Tony Pond-Williams looked nothing at all like either of his parents, of course.
“They adopted me when I was six months old,” the older man said, looking over the rims of his glasses at his grandfather. Brian resisted the urge to tell him to shove his glasses back up his nose. That seemed insulting to do to someone nearing 70.
The two of them sat in what Brian had finally begun to think of as home. He’d sold the Leadworth place Rory had grown up in two years after he lost the kids, and had moved to London, into their empty house. He’d refused to answer any of the unasked questions from friends and remaining family — he was probably lucky they hadn’t had him investigated for the kids’ murder, he’d supposed on more than one occasion.
Instead, everyone left him alone. He was grateful; this place was what he needed. If he couldn’t be near them, he could live where they once lived, and keep it up. He pottered in the garden, he made sure the rooms were immaculate, except for their bedroom, which he shut up exactly as it had been.
And now he had a grandson at least 15 years older than himself.
He had learned of Tony, and of the fate of his son and beloved daughter-in-law, when Tony’s first letter arrived five years previously. Its veracity had been bolstered by accompanying photographs. Some were now framed, gracing walls and shelves. Others, of Rory going grey and bald, of Amy’s hair gone white, her eyes cloudy behind progressively thicker glasses, he kept in a drawer.
Other packages came later, with letters from Rory and Amy. Those, full of explanations about decades of radio silence, left his heart in shreds. Still, he reminded himself constantly, at least he knew they weren’t lying in unmarked graves on some planet halfway across the universe. That was something, right?
The Doctor … he refused to think about the Doctor.
He shook his head slightly, to bring himself back to the here and now.
“Brian?” Tony had caught his grandfather’s glazed eyes, and the head shake.
“Nothing, nothing. Sorry, go on,” Brian managed. Foolish old man, he thought at himself; you might look younger than the other person in the room, but you’re as daft as any nonagenarian.
Tony continued with the story, repeating what both of them already knew as he labored to make conversation with Brian. This was a visit years in the making, either five or 55, depending on who was counting; it didn’t make it comfortable.
“Dad told me that they hadn’t planned to adopt, not after losing Melody,” he said, eyes sad as he mentioned the little girl of whom there were no pictures, “but my birth mother apparently died of tuberculosis in the hospital where he was working as a nurse. On his shift, in fact. She was indigent, and had come in to the emergency department with me. He wouldn’t let them take me to the orphanage.”
Brian swallowed. Of course his boy would have done that. He’d wanted children so badly. “Rory loves —” He coughed. “He loved children. He liked working in Leadworth’s children’s ward.”
Tony smiled and nodded, as if hearing a well-loved tale. “Mom told me. She said Dad taught her everything about being a good parent.” Then he laughed slightly. “She was always saying things like that about herself. It drove Dad bonkers.”
Brian thought to himself that this man would have been shocked at his mother in her youth, then felt ashamed. From what Tony said, Amy had been a fantastic mum. She’d already had the imagination and the sympathy necessary to become a parent. Living in the past had obviously taught her hard lessons about patience, and patience was the final ingredient in parenthood.
He missed his girl terribly, he thought. He missed Rory, of course, like he missed air in his lungs, but Amy held a special place in his heart. She had brought light back into his life, and not just because he’d been jubilant that she’d finally made up her mind about Rory. She’d stirred up the dangerously placid life of a widower, even before he was kidnapped by the TARDIS, and had made him smile as much as she’d made Rory smile. She was part of him almost as much as Rory was; his almost as much as she’d been Gus and Tabetha’s.
Brian spared a moment to think of Gus, and to wish he’d lived to meet Tony. But Tabetha’s cancer had finished him as surely as it had her.
“Your mum was a good girl,” Brian said, forcing himself away from melancholy. “Lively, too.”
There was a brief silence.
Tony broke it. “Could I see some pictures? If you have them?” He abruptly looked unsure of himself. “If it’s not too much trouble, I mean.”
“Of course, yeah, of course, it’s not a problem in the slightest,” Brian said, then added, curious. “You did get the pictures I sent you last month, right?”
“Oh yes. I’m just …” Tony hesitated. “Seeing them with you, seeing anything from when they were here together with you, would be very special. There’s no one back in New York who understands my parents’ life. How could they? You’re the one person in the world, especially since they —”
He couldn’t finish, and for a split second, Brian saw the little sandy-haired boy he must have once been, tentative and as shy as Rory had been as a lad. He swallowed again, hard, against the lump in his throat that left him paradoxically much more at ease with the man sitting across from him. They’d lost the same people.
“I’d be delighted. I’ll go get the albums now.”
When he came back from the upstairs study nook, and carefully put four photo books down on the coffee table, he sat and patted the sofa beside him.
“Come on, then, lad.”
Tony broke into a broad smile and accepted Brian’s invitation. Together they leafed through pages of photographs, and let images of the ones they loved defeat heartache.