is not remotely funny. Well, all right, Jen's nice, I won't have to sic your father on her I suppose."

Melody's eyes went huge and horrified. "Don't you dare."

"I'm kidding. Mostly. Though you'd better be home by ten in that case." She beamed, and Melody let herself be hugged, only squirming a little bit. "Have a wonderful time."

Amy left her to it and raced downstairs to find Rory.

"Our daughter," she announced, finding him at the kitchen table, "is going on a date tonight. With a girl from school."

"What? When did she get old enough to do that?"

Amy shook her head in wonder. "I really don't know."

---

The date went well, and led to another, then another, before eight months later it crashed and burned spectacularly, leaving Melody sobbing quietly in Amy's lap. Amy stroked her hair and made soothing noises, empathising with her desperately but also so, so relieved that this was the worst thing her daughter had to endure. Teenage heartbreak was devastating, but also wonderfully ordinary. Amy hadn't ever guessed she would have appreciated normal as much as she did now.

---

They talked about the Doctor in front of Melody from the get go. He was a part of their lives, and it was hard to avoid. Melody was curious about her parents' mysterious friend, but Amy tried not to make him out to be any more or any less than he really was. In any case, she was sure Melody was strong-willed enough already to figure it all out for herself when the time came. She first met the Doctor when he accidentally turned up at their house when she was ten, then again at fourteen. She met him for the third time on her eighteenth birthday.

Melody had finished school at sixteen with six A-Levels in Further Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History and Latin. They'd agreed as a family that it wouldn't do her any harm to wait a couple of years before heading off to university, so she spent her time volunteering at one of the local museums and going to college, studying for NVQs in Electrical Engineering and Mechanics as well as taking courses in Sociology and Art. She had a place to start a degree in Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge in October. Amy was already dreading having to say goodbye.

Then the Doctor showed up.

"We all know Melody's a special girl," he said to Amy and Rory. "Honestly, I'd be amazed if there was a university on the planet that could keep up with her."

"So..." Amy said slowly.

"So maybe she needs to go somewhere a bit further afield."

The Doctor dropped some brochures on the coffee table.

"What, these are intergalactic uni prospectuses?" Amy asked.

"Well, basically, yeah. I thought this one might be the one, actually." He pushed forward one booklet. "This one's at the edge of the Gamma Forest."

"So what," Rory said, "if she went there, she'd be--?"

"They'd translate her name as River Song. I'm just saying."

"No," said Amy, startling the Doctor and Rory. "No, I'm not having my daughter's choices made for her because we think it's pre-destined or some crap like that. And don't give me that look, Doctor, now is not the time to start giving me a lecture about the nature of causality. The point is, it doesn't matter what we think is supposed to happen. She has to choose for herself."

---

Amy and Rory had a chat with Melody when she got back from the museum that evening, explaining that she had a lot of options and it was entirely up to her. Amy struggled to entirely keep the reluctance from her voice, but she'd only been a few years older than Melody was now when she'd left for her own impossible adventure, and so she could hardly deny Melody the same chance.

Melody's eyes were huge and starry as she browsed through the prospectuses the Doctor had brought. He stuck around to answer her many questions about the new things she was reading about, like temporal mechanics and anti-grav sports facilities and the statutes of the Shadow Proclamation.

Her mouth fell open as she picked up the brochure for the University of Gamma Seven, reading about how it had been teaching students for three thousand years, situated in a city at last twice that age.

"There's more history there than you could shake an awful lot of sticks at," the Doctor told her.

Underneath the table, Amy squeezed Rory's hand.

---

They all went out to Gamma Seven together when the time came. Amy wanted to see the place for herself, and besides. It would be Melody's first time inside the TARDIS, and she wouldn't miss it for the world.

"Oh my god," Melody said when she walked into the TARDIS, Amy, Rory and the Doctor all watching her with matching smiles. "I mean, I get how it works, and I've seen Mum's drawings and everything, but it's beautiful."

She walked up to the console, looking around her in wonder, and carefully laid a hand against the time rotor. Amy was pretty sure she heard the TARDIS purr.

"Hello," Melody whispered. "You are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

They all fled the nest sooner or later, Amy supposed. But most parents didn't have to watch their child fly quite so far away.

---

Melody passed all of her admissions exams and interviews with flying colours, much to precisely no one's surprise. Except perhaps Melody herself, who for all of her self-assurance was looking a little overwhelmed by everything. Semester started in a month, but they had a time machine at their disposal, so it was just a case of whenever Melody was ready.

Once they were back home, Amy left Rory and the Doctor talking while she went up to check on Melody.

"Are you all right?" she asked, knocking gently on her open door.

Melody was sitting on her bed, absently hugging a pillow. She started when she saw Amy. "Oh, hey. Yeah, I'm fine, it's just." She paused, frowning. "It's a lot, I guess. I don't know where to start. I mean, what do I tell my friends?"

Amy came and sat beside her on the bed. "Well, you can tell them you'll be in touch. And that you'll come back and see them soon."

Neither of them spoke for a while.

"Melody," Amy began. "You know I've always told you how special you are."

"Yeah," Melody said dubiously.

"It's not just me being a mum. You really are special. Your father and I, we, ah--"

"I was conceived on the TARDIS, wasn't I?" Melody supplied. "I guessed it was something like that. I could hear her, when we were inside. It was like she knew me. And it felt like I just knew what to do, like I could fly her by myself. What does it mean?"

Amy let out a breath. "We don't really know. But it's probably part of why you're so clever and why things come so naturally to you. There are going to be a lot more things you're going to be able to do, I think."

"So, what," Melody said slowly. "You're telling me I'm a secretly a superhero now?"

Amy laughed. "Melody Pond, you have always been my superhero. Oh, and there's one more thing." She picked up a package from behind her back. "Just a little going away present."

Melody grinned and grabbed it, unwrapping it quickly. She pulled out the diary, her hands running over the TARDIS blue cover and tracing out the shape of the spine. "It's gorgeous," she said.

"I just thought it might come in handy," said Amy.

---

River Song hasn't been back to Brighton in a long time. Normally Amy and Rory come out to visit her, wherever she is at the time, not the other way around. But she can't think of anywhere else she'd rather be after Demon's Run, after watching the heartbreak of the people who weren't quite her parents, not yet. So she cheats, because she can, and jumps forward in time once she leaves them.

She arrives in a quiet side street on a sunny Saturday morning in mid-August. Most people are down by the seaside, but there's a stream of traffic in a different direction. Children hang off their parents, chattering in excitement. River smiles, and she's glad she managed to land on the right day. She blends in with the crowd, and keeps her head down in case anyone recognises her, though she doubts that they will, not after so long.

The bookshop is humming with activity when she arrives. The windows are festooned with bright banners proclaiming a very special reading with Brighton's own Amy Pond. A selection of her books have been printed in new editions recently to celebrate forty years since the release of The Last Star Whale. River couldn't be more proud.

"Ticket please, love," says the woman at the door. River flashes her a piece of psychic paper and sneaks in to hover near the back. She could just introduce herself as family, but she wants to be incognito, just for a little while. She spots Rory showing people to their seats near the front. When everyone's inside and sitting down, an expectant hush falls over the crowd.

A hush that's quickly broken as Amy walks out at the front on the room, to be greeted by a burst of clapping and cheering. She waves, her face lit up with a beaming smile. She very visibly rolls her eyes as Rory insists on helping her to her seat, and the whole audience laughs.

"Thanks you all so much for coming! I won't bore you just now, there'll be plenty of time to flog my wares later on. But it's my very great pleasure to read from the first book I ever wrote, over forty years ago, and to know that people are still enjoying stories about Emily today."

She opens the book on her lap, slides on her reading glasses, and begins to read.

"In the middle of the countryside stood a big, old, rickety house. A little girl lived in the rickety house, all by herself. But the little girl was never lonely, because she had the most wonderful imaginary friend. The little girl's name was Emily, and her imaginary friend was called the Raggedy Doctor."

Amy looks up then, and she catches River's eyes. She smoothly carries on reading, but she's smiling.

---

"Oh, it's so good to see you," Amy says afterwards, when River comes to find her.

"You were brilliant today," River tells her as they hug, grinning at Rory over her shoulder.

"I've got to get back to the hospital," Rory says apologetically. "I'm lecturing this afternoon. But you'll stay for dinner, won't you?"

"Of course, Dad."

Rory kisses her cheek. "I'll see you then."

"So," says Amy, reaching inside her handbag and pulling out her diary, "where are we this time?"

"I went to Demon's Run today," River says quietly.

Amy stills. "Oh. Oh no, I'm sorry."

"Sorry? What do you have to be sorry for?"

"At the time, I never thought about the fact that it must have been awful for you too, seeing us like that."

"I knew it was going to be all right, though," River says. "You didn't."

Amy smiles. "My superhero girl. Well, I'm starving, so I suggest getting lunch while you tell me about everything you've been doing."

"That could take a while."

"Well, luckily for you, I have all the time in the world."

River laughs. Though she'd never admit it, she came her today because she needed to see for herself that they all really are okay now. Her mother looks blissfully happily, and that means everything is all right with the world.

She takes Amy's arm in hers and they walk out into the street.