The worst thing about it (not the worst thing about it, not even close to being anything that matters even a little bit, but a thing about it that is bad and unexpected and easily focused upon) is that there is no body. They are far enough in the future that the weapon of choice is a disintegrator gun. They are on the planet Ostaerdon IV and they are running for their lives, no noble cause, just a simple case of mistaken identity that the Doctor couldn't talk their way out of for once, and they dive behind a trash receptacle for cover and Rory jumps and Amy jumps and the Doctor jumps and Rory lands and the Doctor lands and Amy doesn't.
All those years working in the hospital, all those deaths he witnessed, and he never realized how important it was to have a body to grieve over.
Rory gets stuck there. He can't look away from the spot where Amy should have come down, where she should have stumbled and sworn and skinned a knee and gotten up and kept going. He cries. He hasn't ever cried like this before, wild and awful, his whole body shaking and he can't get his legs under him, can't move to try. The Doctor is saying something, quiet, urgent. Rory can't make out the words but he catches a glimpse of the Doctor's face and thinks with surprisingly clarity that right now is the first time he's ever believed the Doctor's claim to nine hundred and eight years of life.
There are footsteps, shouting, gunfire. The Doctor sweeps him up like he weighs nothing at all, arms under neck and legs, a wedding carry. Rory presses his face hard into the roughness of that jacket and closes his eyes against the place where Amy isn't, and the Doctor runs and runs and runs.
By the time they reach the TARDIS Rory isn't crying anymore, just hyperventilating. The Doctor sets him on the floor and he concentrates on breathing through his nose but he can't, it just sets him gasping and panicking. He settles for putting his sleeve over his mouth instead. There's no way to tell how long he sits there, thinking of nothing but suffocation and an empty piece of concrete. When he raises his head, counting one-two-three one-two-three on each shaky breath, they've landed somewhere.
He opens the door. Outside is Leadworth, just before dawn on the day of his wedding. Rory walks out of the TARDIS and never goes back.
(That last part isn't true.)
His house is full of extended family, sleeping the same sleep they were a year ago. The spare key is still under the mat. No one would think it strange, hearing him come in at five a.m. after his bachelor party, but he is quiet anyway, skips the creaky stair and closes his door and just sits, watching his room lighten.
His phone rings an hour later.
"Rory," says Amy's aunt, and starts to cry.
He holds the phone away from his ear and wishes he hadn't answered, doesn't know how to have this conversation.
"I'm sorry," she says after a minute. "I only just heard. How are you doing?"
"Right, of course, that's a terrible question. I'm sorry. I'm sorry you had to go down there, I don't know why they didn't call me sooner, you shouldn't have had to, to identify- oh, god." A pause while she composes herself. "They said there wasn't even really a body, that the car caught fire-"
"I know." He doesn't, really, but he's beginning to understand. He wonders if the Doctor made the call himself or if he actually has that much influence with the police.
"Right, you went- was it so terrible? I mean, could you see-"
"I don't really want to talk about it." (He intends this to cover the lies. It turns out to be true.)
"Right, of course. I'm probably better off not knowing, it's just..." she trails off. Rory thinks about time travel and disintegrator guns, thinks that not knowing is probably easiest, in the end.
"Let me call you back later today," he says. "I have a lot-" and it hits him right then, suddenly, the automatic calm of the morning gone and it's like he's back kneeling on concrete, struggling to breathe, it couldn't have been more than two hours ago.
"...a lot of wedding plans to cancel," he manages, finally.
"Oh, Rory, no, let me do that," says Amy's aunt.
"Okay. Okay, thank you."
"I told her," she says, suddenly, speaking over him. "I told her over and over again, the way she would go out driving when she couldn't sleep, it wasn't safe, not to drive so tired like that-"
"I'm sorry, I have to go," says Rory, and hits end call without even looking.
They rush the funeral because it's more convenient than having all the out-of-town guests go home and come back again, although of course no one actually says that. It's a blisteringly hot day. Rory stands and sweats in his suit, wishing he were anywhere else. There is a long line of people who want to hug him or shake his hand. He finds himself feeling bad for the women who had to scramble to find something black to wear, wondering which of the men went out yesterday to buy a more somber tie.
Another offered hand and he takes it automatically, looks up to see Jeff Angelo. Jeff Angelo, who has clearly been crying, who is back from London where he's spent the last two years working for UNIT. There's a man Rory doesn't recognize standing awkwardly behind him (did he RSVP plus one to the wedding? Rory probably knew once, probably cared, back when he thought the Doctor was out of their lives for good) but he comes away quickly when Rory grips his hand too hard and says,
"I have to talk to you. Please."
Ten minutes later he's pacing around Jeff's old bedroom, telling the whole story. It doesn't even matter that Jeff can't do anything about it but know that it's true. It's a relief just to get the words out there. When he's done Jeff makes all the appropriate noises of sympathy, which are mostly a blur to him by now, and somewhat cautiously offers a hug, which he accepts.
(This is probably the most they've touched in their entire lives. They have an odd relationship, Rory and Jeff. Maybe the would have been friends if not for Amy, if not for that year when she treated Jeff like an equal and Rory like a puppy dog. She'd apologized later, of course, and mostly they just agreed that no one should be held responsible for anything they did at thirteen, but some of the resentment had stuck, had strained things between them in some indefinable way.)
"I feel really awful for saying this, but I should probably go," says Jeff. "I just left my...left Matt alone with no explanation."
Rory thinks that, in another world, he and Amy would have laughed over the equivocation. After a moment he tries to stop thinking it.
"You stay as long as you want, though," Jeff continues. "Actually, feel free to use my room any time, if you need to get away from everything. And call me if there's anything at all I can do, okay?"
Rory doesn't really intend to take him up on the offer, but a few days later Amy's aunt calls him about going through her things. He finds that he doesn't care nearly as much as he once would have, not after a year on the TARDIS with barely five possessions between the two of them. None of it seems important anymore. Still, he goes over, picks out a few things: some CDs, a necklace he'd given her for Valentine's day when they were seventeen, a bunch of photographs off the wall. He hesitates over the arts and crafts and finally takes a crayon drawing of the TARDIS, telling himself that he can always throw it out if he decides he doesn't want it after all.
He endures a horribly awkward cup of tea, goes home, shoves the box into the back of his closet, and climbs in Jeff's window. It makes him feel a little ridiculous, but also like he can breathe again for the first time today. He's just closing the window again when Mrs. Angelo opens the door, nearly giving him a heart attack, but all she says is,
"Oh, hello, Rory. I was worried we had a burglar. Can I get you anything?"
He stammers out a no and she smiles gently at him and goes away again.
He stays in Jeff's room a lot after that. He has two weeks off work for the honeymoon, which was once meant to be in India and then later on some pleasure planet where the Doctor would drop them off on their own for a while, maybe a series of the really spectacular sights of the galaxy if they could figure out how to do it with a minimum of megalomaniacs and natural disasters.
After the first week Rory goes out and buys a box of sleeping pills.
Life goes on.
He thinks about Upper Leadworth a lot. In the dream he and Amy had been married for five years already, had spent their lives together day by day for two thousand days. The details of it have faded, but he still remembers the way it felt, the familiarity, how their relationship grew and changed. It seems cruel to know what it is to be bound to someone for five years of your life and yet to be denied the memories of it, the moments.
November 21st, 2010, is four months and twenty-six days after the date they'd booked for the wedding that never happened, which is not a length of time that humans give any particular significance to. No one will give Rory concerned looks today, or talk about him in low voices, or ask him kindly how he's doing—at least no more than they usually do. There are only two people in the world (in the universe, in all of space and time) who know that November 21st has any connection to the late Amy Pond. It is, in fact, the date on which she will die, one thousand, seven hundred and four years in the future.
Rory fights his way through the fog of the sleeping pills earlier than usual because it's cold. He's spent the night in Jeff's room again where he can't exactly ask Mrs. Angelo for some heavier blankets now that winter's coming on. He knows he should stop doing this, knows that even the well-meaning people of Leadworth will only politely turn their heads for so long, but he couldn't stand to wake up this morning in a bed that Amy had deigned to share with him once upon a time.
He rolls over and looks out the window. It's an awful sort of day, windy and grey and threatening rain, and the TARDIS is parked by the side of the road.
The door is slightly ajar when he gets there. Rory walks straight to the console and spins the date counter, looking at his hand until the first rush of feeling settles and he thinks he can maybe stand the echoes of her everywhere without crying or running back outside. Then he says,
The Doctor comes over from where he's been leaning against the railing.
"That's a terribly boring century," he says, glancing down at the console.
"Yeah, well," says Rory. "It's not like you'll actually land us there, anyway."
Four months and twenty-six days. He doesn't know how long it was for the Doctor between trips to Leadworth. Maybe centuries. Maybe minutes. Rory never asks.
On their second trip out Rory finds himself a futuristic internet terminal and does some research. It turns out that the sleeping pills he's been taking get banned forty years down the road; he reads for a few minutes more and buys himself a new brand with two centuries of testing to prove that it's non-addictive and has no side effects whatsoever.
Keeping track of linear time in the TARDIS has always required conscious effort, so it's easy enough to just stop paying attention to it. He thinks they're probably averaging something like twenty-hour days, sometimes three or four trips until he can barely keep his feet under him, fuzzing out whole paragraphs of the Doctor's monologue, and then he takes a pill and crashes for eight hours and starts again.
Everything feels like hard edges at first. In Leadworth being in his own world had simply felt detached, but here it clashes with the Doctor's, meets wrong and bounces off and doesn't fit. The TARDIS is always tense and uncomfortable. The Doctor talks too much and Rory barely at all but for some reason his hackles are always up. He gets angry a lot, in a cold, snappy way that mixes terribly with the Doctor's tendency toward causal meanness.
It's easier when they're out on an adventure, as the Doctor likes to call them. Common goals and races against time and life threatening situations do wonders for camaraderie, to the point where the more dire the situation the more easily they banter with each other. They do a lot of human wars and natural disasters, places where Rory can use his hands and his knowledge to save lives while the Doctor is off dealing with things on a grander scale. He gets good at organizing medical teams. It surprises him how much he likes the lack of accountability, doing his part and going back to the TARDIS with the knowledge that he has helped people who will never know him, people he will never have to see again.
(He thinks he understands the Doctor better these days, now that he isn't worried about Amy's safety and rarely gives a thought to his own, now that there is nothing waiting for him but interminable years of life.)
So it is a surprise, and not a pleasant one, when Rory walks into the console room one day and instead of asking where he wants to go, the Doctor says,
"I thought we'd stay in today."
"Oh, you know, give the TARDIS a chance to rest. Days off are good for the soul. There's a lot to do around here, too, you know, there's the library, or we could just have a chat if you wanted, or there's that swimming pool I never dug up. Not literally, I mean, the TARDIS made it, but I never did find out where it got to. What do you say?"
It's all in that patented Doctor tone of voice that says I'm trying really hard to be casual and failing, and while I'm at it I'm also missing subtle by about six miles. It makes Rory want to punch him in the face. Unfortunately the Doctor has both control of their location and unceasing faith that he knows what's best for everyone, so Rory takes the only way out that he can see.
"That sounds great," he says, not bothering to hide the acid in his tone. "If we're not going anywhere I think I'll just catch up on my own rest." And he goes back to his room, takes another pill, and goes back to sleep.
He wakes up eight hours later (no clocks in the TARDIS, but futuristic sleeping pills are alarmingly precise). He'd gone to bed with the vague intention of just sleeping until the Doctor gets over himself, but he's absolutely starving, so he puts that plan on hold and heads for the kitchen.
The Doctor is sitting at the table. He appears to be watching the kettle heat.
"Morning," he says, which is what he always says after Rory wakes up even though it doesn't really have any meaning here.
Rory acknowledges him with a wordless noise and starts rifling through cupboards. Eating on the TARDIS is always something of an adventure itself.
"I always forget how much humans like to sleep, given the chance," says the Doctor. "Still. It's good you're rested up now. We've landed on the planet Wzari, lovely place, purple oceans. Fantastic waffles."
Rory looks over his shoulder. The Doctor is turning his empty mug over in his hands, looking down at it intently. He still hasn't mastered the art of casual.
"Why don't we eat here?" Rory says finally. "I've found some of those weird curry dumplings from the thirtieth century. We can always get waffles later."
They don't actually manage a conversation, but they do manage curry dumplings and tea in amicable silence.
It's a start.
They work out a system where Rory names something ridiculous and the Doctor lands them on a planet with the closest alien approximation. Unicorns, he says. Ents. A city made of bubble wrap. Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
He doesn't ask for hallucinogens or telepathy or virtual realities, nothing that could bring her back. Sometimes he wonders, though, if the Doctor would grant that request as well, would take him to a time and place where they could look into your mind and recreate an image of the dead. He wonders what the Doctor would endure there, nine hundred and eight years old.
Sometimes that's the only thing that stops him asking.
Rory stumbles downstairs one morning (one whatever-hour-it-is-when-he-wakes-up) to find the Doctor sitting in the open doorway, dangling his legs out into space. He walks over and takes a look. They're drifting slowly above what appears to be a giant space station, industrial towers with familiar names and a British flag painted on the metal base.
"Didn't expect you to be up yet," says the Doctor. "Sorry. Where do you want to go today?" He's quiet, attention clearly elsewhere, and he doesn't make any move to turn around. After a moment Rory gingerly sits down beside him and wraps his arms around his knees.
"Is it dangerous?" he asks, eyeing the doors.
"Well, it's not exactly recommended, but not dangerous, no. I'm much too busy to realize that I'm here. We'll know when everything is over because the ship will start moving about thirty percent faster, and that gives us ten minutes or so to get out of here before the two of them get back to the TARDIS down there. Shouldn't cause any problems if I'm careful."
"I meant, is it dangerous to put your feet outside like that," says Rory after a minute.
"Oh," says the Doctor, and then somewhat sheepishly, "No, perfectly safe, TARDIS takes care of us and all that."
He remembers now, though. He's heard stories about all their adventures without him, is smart enough to put two and two together. Starship UK.
"Amy's down there, isn't she?"
"Yeah. Stopping me from committing murder, as it happens."
They sit in silence for a while. Rory watches the ship inch by, trying to work out how he feels about the fact that Amy is down there, close and brave and untouchable and not even knowing she loves him yet and only a year left to live.
"She's in her nightie," adds the Doctor eventually. Rory laughs, but it hurts, right between his chest and his throat like that awful feeling when you mess up swallowing a pill. It reminds him of sitting on this same floor gasping for breath, six months ago one thousand seven hundred and four years in the future on Ostaerdon IV.
"Can we go?" he asks, even though the ship hasn't accelerated yet and so whatever Amy's doing down there isn't done.
"Of course," says the Doctor. He pulls himself to his feet and walks back up into the control room, resting a hand on Rory's shoulder for the briefest of moments as he goes by. It makes him realize, suddenly, how selfish a thing that was to ask.
"Sorry," he says. "Wait. No. It's fine, we can stay."
He can hear the TARDIS stirring to life behind him, rapid footsteps around the console. The doors swing shut.
"Where to?" asks the Doctor.
Rory scrubs a hand through his hair. He feels guilty. He feels tired.
"Wherever you want," he says. "You choose."
The question is: how long can they go on being Amy's boys without Amy?
The question is: what then?
It goes like this: they're somewhere in the thirty-second century and the Doctor is pulling apart a gigantic computer console, zapping at things with the sonic screwdriver while Rory mostly just stands around and keeps a superfluous eye on the giant red countdown. Some things really don't change.
"Rory. I need the whatsit," says the Doctor.
"Yes, the whatsit. Yes, that's what it's called. I really don't have time for this. In the second storage room, looks like the bastard offspring of an octopus and a staple gun. Hurry up."
Rory scrambles for the TARDIS key that the Doctor tosses over his shoulder.
"What did your last slave die of?" he grumbles, which completely ceases to be funny the instant it leaves his mouth.
It was amazing how much more smoothly everything goes when the TARDIS isn't incapacitated. Rory finds the whatsit easily enough- the Doctor's description is actually quite accurate- and arrives back at the computer bank panting for breath and holding the whatsit out in one hand and the TARDIS key in the other. The Doctor just grabs the whatsit without a word and goes back to work, so Rory shoves the key in his pocket.
The Doctor, somewhat conspicuously, never asks for it back.
The first time the Doctor kisses him Rory's sure that he's planting some kind of secret weapon or tool or message for use in defeating the alien hordes. There are immense two-headed guards approaching from the other end of the room with the sole intention of taking the Doctor away to be executed and in his very last seconds of freedom the Doctor shoves Rory up against the wall and kisses him, fierce and quick. It's all very dramatic and Rory can probably be forgiven for drawing the wrong conclusion.
He saves the day, in the end. The Doctor loses his bowtie. Nobody mentions the kiss.
The dungeons on Treen are some of the most unpleasant he's ever seen, and by this point Rory is something of a connoisseur. At least he's not actually locked in them this time. He is, in fact, on a rescue mission, creeping down dim underground corridors to release the 200 Treenites who have vanished off the city streets in the last year. He's about three quarters of the way through when someone calls quietly,
"That couldn't be the dulcet buzzing of a sonic screwdriver I hear, could it?"
Rory freezes. This has the potential to be very, very bad. He runs through possibilities: The Doctor's been captured and tortured into giving up his location. This whole situation was a setup. Some other, unrelated enemy of the Doctor is lurking down here, or is following them, waiting to get Rory alone to kill him and take over his body to get into the TARDIS...
Rory puts his head down and keeps sonicking handcuffs. Okay. Logically, it's probably an outsider, because the TARDIS for some reason makes the Treenites sound like they're from Liverpool and that accent was definitely American. Whoever it was hasn't sounded the alarm, either. In fact, he hasn't said anything else at all, almost like he only spoke to alert Rory to his presence. Not really enemy behavior.
Unless it's all a trap, of course.
He sends the last of the Treenites off toward the door he propped open upstairs and suddenly the dungeon feels very big and very dangerous. The voice had come from the next cellblock over, which he'd thought was empty. He edges toward it as carefully as he can. One of the cells is occupied, the being within it unidentifiable in the dark. He creeps closer, closer, thumbs the screwdriver on at the last second.
Its light reveals a prisoner who appears to be humanoid, male, and kind of gorgeous. That's not a word Rory often applies to ridiculously fit men wearing nothing but handcuffs, and, okay, really tight underwear, but in this case it's just empirically true.
"Green," says the man.
This is, in Rory's experience, not a proper way to start a conversation.
"What?" says Rory.
"The sonic, it's green. So are we talking floppy hair and bowtie or blond and sings really badly?"
"Floppy hair and a bowtie, actually."
There is an awkward pause. Rory spends most of it trying to find somewhere he feels comfortable looking.
"So...are you going to free me, then?" Asks the man eventually.
"No? Maybe? Why should I?"
He gets an incredulous look for that.
"Seriously, though," he says, "more than half the people, um, aliens who randomly recognize the Doctor try to kill him. How do I know you won't?"
The man laughs.
"Okay, fair point, there. Free one of my hands and I'll prove it to you, how's that?"
"Oh, come on," says the man. "What am I going to do with one hand?"
"I have no idea," mutters Rory, but he aims the sonic screwdriver through the bars and holds it until one handcuff slides off.
"That is so much better," says the man. He rolls his shoulder a few times, stretches, and then reaches behind himself and- and, okay, Rory is going to delete the next three seconds from his memory through sheer force of will. He really, really, is.
Something flies through the bars and lands with a small clink at Rory's feet. He bends down to examine it—a TARDIS key, the exact replica of the one in his pocket.
"I am not picking that up," he says, and gets another laugh.
"You'll just have to let me go so I can get it myself, then."
He really can't think of any better proof, though, so he opens the other handcuff and the cell door, fighting the urge to avert his eyes. How can a man stretching look so obscene?
"Thank you," says the man. "It occurs to me that we haven't been properly introduced. I'm...well, you'd better call me Jack. It'll save a lot of confusion."
Rory looks at the offered hand, looks at the key on the ground, and very firmly puts his own hands behind his back.
"I'm Rory," he says, and because it never hurts to be polite, "nice to meet you."
The man- Jack- stops dead. "Oh my god," he says. "You're Rory. You're Rory Williams."
"I hate time travelers," says Rory.
At least this time he's getting a blatantly appreciative once-over instead of someone shaking their head and telling him they're sorry.
Jack wants his clothes back (Rory kind of wants them back too) but no one carefully sets aside the personal effects of political prisoners of tyrannical regimes, so they give up on that goal. Jack also wants a gun.
"I'm hard to kill," he says as they start on the final flight of stairs. "If it looks like I'm dead I'm probably not, just get my body somewhere safe and I'll be fine. Don't put yourself in danger, though, okay?"
Rory just nods, too out of breath to say anything. Forget chains and firepower, dungeons with levels are probably enough to stop most escape plans.
"Good man," says Jack. He claps Rory on the shoulder, takes a deep breath, and strides off down the corridor.
Rory's concentrating very hard on not being noticed so it's possible he misses something, but what it really, truly looks like is that Jack walks straight up to the guard at the door wielding a smile and a lot of skin, reaches out, takes his gun, and knocks him over the head with it.
"There," he says. "It's amazing how overconfident people get when they think you're scared of them." He inspects the gun, clicking through several settings, and then tucks it into his waistband. "The Doctor's probably in trouble by now, don't you think? Where is he?"
"If everything's gone to plan, at the court," says Rory. When Jack looks ready to storm straight up there he adds, "...where there's probably a dress code."
Jack visibly deflates. "You're probably right," he says, crouching to peel the unconscious guard out of his uniform. "It would have been a hell of a grand entrance, though."
Unsurprisingly, Jack manages a grand entrance even when fully clothed, throwing open the doors and gunning down the three Treenites who are restraining the Doctor before any of them even get a shot off.
"Jack Harkness," cries the Doctor, "what-"
"Oh, stop, I put it on stun just for you," interrupts Jack, waggling the gun. The Doctor grins and hugs him, hard.
Rory resolutely does not grit his teeth. It's not that he's jealous or anything, just that sometimes he gets the feeling that he's not a very good companion, that the Doctor's just letting him hang around out of pity until someone braver and more dashing comes along.
"All right, Rory?" asks the Doctor.
"Fine, thanks." He sounds normal enough to his own ears, but Jack looks from Rory to the Doctor and back again and bursts out laughing.
Rory is starting to hate that laugh.
"Good," says the Doctor before he can do anything about it, "because this place is going to come down around our ears in, um, about five minutes."
Jack asks for a lift back to his ship and proceeds to coo over the TARDIS, which Rory would have thought he'd be used to by now, given how familiar he seems with the Doctor.
"Haven't you seen her before?" asks the Doctor, not even bothering to conceal his pride. "This can't be your first time meeting this me, you recognized me back there. Or did Rory tip you off?"
"No, we've met, I just haven't made it back to the TARDIS until this time." He runs a hand over the console. "Oh, you gorgeous girl, I'm going to have to learn you all over again."
"Um, Doctor," says Rory uncertainly, "is he-"
"Stop feeling up my ship, Harkness," says the Doctor without even looking. "Although she's even got some buffers specifically for you this time around. I didn't even ask, she just grew them herself, so it won't bother her as much if you come with."
Their eyes meet over the console and okay, Rory can tell that something significant is going on but he doesn't have the first clue what it is. He opens his mouth to ask, but is cut off by the TARDIS shuddering violently as they land and knocking his feet out from under him.
Jack, he notices, stays perfectly steady.
"You could, you know. Come with," says the Doctor over his shoulder as he goes down the stairs.
Jack tips Rory a wink like he knows exactly what he's thinking. Oh, god, please don't let Jack be a mind reader.
"With you and Rory? I don't think so," he says. "Look me up oh, a year or so down your linear timeline, though, and I'd be happy to join in."
Rory pulls himself up and follows the two of them outside, where a blue monstrosity that is apparently Jack's ship is waiting on a scrubby hilltop.
"A pleasure to meet you, Rory," says Jack. Rory just nods, which Jack- of course- finds amusing. "And to see you again, Doctor, as always," he continues. He takes hold of the Doctor's face and leans in like he's about to lay one on him but stops at the very last moment and pats his cheek instead. "You know I love each and every one of you, but I do miss how easy you were in your last body," he says, and then cuts his eyes over to Rory conspiratorially. "He's such a prude this time around, it's terrible."
A step back, a salute, and he's gone.
Rory's too stuck on in your last body to protest that the way the Doctor kissed him wasn't prudish at all.
Amy'd said that the room had just been there on her first night. It might have belonged to someone else before, but everything about it was so perfect that she thought the TARDIS had maybe made it just for her. When Rory came aboard the bed mysteriously got wider and a second dresser appeared, but that was all. It was still Amy's room.
Rory takes his sleeping pill one night, sits down on the bed, and then stops. He scrubs his hands over his knees. He's a little uncomfortable with what he's about to do, but not because he's unsure. It's just that he's used to the TARDIS as a machine and a vehicle and even some kind of home, but still doesn't really think of it- her- as sentient, no matter how many times the Doctor reminds him.
"So," he says to the air. "I was thinking that, um, this room was made for Amy. Not that it isn't lovely or anything, but she isn't...here anymore and since it's just me I was wondering if maybe it could be changed a little, just so it, um, suits me, or something..." he trails off.
Nothing happens. The disappointment kicks in, and a few seconds later so does the sleeping pill.
Eight hours later Rory slits his eyes open and then sits bolt upright. The entire room has changed around him. It's smaller, a little, more rectangular than it used to be. The walls are light green instead of yellow, the rug is gone, there's new furniture made out of light wood to match...his bed, which for some unfathomable reason is an exact replica of the guest bed he slept in at his grandparents house over Christmas when he was young.
It's a single bed.
His breath catches on a wave of grief like he hasn't felt in a long time. It seems simple, obvious, but somehow he's been trying so hard to deal with she's gone that he never quite processed the end of that sentence: she's never coming back. It's too much, he thinks, he's too exhausted. It's like being back in the day after her death and he can't start the progress he thought he'd made, the healing, can't start it over from the beginning, he doesn't have it in him. He can't.
Either something shows on his face or the Doctor really does communicate telepathically with his ship, because when they go out that day the Doctor decides that he's going to take round-up-the-villagers duty for once and sends Rory off to topple the government in his stead.
The righteous yelling actually helps a lot.
It takes a lot of bravado to topple governments. Amy was brilliant at it. Rory's getting better.
(At least his failures tend to get him thrown on the street rather than in prison, the way the Doctor's do.)
The Doctor says that sex pollen happens to everyone, sooner or later. It happens to Rory like this:
They're headed back from an honorary banquet and Rory is concentrating as hard as he can on walking like everything's normal, just a few more minutes until he can escape to his room and take care of things. He isn't actually sure he can make it a few more minutes. Something is clearly going on here, but there's no way he's going to ask the Doctor about it. He shoves his fists into his pockets in an attempt to relieve some pressure and even that feels good enough that he has to choke off a noise, ends up with a weird sort of gasp that the Doctor thankfully ignores.
"Just need to, to do something," he's saying. He's been talking for a while but Rory hasn't exactly been paying attention. "I could just wait out, could go, no, no, I could still get in. Everything will be fine. But if, wait, wait, we could, yes! Yes, I've got it."
He pulls up sharply in front of the TARDIS. Rory stops, too, and stares at him. This is not good. He needs to get inside, now, before he does something he will really, really regret. He curls his fists tighter, digs nails into his palms.
"Rory," says the Doctor. "If you could just...stay here. Just two minutes. I need to...do something. And then everything will be fine. And we'll go."
This might have actually worked, if not for the Doctor's tendency to touch people while he's working out a thought. As it is, he goes for the habitual motion of smoothing down the strings on Rory's hoodie. Rory registers touch and can't stop himself from making a noise this time, from taking half a step forward, and the Doctor freezes but his hands grab tight and that's just it.
They grapple, spin, slam up against the side of the TARDIS so that the Doctor cracks his head even as he's wrapping a leg around Rory's hips. There are way too many buttons. Rory settles for yanking the Doctor's shirt out of his trousers instead, gets a high whining noise and nails down his back when he touches skin. He gasps, grinds down harder. He's maybe half a minute from having his hand down the Doctor's pants, so it's probably for the best that it's all over in twenty seconds.
There is a very significant pause.
The Doctor puts his leg down.
Rory pushes away a little but leaves his hands on the TARDIS, arms bracketing the Doctor, because he's loathe to give up the support. His legs have gone a bit wobbly. He's pretty sure he should be freaking out right now, but his brain is mostly mush, and his body really isn't helping by patting it heartily on the metaphorical back, saying things like good, good, and it's been far too long since we've done that, don't you think?
The Doctor blows out a breath and tips his head back against the TARDIS.
"Note to self," he says. "Cytherean wine is an aphrodisiac. A heck of a strong one, by the looks of it, and works cross-species." He looks completely unperturbed, if a bit disheveled, his expression one of mild scientific inquiry.
"Ngh," says Rory.
(He doesn't discover the enormous hickey the Doctor's left him until the next day. Of course, the only reason he knows it's there at all is that the Doctor convinces an evil alien slavedriver that it's a brand of ownership and therefore no, he really can't cart Rory away to the open market, so it all works out in the end.)
They get a cat.
Rory's father calls about six times to say that he's going to be in the area where Rory supposedly moved and he knows that Rory's busy but can they at least get lunch, it's been months and months. Eventually it becomes impossible to put him off any longer, so Rory digs out a pair of scrubs to make it look like he's on his lunch break and gets the Doctor to drop him back in his own time for an afternoon.
It isn't as bad as he's expecting. His father is obviously worried about him and treading carefully, so it's easy enough to steer conversation away from his own life. He isn't ready to spend Christmas in Leadworth just yet, he has an invitation from one of his new mates here, of course he'll call on the day. He feels a little guilty about it, but not enough to tell the truth: he's only just figuring out who he is without Amy and right now he can't stand the thought of being beholden to anyone, even his own family.
The TARDIS hasn't moved an inch, which is more of a relief than he'll ever admit to. There is something out of the ordinary, though- the door is open. He can't remember the last time that happened. He edges toward it quietly, hoping that there isn't some kind of crazy hostage situation or invasion going on inside.
He certainly doesn't expect to see a bowl of milk sitting benignly on the floor.
Well, maybe it's important alien milk. He stares at it for a minute. It doesn't do anything interesting.
"I'm sure there's an explanation for this," he says eventually. This produces a thump, and then the Doctor crawling out from around the console on all fours.
"There's a cat," he says. He has a bit of red yarn in one hand.
"A cat," repeats Rory.
"Just said that, didn't I? It got into the TARDIS and I can't get it out."
"And you're trying to tempt it with yarn and a bowl of milk? Are you getting all your information from storybooks or something? Adult cats don't even drink milk."
"How should I know? I hated the things last time around. Like them this time, though I didn't know it until today." He looks down at the bowl, brow wrinkling. "Are you sure they don't drink milk?"
Rory's patience lasts about an hour. By that time he's sitting on the steps, biting back passive-aggressive sighs as he watches the Doctor race around. They usually steer clear of the hundred or so linear years surrounding Amy's life and being in his own place and time is making him edgy, claustrophobic even inside the cavernous control room.
"Look, can we just go?" he bursts out. "You keep telling me how safe the TARDIS is, surely it won't let a cat get hurt, right? Maybe dematerialization will scare it out."
The Doctor stops mid-precarious lean and looks back at him steadily for a moment before straightening up and going to the controls. They take off in silence and Rory is beginning to regret his outburst when the Doctor says,
"Him, not it."
"Wait a second. I thought the TARDIS was a girl."
That gets him a full-on grin.
"Not the TARDIS, idiot, the cat. It's a boy."
The cat, somewhat unsurprisingly, doesn't come out. Rory falls face-first into bed about eighteen hours and two life-threatening situations later and when he wakes up there's an unaccustomed weight on his feet.
"Hello there," he croaks. The cat, which turns out to be a mangy little tabby, opens one eye, closes it again, and starts up a rumbling purr.
In the end it never goes back to earth. In fact, it shows no inclination to set foot an any planet at all, preferring to wander the TARDIS like its rightful owner and occasionally getting tangled in Rory's legs when he's trying to make tea. Rory calls it Tiger. The Doctor, who makes an absolute fool of himself fruitlessly crawling around after it and speaking in silly voices, accuses Rory of being unimaginative and insists on calling it Anaxagoras, which Rory thinks is probably one of the reasons why the poor thing likes him better.
One day they get a message from Jack, who apparently woke up in the wreckage of his latest ship and found himself stranded on some tiny planet. Whatever caused the crash does a number on the TARDIS as well, so when they finally land Rory goes out to find Jack himself, leaving the Doctor up to his knees in machinery and mumbling incomprehensibly. It takes about two hours for them to gather everything and hike back to the TARDIS. Nothing much changes in that time; they walk in to see the cat curled happily on the jumpseat and the Doctor bent over with his head under a floor panel and his arse in the air.
"Hey, Tiger," Rory says absently, and Jack laughs so hard he chokes.
On the planet Fomalhaut B Rory rescues a toddler from a burning building. It's possibly the most heroic moment of his life and he doesn't think he'll ever tire of bringing it up in arguments with the Doctor. It doesn't even matter that the toddler is bright purple and has more of a tendency toward scales than hair.
She's also telepathic, according to the Doctor, and at a tender formative age where exposure to the TARDIS would surely have an adverse affect on her developing psychic abilities. (Rory isn't sure about this story, but it's getting distressingly harder to tell when the Doctor is lying.)
So Rory stays in a hotel on Formalhaut B with the tiny purple child while the Doctor goes skipping around local timestreams trying to find her parents. He promises to be back in an hour or two. He isn't. Rory waits for a day, two days, three. He discovers that the toddler likes having the scales on the back of her neck stroked, will burble happily along when he sings, loves small spaces and hates heights. She also likes to play a game where she buries her head in his knees and sneaks glances up at him, giggling hysterically every time she gets caught at it. Rory laughs a lot while he's looking after her, but at night he mostly lies awake and works his way from angry to terrified and back again.
On the fourth day the Doctor returns and reports that all three of her parents were killed in the chain of explosions.
"I guess we'll have to take her to an orphanage, then," says Rory, "or find some extended family or something. I don't know how it works here."
"Really?" says the Doctor, and he sounds so surprised, like he was so sure Rory would decide to settle down and raise a purple baby on some distant planet, that Rory doesn't even bother yelling at him about being four days late.
The second time the Doctor kisses him, Rory gets one hand in his ridiculous hair and keeps him there.