The Weight of Us
(Set between "A Good Man Goes To War" and "Let's Kill Hitler")
Let us be brave
Let us be brave
Let us be brave
(Sanders Bohlke, 'The Weight of Us')
It's not like on television or in the films, where they hand you the baby right away. It's a girl and she's crying, big frantic shrieks that hurt.
You scream, Amy thinks (she can't quite remember how talking works; they've given her something. Something for the pain. That's what the eyepatch woman said, from up there). You scream, little girl, you scream hard. Make their ears bleed.
Then they take her away. Out of here. Amy knows because the screaming stops all of a sudden.
What are you lazing around for? Up and at 'em, Pond.
She tries. Her arms and legs won't listen. It's like a cloud, this little white room. When the sun comes out she'll fall right through the sky. But she'll have to make sure to get the baby first. To bring her with. A good mum, she'd make sure to do that. Good mums, they don't just fall through skies or into cracks and leave you to fend for yourself.
She should have told Mum. Mum and Dad, they'd want to have been here. And Rory. Rory.
Once, she and Rory sat on the kitchen floor – she was big as a house, God – and ate cake batter right out of the mixing bowl like kids, and he had that stupid ponytail. To match his stupid face, probably. Rory Rory Rory Rory Rory Rory, please. I know. I know you'll always find me, but hurry it up, won't you, slowpoke, find me here, find me now. I need you to ask them where she went. They won't listen to me.
River gets them home to Leadworth (Doctor's orders), right up to their front door. Rory takes the spare key out from under the moonrock – which is just an ordinary rock, if anybody asks – and unlocks the door. It's dark inside. Amy can barely remember what it looks like, just now. She's been in the habit of calling the TARDIS home in her head. She can't remember if they'd left it a mess. She hopes not. Company, and everything.
"Have you got time for a cup of tea?" Amy asks – to be polite, mostly. Daft question for a Timelady, but she doesn't realize that until it's out of her mouth.
River smiles, a gentle, earnest smile that looks just weird on her face. Up to now, most of River's smiles have been for the Doctor, or about him, and tend to be (what Amy once thought was) an entertaining mix of Anything you can do, I can do better and I've so seen you naked. Now it's a bit like: well, what to do about that? Young lady, you're grounded?
"Tea would be lovely, Amy."
Yes, that's right: Amy, and thank God. She doesn't know what she'll do if River Song calls her 'mum.' And she'd better not call Rory 'Daddy.' There's no way that's not going to come out sounding pervy, Mrs. Robinson.
Amy thinks, suddenly and guiltily, of Melody's tiny, certain, perfect fingers clutching one of hers. Triumphantly – who's more triumphant than newborns, when you think about it? – like she'd found something that belonged to her and wasn't about to let it go.
Amy looks down at one of River's hands. She doesn't really mean to. River notices. Her fingers curl into a loose fist, making Amy think of those wavy sea creatures that shrink in on themselves when you touch them. What are those called again? The Doctor would remember.
But now it's teatime. River, coming in for tea instead of carving her face into Mount Rushmore and adding a dialogue bubble with 'hello sweetie' inside. That would be so much less strange, Amy thinks.
River, with her grownup hands. People keep taking her baby away from her.
Rory puts the kettle on. He touches Amy about five times in the process – sits her down in her chair like she's eighty, touches her on one shoulder, then the other, then both of them, then a kiss on the top of the head. She wants to tease him – I'm not going anywhere, moron, and besides, it's not like either of us knew I was gone for that long, anyway – but even more, she doesn't want to. She wants to do nothing but curl up in his arms for a week. She wants to commandeer the bloody TARDIS and find Melody herself, since the Doctor's had his chance and already blown it, if you ask her. It's been hours. Hours, and zilch. And he really calls himself a time traveler?
"There's tea in that corner cabinet," Rory tells River, who's on her way there already. Amy notices. It makes her heart pound so hard she'd probably fall over if she wasn't already sitting down. (So, all right, fair's fair, thank you for that, Rory.)
River knows her way around. She's been here before. And there's no way Amy and Rory are sticking around this flat for too long – it's great for two people, but for a proper family? No way. Which must mean that they get her back soon, soon enough that she's just a child in this house—
"Orange spice for me, I think," River says, taking the box down. "You as well, Amy? Or—"
"No thanks," Amy says, still a little lightheaded. "Neither of us drink that, actually. We just keep it here for a friend who comes 'round a lot."
As far as godmothers go, Mels might be a bit of an unorthodox selection. The odds of her standing all peaceful and solemn through a whole ceremony, without stealing Rory's Aunt Imelda's hat and dunking it into the baptism basin (Aunt Imelda's got a thing for horrendous hats, and Mels has got a thing about taking a stand against them) – well, they seem pretty low. But she's Mels, she's practically family. So that's settled. Godfather'll be a bit trickier. The Doctor's the obvious option, of course, but there's something a bit off about being godparent to an infant you've snogged and, odds are, sonic'd, oh, God, she can't do this, not any of it.
"Do you?" River says meanwhile, staring at the box of tea like she hasn't got a more pressing concern in the world. "That's sweet of you. I didn't know."
"Didn't know what?" Amy says quickly, and so help her God, if she's answered with 'spoilers!' she will—
"Oh, yeah, we're … considerate like that," Rory interrupts, and sends her a Steady there look that makes his stupid face look stupider than ever. "Good friends. Great with providing tea and … university funds, if the need should ever- How long were you in university, exactly?"
"Seriously?" Amy demands, furious. "That's what you're going to focus on right now?"
"I just want to make sure she's able to follow her dreams, all right?"
"Obviously she is, because she has! Dr. Song, Archaeology." Perhaps that last bit comes out more mocking than she'd meant it to.
"Ooh, look, instant cocoa," River interrupts very deliberately. "How does that sound, Amy?"
Who's whose mother around here, exactly? she ought to ask, maybe, but – "Really good," she admits grudgingly. "Thanks."
"Of course," River says, and goes for the cabinet with the mugs in it. The kettle starts to shriek.
Rory goes to change, once he's realized he's still dressed as a Roman, which might be a bit odd if any of their parents happen to drop by later. (They do that just often enough for it to be a constant danger.) River sits down opposite Amy, pushing the mug of cocoa across the table. It's too hot to drink. They both sit and watch the steam rise from their cups. Amy catches the scent of spice.
"You must be exhausted," River says at last. Amy's just won the world's most understated game of chicken, then. "Maybe we should do this another time—"
"No," Amy says. "No. We do this now."
"Now it is," River agrees after a brief pause, looking a bit – something. Amy doesn't know. Amy doesn't know her well enough to be able to read her face. "I was just worried that you might be—"
"But that's supposed to be me, isn't it? That's supposed to be my line. The part about worrying. And instead, you're making me hot cocoa like I'm eight, and somewhere out there my baby is—"
"Fine," River says gently.
"No, you're fine," Amy says without stopping to think. "I have no idea how she is."
River reaches across the table for her hand. Amy thinks of tiny fingers, and the touch makes her flinch. River loosens her grip at that. But she doesn't pull away.
"There's nothing about you that's mine," Amy says. "You're … yours, and maybe a bit his. But me, and Rory, we don't …" She watches the steam rise up and thinks of clouds. River's hand is warm and certain on top of hers. "Just tell me that she's all right. Tell me that we get her back. If you don't want spoilers, then no spoilers, just tell me. Yes or no."
River squeezes her hand. It reminds Amy so much of her own mum that it makes her want to cry. Or maybe fling obscenities at the stars.
"Yes," she says, and stares right into Amy's eyes. That doesn't mean much, Amy knows. River Song is the Doctor's – wife, girlfriend, great love who's not a spaceship. Whatever she is, she's close enough to him that she must be a very good liar. She would never keep up with him otherwise.
River goes, and it's just the two of them. They sit on the couch, slumped against one another.
"Well, that was awkward," Rory says.
"I'm never getting used to this," Rory says.
"I wish I'd gotten to see her longer," Rory says. "The—Melody, I mean. Our—"
"I know what you mean," says Amy.
"How do you turn a baby into a weapon?" Rory says, like he doesn't want to but the words just fight their way out. (She should have fought harder. She should have—)
Amy doesn't say anything.
Summer carries on. Amy feels disgusting, all the time. She's got all this weight that's not hers, and leaky breasts, and even though she hasn't got a crying baby keeping her up all hours of the night, she might as well, for the amount of sleep she's getting. Sleep means white rooms, flat on her back, and women in eyepatches who make babies into weapons. Sleep means Melody melting away to nothing in her arms, soaking the floor.
She does like going to bed. The bed itself is like a continent, after so many nights of bunking it on the TARDIS.
"It's almost like, what's the point, without the challenge?" Rory jokes; they both bounce and twist around the mattress like kids, really laughing. It's not that funny, but she guesses they both need it. Need something. Lying on her back isn't bad when it's his face over her, looking at her with so much love. He leans in to kiss her, slow and almost timid, like years ago. And wouldn't it be nice to be back there. To give everything up, and let the past swallow them. Rory Williams from Leadworth. My boyfriend.
She slips up, just once, one night after Rory's gone to bed. She sits in the dark kitchen, staring at the empty chair across from her, and she holds her mobile phone in her palm, talking into it like a microphone. She wants the words to be big and unignorable, thrown farther than all the stars. So he'll have no excuse.
"Oh! Blimey, ohhhkay, probably leave a message at the tone or something. Sorry, I wasn't really trying to do this, I was looking for the BRAKES—"
"Doctor? Doctor, can you hear me? Are you ever going to hear this? You don't even know you've got an answerphone. How can you be so clever and so completely stupid at the same time? Well, if you can hear this, please just pick up the phone. Don't get confused – I'm not invisible or trapped in a space bottle or something, I'm just talking on the answerphone. So just pick up the phone."
"You said you'd find my baby. You said you'd find Melody. Have you found her? Because you promised. I know she's gonna be okay, I know she'll grow up to be River, but – that's not the point. I don't wanna miss all those years, you know? I can't stand it. Can't. Please, Doctor, please. Okay? Phone me back when you know something? Please, Doctor, at least do that. As soon as you know, okay? All right. Bye."
She hangs up and lets her mobile fall to the table with a thud. It's worse, having his voice in her head from that stupid message. She thinks of the last thing he said to her. (Rory and Amy, I know where to find your daughter and on my life she will be safe!) She thinks of packing a suitcase and waiting all night, staring up into the sky. So, so sure at first.
"Jesus Christ, Amy, you look knackered," Mels says when she breezes in. "You must have some real good Doctor stories for me this time around, hmm? Except, if you wound up in some big nasty thing's mouth, skip that part this time, will you? I just ate, I don't really fancy hurling it all up. Oh shit – Rory didn't die again, did he? Rory, you around?"
"Maybe it's all for the best," Amy says, her head resting in Rory's lap, his fingers in her hair. "I mean, we're too young to be parents, aren't we? What could we teach a kid?"
He plays along. "Oh, I don't know. How not to grow up to be a Doctor-destroying weapon? And badminton."
"You can't teach a baby badminton," she says.
"Ah, right," Rory says. "They're a bit small for racquets."
"No, I mean you couldn't teach anyone badminton. You're totally crap at it."
"Hey. I've wielded off a fish vampire with a broom since you last saw me play, mind. I think that probably helped to hone my skills."
"I bet you anything River can't play badminton."
"Five quid. You're on."
They sit quiet for a long time, after that. His fingers have gone still in her hair. She waits for it. The whir and the whirlwind. The Doctor, here to save the day.
"Maybe we should get some parenting books," Rory says.
"Like what, exactly? What To Expect When You're Expecting A Fortysomething Femme Fatale Badass Who Clearly Didn't Get her Hair From Either Of Us?"
"Um," Rory says, "yep."
Again, with the quiet.
"You never … checked her out or anything, did you? River?"
"What? No! That's – no. I was a bit too surrounded by mortal peril to pay attention to that kind of thing."
"Right," Amy says, "me too."
"If you're not going to kiss her," Amy said once, traipsing around the TARDIS, having way too much fun making him squirm, "then maybe I will. That thing where she just floated out of the airlock like it was no big deal? That was too cool. Don't tell me you don't fancy her just a little bit, after all that. I fancy her a little bit."
"I don't fancy her. Not a big bit, not a little bit, there are no bits of me that fancy bits of her. There, I've told you, now let's never talk about this again." He was excellent when he was flustered, like this weird combination between someone's doddering granddad and a baby giraffe who's just figuring out how to walk. It just made you want to fluster him more, in Amy's estimation. Fluster him as much as humanly (timelordly?) possible.
"Do you kiss anyone?" she asked, leaning against the bit of console he was heading for; his fingers splayed against her side, briefly and awkwardly, before he jumped back like he'd been electrocuted. "Like, ever?"
"What kind of answer is that?"
"The best one you're going to get. Now, Amy Pond, let's get you home. You've been through a lot, this Weeping Angel business, and you could use a good night's sleep. Maybe a good week's. Best place for that is Planet of the Naps, but – nope, too bad, straight to Leadworth! And besides, didn't you have something to show me?"
"One or two things," Amy decided, smiling. A smile that meant (more or less) In case you hadn't noticed, Doctor, I'm not exactly a child anymore.
Here she is now. All grown up.
Rory still has to go to work at the hospital, now that they're not skipping through time. He's always loved his job. It's always made Amy happy, knowing that. Seeing it. She's never been able to imagine finding anything she loves to do that much. It hadn't exactly broken her heart, leaving the kissogram business behind.
He comes home tired lately though. She tries to have food on the table waiting for him when he gets there; she's never been much for cooking (fish fingers and custard aside), and she always swore she'd rather throw herself off a bridge than do the Stepford Wife routine. But mums, they should be able to do this, they should be able to put a meal on the table. She's got to be ready when it comes.
"This is good," Rory says one night, sounding vaguely awed by the plate of pasta in front of him.
"Wow, thanks," Amy deadpans.
"No, I just mean—"
"I know what you mean," Amy interrupts, merciful, and kisses his cheek before sinking down next to him. She's brought a second fork with her, and twirls some noodles around absently. "Thank you."
"You don't have to do this," he says, like she's made the greatest sacrifice of all time here. He's a little late. She's done that already, and if she'd had the choice, well— "Seriously. I'm fine with takeaway, or – or soup in tins, or if opening those is too much of a bother, I could just live on crisps and, and hospital vending machine stuff—"
"I want to," she interrupts.
"It's nice to have something," she says. "Anything to pass the time." And then, because that sounds a bit too bleak and too true, she tries a bite. "Ooh, that is good."
"Right?" Rory starts to smile.
Amy grins back. "Maybe I'll be a chef."
"Master Chef Amy Pond," Rory invents, and then adds, "Cross her and fry."
God, there is just no hope for him. "Oh, you didn't."
"No, I didn't," he agrees, very straight-faced. "Too stupid to comprehend—Bon Amy-petit."
"Oh my God, no! You're not even trying, are you?"
"Don't have to. It just comes naturally."
"Yeah, naturally horrible."
"You do better, then. Dare you."
"Desserts à la Pond."
Rory stares at her.
"Get it! Like à la mode… - God, you are so slow."
"Weak," Rory declares. "Very weak."
"Kiss the cook."
"Please, that's not even a pun."
"Rory," Amy says, slowly and clearly, "kiss. The cook."
"Ah, right," Rory says, smiling, leaning in to meet her.
One morning, Rory punches the living room wall. Amy hears it from the bedroom, and comes out to find him cradling his fist, blood all over his knuckles.
"Where is she," he says, not quite letting it become a question. "And where is he, with her. He said – he swore he'd get her back to us, and it's been over a month, and— damn it, that really hurts."
Amy drags him into the kitchen and cleans him up.
"You're way too keen on punching things lately, mighty centurion," she informs him.
"There's a hole in our wall," Rory realizes dimly.
"Ehh," Amy says, looping gauze around his knuckles, "we'll hang a picture over it. No one will have a clue."
They put up one from the wedding. The two of them clinging to each other and smiling like idiots.
When she goes to the market she takes a detour into the baby food aisle. The odds of seeing no one she knows are next to none, but it'll just be for a minute. Just a minute.
She's wrinkling her nose at the mashed up peas – no way – when:
"Why, Amy!" Mrs. Angelo trills, delighted, suddenly next to her from out of nowhere. Bloody Leadworth. "Do you and Rory have – some news?"
"No, no," Amy says. "Just – no. Definitely not."
"Ah," Mrs. Angelo says, looking a little frightened. Mad, psychiatrist-biting Amy Pond strikes back. Ordinary people beware. "Maybe sometime soon, though."
"Yeah," Amy says, "yeah, maybe." She turns away, and in the process, she knocks a jar of mashed peas down onto the floor. It shatters. Nasty green muck everywhere. Solid into goo, as quickly and simply as the snap of fingers.
"Oh dear," Mrs. Angelo exclaims. "What a mess you've made!"
Amy stares down at the white floor. It is a mess. It looks awful now. Who'd feed that to a baby. Who'd do that to a baby.
"Well, never mind it," Mrs. Angelo says, patting her on the arm. Backing away slowly. "It's easily fixed."
The employee with the mop and bucket gives her a truly nasty glare. A pox on your whole family, that glare says.
Too late, pal, she thinks.
Her mobile rings in the middle of the night. She snatches it up, her heart pounding. Next to her, Rory sits up.
"Doctor," she says, "Doctor, you've found her—"
"Amy," says not-the-Doctor. "It's me. It's River."
"River?" Rory sinks back down. "Are you with him?"
"Not right now, no."
"Could you be?"
"Not at the moment – you sound out of sorts."
"I was sleeping."
"Were you? Damn. I'm sorry. Space travel's hell when it comes to figuring out timezones. And shoe sizes, funnily enough. But don't get me wrong, it can be worth it; the other day, I happened across the most fantastic pair of this galaxy's answer to Louboutins—"
"River," Amy says, "is there, you know – a point to this?"
Her voice goes soft. "I was just checking up on you. After everything."
"You can't call someone in the middle of the night when you're just checking up on them," Amy snaps. "It's rude."
"Yes, Mum," River drawls. Amy lets out a sharp breath without meaning to. And then she thinks she might actually be able to hear River's apologetic expression. "I'm sorry."
"It's – fine," Amy says. "Whatever. I—just tell me if you find him, all right? You tell him to call me, or – or get here. Right away."
"Amy, you know it's not that simple."
"It's simple enough. From what I can tell, you've spent ages chasing after him, or getting him to chase after you, so just – just give me one tip, will you?"
"He won't ignore you if you refuse to let him."
"What d'you mean?" Amy says, and resists the ridiculous urge to run for the nearest piece of paper to start scribbling down notes.
"I've always found that with the Doctor," River says, "it's best to think big."
Defacing ancient cliff faces or artifacts is a little hard to do from Leadworth. Otherwise, Amy would. But she's got to walk that fine line between thinking big and thinking practical.
"Signal fire?" she muses.
"Blimp?" Rory suggests.
"Flash mob," Amy counters. Kidding, of course. (Although come to think of it, she really doubts the Doctor could resist one.)
"Crop circle," Rory says.
"I knew I married you for a reason." Amy kisses him.
"Thanks for that astounding vote of confidence," Rory says.
"Oh, shut up," she says, and swats him on the head. Then kisses him again, to even things out.
"Can't tomorrow, Mels," Amy says over the phone. "The hubby and I have already got plans."
"You two are so weird. Don't you know that people are supposed to get dull once they've gotten married? This has to do with the Doctor, doesn't it? It's totally got to."
Amy stares at her mobile for a good fifteen minutes before she finds the courage to press 'call.' It's so stupid. Come on then, Pond. She presses it. It rings twice, and then:
"We've decided on a crop circle," she says.
"Have you?" River sounds pleased. And – in the middle of some sort of epic, Star Wars-y battle scene. "Ooh, very nice."
"Yeah," Amy says, "and I just wanted to say …- Are you in a gun fight?"
"Calling it a 'fight' seems a tad optimistic for the other side. What do you think of 'gun spat'?"
"Aren't you supposed to be in prison?" The young lady very nearly adds itself.
"I'm on my way right back," River assures her, sounding far too delighted for anyone's good (except maybe her own). "I swear it. Just had to see to a bit of business first."
"Yeah, all right. Well, don't do anything—" Amy's not really sure how to end that sentence. "Um. Stay alive."
"And kicking," River promises merrily.
"Good," Amy says, meaning it. "I – I just wanted to say thank you. For the suggestion. I know it must be … really strange for you to get all tangled up in this."
"Oh, Amy," River says, "don't you worry about that for a second. Believe me, it was my pleasure. And – about Melody. You'll be seeing her soon."
There, just like that. A few sentences spoken on the other end of the telephone. Amy closes her eyes; even the gunfire sounds seem cheerful. Vibrant and bright. She imagines them as fireworks, the light dancing in River's hair. "Thank you."
"I don't just want to be the girl who screams, and needs her boys to come and save her," Amy says that night, lying in bed with Rory beside her. They're words for the Doctor, more than for him, but she needs them said even if the right man's not listening. "I don't want to be the girl who waited. Like, that's all very nice, waiting, and there are things worth waiting for … but I've had enough of it. I'm done. So we're bringing her back. The next time we're under this roof, she'll be with us."
Rory starts chuckling. She can feel his laughter; it shakes against her where their shoulders meet.
"What?" she demands, turning over and propping up on one elbow to glare at him. "If you're laughing at me, I will eat you alive, Rory Williams, and not in a way you're going to like."
"No, it's just," he says, "well, no wonder she grew up to be such a badass."
"Please," Amy says, making a face; secretly, though, she likes hearing it. "She had to, putting up with the Doctor all the time. That's just pure survival instinct."
"That's not what I meant," Rory says. He takes her hand, kisses her fingers.
She smiles a little. "I know."
"Like mother, like daughter."
"We've already seen," Rory says firmly. "Not really up for debate, that part."
Rory falls asleep before she does. She's all jitters and hope, like mother, like daughter dancing around in her head. She thinks of Melody's tiny triumphant fingers, and of River in a black evening gown falling out of an airlock and into the stars, knowing the sky will catch her, along with a little help from a madman and his blue box. Like mother, like daughter.
"What you are going to be," she murmurs (Rory twitches in bed next to her; above her, the ceiling stays shut), "is very, very brave."