He fell in love with her the first moment he saw her. His daughter, his baby, his Melody. The first thing he heard was a little cry, a breathy little gurgle, and he knew right away that it was the most beautiful sound in the world. And when he caught sight of her — so small, so fragile, the amazing, innocent little life that he had helped to create - when he first looked into her eyes, and saw her gazing back at him as if he was the most important person in her world...it was a piece of Heaven. Time seemed to stand still, all the pieces in his life suddenly falling into place. Unable to speak for the joy of it, he made promise after promise silently in his head, listing all the things they would do together, all the things he would teach her, all the things he would give her. He could hardly wrap his mind around it — he was a father. He just wanted to stare at her forever, proud and awestruck, unsure whether to laugh or cry. All at once, he had everything he had ever wanted — Amy as his wife, and their beautiful child.
And then, in one cruel moment, it was all ripped away from him.
In a twist of ultimate irony, he was back in Leadworth, where he had always wanted to be. He had never wanted to leave, that had been Amy's dream. His dream had been to stay here and make a stable, comfortable life for the two of them, a place to belong, a home and a family. But because he loved Amy, he had put her dream first and had followed her into the TARDIS. Now, his daughter had been stolen away, to be brought up, not in a loving home in Leadworth, but in a cold, sterile, emotionless environment, brainwashed into becoming a killer. And his wife had turned into a stranger, her pain and loss transforming her from the vibrant, radiant woman she had been, into an empty robot, just going through the day-to-day motions of living.
He felt so helpless. He was Melody's father, he should be doing something to find her. The Doctor was out there, doing his job. But he was just an ordinary human and the sheer enormity of the task was beyond him. His failure, his short-comings, sat heavily on his soul. It wasn't Rory that Amy and Melody needed right now, it wasn't Rory who could make things right, it was the Doctor, only the Doctor.
What use was Rory Williams? What was the point of him?
He hadn't kept Amy safe. All that time, when he had thought she was with him, it hadn't been her at all — just an artificial clone, a mimicked duplicate, a Ganger. He had kissed her, held her, loved her, and yet he had never known, never once suspected. The very thought revolted him, wracked him with desperate regret, knowing he had let Amy down when she needed him most. Even now, he could do nothing for her, nothing to ease her anguish, nothing to comfort her, the distance between them increasing every day.
And he hadn't kept their daughter safe. What sort of a pathetic excuse for a father was he? He had allowed Melody to be stolen away from beneath his nose, unable to stop it happening, just as he was unable to do anything to bring her back. The guilt chafed at him endlessly, leaving him unable to think of anything else.
He had managed to get some casual relief work at the Leadworth Hospital, thinking it would help to ease the festering abscess his mind had become. But in many ways, it had only increased his torment. Working in the Maternity Ward, seeing the proud fathers holding their brand new babies. Or in the Paediatric Ward, watching the anxious families clustering around their sick children, loving them, supporting them, being there for them. He couldn't help staring at every child he saw, gazing into their faces, as if he expected to see Melody looking back at him. Even though he knew she was galaxies away, he couldn't shake the mad notion that she was nearby, just around the next corner, if only he could find her.
He had no-one to talk to, no-one to whom he could release the words burning like acid inside him. Amy had closed him out — perhaps she blamed him too, who knew? The Doctor, who would have understood, was gone, blazing a trail across the stars, looking for Melody to bring her home. And Mels, his old confidante, the best friend who had always listened to his hopes and dreams, seemed strangely reluctant to talk to him, brushing him aside, wanting only to ask questions about the Doctor, over and over again, with a peculiar, obsessive intensity.
He slept very little, these days, only occasionally falling into a restless, unrefreshing doze. Instead, he pretended, lying beside Amy and listening to her shallow breathing, knowing that she too was awake, but not knowing what to say to her. He was too afraid to sleep, too afraid to leave her alone, in case something bad happened — she had begun to sleepwalk, wandering out into the darkness, calling hopelessly for their daughter.
He couldn't help her. All he could do was to follow her and keep her from harm, guiding her gently home and putting her back to bed, as though she was a child herself.
But this night — this tempestuous, rain-filled night — exhaustion finally overcame him and he slept, only to wake and find the bed beside him empty. With a bitter curse, he ran outside in his pyjama bottoms, his chest bare to the icy torrents of rain, fear filling his heart as he searched the storm-swept landscape frantically for her. At last he saw her, outlined in a blinding flash of lightning, running through the sodden fields. A shiver ran down his spine. She looked like the Ghost of Leadworth, in her long, white nightgown, her red hair falling in a tangle down her back, haunting the night, weeping and wailing for the child she had lost.
Gritting his teeth, he ran after her, catching up with her just as she stumbled and fell to her knees in the driving rain. Leaning down, he seized her by the arms and pulled her to her feet, realising that this time she was not asleep.
"Amy, are you crazy? What are you doing out here?"
"It was Melody! She was here! I saw her, Rory! I saw the cradle!" she responded, her hands grasping at him, her eyes entreating him, as if she needed something from him he didn't understand.
"Melody?" he repeated stupidly. This was the first time Amy had reached out to him since they had returned to Leadworth. Confusion and longing washed over him. He wished he knew what to do, wished he knew what to say.
"Yes! Didn't you hear her crying?" Amy wept. "She was calling for me. She's so scared, Rory, so very scared. She needs her mother."
Her sobs tore a hole right through his soul. "Melody's not here, Amy," he responded, as the thunder boomed overhead. "You were dreaming."
She hit him then, her fists beating at him, as if he was the wall that stood between her and her child. "No, no, no! She was here! She was here, I saw her!"
Tears poured from Rory's eyes, her agony like a living thing within him, eating him from the inside out. "Amy, you can't keep doing this to yourself."
Grasping her wrists tightly, trying to stop her from hurting either of them, he wrapped his arms around her and gave her the only thing he could, the only thing he, and he alone, had always been able to give her, from the very beginning — his total and unconditional love.
For a short while, she fought him like a mad thing, needing the release of violence, the storm inside her matching the one that roiled overhead. But as he held her, pouring his love into her through his embrace, she gradually quietened.
"Someone has our child, Rory. Someone out there has taken our child."
He swallowed hard, somehow shocked at the stark simplicity of her words, so straightforward and yet so loaded with terrible meaning.
But then, with a fierce rush of hope, he kissed her hard on the forehead. They might only be Rory Williams and Amy Pond, insignificant humans from a tiny village named Leadworth. But they were not alone. They had an unstoppable force on their side.
The Oncoming Storm. The Destroyer of Worlds. The Lonely God. The Last of the Time Lords.
They had the Doctor.
"The Doctor will bring her back to us. He will, Amy. You know he will," he said, his voice ringing with certainty through his pain.
Rory Williams was the Last Centurion. He had once waited for two thousand years. He could wait for as long as it took.
All over again.