All of it only sinks in later.
There is a strange lull in the TARDIS, a feeling of suspension like holding one’s breath. The soft noises and whirrs of the ship appear subdued somehow, and the Doctor is nowhere to be seen. It is as though they were giving them space. After the commotion of the day, the stillness and relative silence seem a bit surreal.
Rory leans against the railing for support and attempts to order his tired thoughts. River. Hitler.
The image of Mels is seared onto his brain, the way he saw her last, glowing, blazing before she erupted into light. His childhood friend—his best friend, he could call her in a way, now that Amy and he are much more than that. It isn’t quite true, though. Mels was always Amy’s best friend and he was… he was there, finding his place between them—between their loud voices and wicked laughter, their conniving glances and the shadows of their frowns. Mels was wonderful and exhausting, occasionally intimidating. She always brought out the shy, self-conscious boy in him.
He is thinking of her in past tense and his stomach tightens as he finally absorbs the realization. Mels, Melody regenerated before his very eyes. She was shot to death and recreated herself.
Becoming River Song, or a wilder, even madder version thereof. Becoming his daughter.
He can’t quite register it. He knew Mels, knew her radiant and commanding character, her flaws and some occasional, unexpected vulnerabilities. She was a part of his world, and now she is something different entirely, something foreign… She has become a part of the chaos. Their lives were not supposed to be impacted in such a way. For sure, there was danger—but there were adventures, and then there was home. A childhood and a life, some steady, familiar things to remind himself of when his head was swimming, the barriers too blurry between clumsy nurse and ancient centurion.
But Mels wasn’t something safe, something part of Leadworth. She was out of place, so perhaps he should have known? Amy seemed the same though, and where does that leave him? He just wants things to make sense. She was his friend and can’t be his daughter.
Yet she was, she is—
His childhood friend regenerated before his very eyes, and the Doctor told them about regeneration. He knows.
She is alive, and she is River, and she is the same but she is different. Mels is no more.
He allows the truth to fall into him, then, down to the very depths of his being until the reality of it feels overpowering. It tastes like grief, and it is. His baby, his friend, both are gone and can never be found again. He is shaking inside but he thinks of Amy, and turns, his gaze sweeping over the corridors. He realizes he has no idea where she is.
He finds her in their room, sitting on the bottom bunk bed with her knees drawn up against her chest. That one is his; so is the pillow her left hand is gripping, brightly coloured nails digging in. For a second, he almost expects to see the prayer leaf, but of course it would be tucked out of sight. It would all be so much simpler if everything was that easy to hide—as far as Amy is concerned, at least.
His own voice sounds unsteady and small, and he wishes he were stronger for her. He can stand hard and still and be her rock, but the solidity deserts him whenever he has to make her talk. They have hardly broached the subject at all, or only to go through facts and decide what to do. Amy doesn’t discuss feelings. She never has. He always considered it was probably best for her; if she would rather glare or snort or run away or play Raggedy Doctor, he would go with whatever coping technique she might prefer.
It is different now, though, and watching her quietly feels like losing her. It takes too long before she glances up. Her eyes are dark, her face expressionless.
"Yeah?" Her tone is short, almost defiant. He suppresses a wince.
"Are you okay?" he asks carefully.
"Sure, I am." She pauses. "Are you?"
He shakes his head.
After a moment, he moves closer to the bed and then sits at its foot, back propped up against the side of it, close to Amy yet some distance away and not looking straight at her. Her hands are fidgeting now, and he longs to grasp them. He doesn’t. "I miss her," he says. "I’ve been missing her, really. I just didn’t think about it much. You know, we always were kind of busy."
"We were." Amy’s gaze has moved off into the distance, somewhere out of reach. It may be that, or the tiny, stubborn twist of her lips, that makes him feel so angry at everything.
"This is where you ask me which her I was talking about."
Amy only gives a muffled snort. He pushes, forcing for a reaction. "You know. Mels. Our best friend that was our daughter that was our weird friend from space, the one with the guns that flirted with your imaginary friend. You know what? There are too many friends in the equation. And too many daughters except none of them is ours."
Amy stands up. He does catch her wrist, then. "Hey. Talk to me."
"That’s not true, she was mine. She was my baby and then they took her away, but she belonged to me, to us."
"Yeah, and after that—before that, whatever—she was ours, too. She was always ours. We loved her."
She makes a small, rageful, pained sound like a wounded animal and wrenches her hand away. She stalks off and he rises and follows, yet she whirls back to him as she nears the door.
Amy’s fists beat against his shoulders in a hollow rhythm, like it can change anything—and he grabs her arms and then the back of her neck, drawing her to him, encased into his warmth and embrace. She sobs. He feels too cold to manage even that.
"Shhh," he whispers. "It’s okay, it’s okay, I’m here." She shakes and hits him some more, as best she can.
Mels would hit things when she was anxious, too, he suddenly recalls like a deeper punch. He witnessed it very few times, yet he remembers. Mels had anger issues and panic attacks and for years he didn’t realize. When he did though, everything felt different for a moment. She turned from him in rageful shame and he awkwardly grasped her shoulder, wincing but not letting go when she snarled at him. "It’s okay," he told her like he just told Amy.
That was the day he realized how being a nurse could make him strong. Being a nurse meant leaving his fears at the door. It meant looking past how people made him feel, and right at them. Helping them. When he saw Mels shaking, wild-eyed, he did not feel embarrassed—he only reached out.
In whatever way he could, he took care of his daughter. And she helped him grow as much as he did her.
Perhaps that comes with being a parent. He doesn’t know and his eyes are stinging. He doesn’t know if little Melody was as scared at night. He doesn’t know if River still feels so out of control sometimes. Deep down if he faces the truth, he doesn’t want to know, or is not ready at least.
"I want her," Amy gasps into his skin. "I want my baby, I want—" She doesn’t say if she wants Mels, too. Maybe she doesn’t and can’t, maybe things are too strange, impossible. He couldn’t tell what he wants if he tried, but Mels is the one he knew best.
And he watched her dissolve into golden light, wounded beyond healing. Glorious and unafraid and blazing as she abandoned them.
He cries, too. It burns, but he needs to.