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As Time Goes By

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Rory raced up the stairs and onto the roof, Amy hard on his heels.  The Doctor and River were still in that sad, dingy room, likely trapped.

The room where he had just watched himself die, an old man.  All of his extended lifespan bled dry by the angels.  The Doctor had been horrified by the power they would have derived from the life force of a being such as Rory.

Rory looked over the side of the building.  No fire escape.  They heard a noise and turned.  Okay, no further need to speculate about the amount of power the angels had derived from Rory.  The bloody Statue of Liberty had been recruited to the ranks of the angels!  It was standing opposite them, snarling like some cheesy horror film monster.

“Right,” Rory said as Amy gaped.  He had an idea.  He hated the idea, but it seemed to be the only avenue of escape left to them.

The day had started so nicely.  The Doctor had taken them a few years into the future, to New York in 2016, to see a band he had been obsessing over.  The band was playing that evening at a popular venue near Times Square.  The three had spent a sunny morning in Central Park, enjoying the autumn colors.  And then Rory had gone for coffee.

Little bastard angel had snuck up on him.  He was still kicking himself for not being more on his guard.  So back to 1938 he had travelled, encountering River as soon as he arrived.  The Doctor and Amy had come looking for him, of course.  And after a long day of nonsense, here they were.  He had just seen himself die of extreme old age, having been a prisoner for who knew how long.  He shuddered at the thought of such a fate, of not being able to escape, of living a long, lonely life without ever seeing his beloveds again.

“Right,” he said again.  Anything to avoid that fate.  And if he caused a little paradox in the process, even better.  He let go of Amy’s hand.  “Amy, you’ll need to keep an eye out,” he said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his knife.  He thought idly that the last time he’d used the knife was on a dead mad dog on Barcelona (the planet, not the city).

“What?” she asked, looking at him and then back at the Statue of Liberty, which was not quite tall enough to reach across the roof for them.

Rory used the knife to rip open his jeans.  By now he had become an expert on his still fairly new physiology.  He knew what he would have to do.  “If I die before they can send me back, and I just died downstairs because they sent me back, that’ll cause a paradox, yeah?”

“What are you doing?” she looked even more frightened.

“I’m ending this fight,” he gritted.  He had considered jumping off of the roof, but the Doctor had recently told them about the time he dove out of a low-flying spaceship and had survived the fall.  Rory couldn’t chance surviving a leap from this roof.

He straightened and kissed Amy.  “You’re going to have to keep them away until this is done,” he said, sitting down on the roof.  He hefted the knife, steeling himself.

“Rory?” Amy sounded desperate.  “What are you doing?”

“It’ll be all right,” Rory said, taking her hand and kissing it.  “If there’s no paradox, then I’m sorry.  But if there is, I’ll see you in a bit.”

Without any further hesitation, he plunged the knife into his Gallifreyan-adjacent version of a femoral artery.  A slight grunt of pain was the only sound he made as a fountain of blood erupted from the wound, jetting out in the rhythm of his double pulse beat. 

The Doctor and River burst onto the roof.  “Rory!” the Doctor called, just as River cried, “Dad!”  They ran to them, each standing over Rory as Amy dropped to her knees, taking him in her arms and holding him up. 

Rory was incredibly light-headed.  This wasn’t taking long, at all.  He felt both hearts slow down.  He looked up at Amy and smiled.  “I love you all,” he said, still smiling at her. 

“Rory, it’s working!” the Doctor exclaimed.  And it was.  The rooftop was fading.  Of course, that could be his eyesight failing.  He felt one of the hearts go.  Rory stared in horror as an angel approached from an odd angle, out of the others’ lines of sight.  He stared at it defiantly as he summoned the strength to raise the knife and plunge it into the remaining heart that was taking too long to fail on its own.

Blackness enveloped him.

***

Rory woke with a loud gasp, the howling still fading from his ears.  He looked around frantically, to see that he and the others, as well as the TARDIS, were in a graveyard.  The sun was shining.  They were back in 2016, he could tell.  His jeans were not ripped, he was uninjured.  Yet he still felt giddy-headed from the blood loss.  He flopped down on his back with a groan. 

“Rory the Roman, you are brilliant!” the Doctor exclaimed, hugging River. 

Amy smacked Rory on the arm.  “Don’t you ever do anything like that, ever again, do you hear me?”  Then she leaned down and kissed him hard before leaping up to hug the Doctor and River. 

Rory drew in a deep, staggered breath before sitting up.  Then he got to his feet, smiling at his family as they reveled.  The hairs on the back of his head stood up, but before he could turn, he felt a cold touch on his shoulder and heard Amy scream his name.

***

Amy’s scream was still echoing in his head as he appeared in a dirty alley.  It was nighttime, a sultry heat making everything dank and close.  Rory turned in a circle, fighting to remain calm.  There was nothing to identify where he was, when he was.

The Doctor had explained that the TARDIS had only landed with great difficulty when they chased after him, the first time.  Likely due to the ripples of the paradox he had been about to cause.  He was fairly certain they would not be able to chase after him, again.

Shallow breaths.

Rory ran a hand through his hair and tried to breathe.  “Please, no,” he whispered to himself.  He continued to turn in a slow circle, trying to comprehend what had happened.

Another angel. 

Perhaps the last.

He spared himself the criticism.  He had been too light-headed to have noticed or done anything to prevent this.  But what was he to do, now?

“Are you Rory Williams?” a soft, poshly accented voice asked from the end of the alleyway. 

Rory turned towards the voice.  Blinked.  Nodded.

“Come with me, then,” she held out a hand.

Rory took a step towards her but then turned to the wall and vomited.  He felt a hand gently stroking his back.  “I won’t tell you it’s all right,” she said, “but you’re safe.  I’ve got you.  I’ll help you figure this out.”

Rory turned his head away from her and spat.  “Quies es?”[1]

“Are,” she hesitated.  “Are you speaking Latin, right now?”

Rory shook his head.  Huffed.  “Sorry, it just sort of happens when…”  He had no way of finishing that sentence without coming completely undone. 

“Well, I understand you’ve had a trying day.  My name is Peggy Carter.  Come on, there’s a safe house not far from here.  We’ll get you sorted.”

“There’s no way back, is there?”

Peggy knew if she answered that question she’d have to find a way to carry this man to the safe house.  He was barely keeping himself together, as it was.  Honestly, she was surprised he was even coherent, in any language.

She managed to get him to the safe house, where she confirmed that the only way for Rory to return to his own time was by way of the slow path.  That was as far as the conversation went, because Rory collapsed. 

He was catatonic for several days.  When he finally returned to a more lucid state, he slept for another day and a half.  Upon waking the morning of the fourth day after his arrival, Rory showered and dressed in the clothes that Peggy had laid out for him.  She was cooking breakfast when he joined her.

“Hello, Miss Carter,” he said, barely recognizing his own voice.  As she turned, he blinked and took a seat to refrain from staring.  She was likely the most classically beautiful women he had ever seen.  Amy was stunningly beautiful, he thought with a pang, but this woman was… timeless.  He found his voice.  “I apologize for taking so long to come around.”

Peggy set a plate of food before him – a hearty English breakfast – and sat down opposite him with another plate.  “Actually, I was thinking you must be quite resilient, to be up and around so quickly.”  She gestured.  “I wasn’t sure if you’d prefer coffee or tea.”

Rory reached for the teapot.  She’d brewed a wickedly strong builder’s tea that would suit him quite well.  He took his time preparing his tea before looking at her.  “How did you know where and when to find me?”

She looked at him a long moment, as though trying to size him up.  At length, she came to her decision.  “I work for MI5,” she said.

Rory looked suitably impressed.

“I am on loan to the Strategic Scientific Reserve.”

“That’s an old American agency, isn’t it?” Rory frowned.

“From your perspective, I imagine so.  A year ago, there was a spot of bother, and I worked jointly with a team from an agency called Torchwood.”

Rory smiled sadly.  “So you know Jack.”

She returned his smile.  “I do.  We were in a rather harrowing circumstance when we worked together, and grew close enough that he confided some things to me.  At the time, I thought he was trying to distract me with entertaining stories.  So I was surprised, and yet really not, when he visited me last Thursday and told me that he was a future version of the person I know.”

Rory nodded.  “It’s a lot to take in, really.”

“Hmm.  He had me call Torchwood and speak to current Jack, so I would know that he was telling the truth.  He told me to ask current Jack about the weeping angels.”

Rory pushed his plate away, angry. 

Peggy pushed his plate back towards him.  “They sound like vile creatures.”

Rory scrubbed a hand over his face.  “I don’t know what else I could have done.”

“Sometimes there’s nothing else to be done,” she shrugged.

“So what else did future Jack tell you?” Rory asked.

“He wouldn’t tell me how far in the future he was from, but he said that he had received instructions, upon my death.”

Rory frowned.  “He should know better than that.”

“Well, he had to tell me, because my future self wrote me a letter, too.”

“Really?”

“It was deliberately vague.  But it was my handwriting, and had a story that only my brother and I knew about, and was sealed with a code that he and I used as children.”

“And that convinced you of its authenticity?”

Peggy nodded.  “Apparently, my future self instructed future Jack to pull together some items for you,” she gave him a sympathetic smile.

“Why could he not wait an extra day and take me with him?” Rory asked, frowning.

“He lost me when he started talking about temporal paradoxes.  But he said that you need to know that he would have risked it, had the Doctor not been so adamant.”

“Right,” Rory muttered.  “So he explained about the Doctor?”

“Yes.  And he told me that you are not to seek out his younger self – the one currently at Torchwood.  He said it would mess up your timelines.  There was a lot of cursing and I think the word paradox was used again.”

“So why you?  How did you get to be so lucky as to be saddled with me?”  He gave her a half-hearted smile.

Peggy chuckled.  “Jack trusts me.  He knows that I will do what I can to protect you.”

“So he told you why I need protection?”

She shook her head.  “He said he would leave that to you.  He only said that you do need protection.”  She looked at him steadily, and he merely stared back.  “I presume that there is something… interesting about you, given the supplies he brought.  And how he brought them.”

Rory raised an eyebrow.  Peggy chuckled and retrieved a messenger bag from beside the door.  Rory recognized it was the Doctor’s messenger bag.  “I found this to be quite extraordinary,” she said, handing it to him.  “I could rather use a handbag like it.”

Rory looked in the bag.  There were about a dozen first aid kits, along with some other items he would peruse more closely, when alone.  He looked at Peggy again.  Based on her hair style and clothing, he assumed he had landed back in the late 1930’s.  He blinked, surprised that he hadn’t asked, yet.  “Where and when am I?”

Peggy laughed.  “I was wondering when you’d ask.  We are in New York City.  It is August sixth, 1940.  You arrived on the second.”

Rory nodded.  “Seventy-six years, two months, nine days, six hours and forty minutes,” he sighed.

Peggy’s eyes widened.  “What?”

“How long I get to wait, this time,” he pushed his plate away and rested his head on his folded arms on the table.  Shallow breaths.  Don’t panic

“That is exceptionally precise.”

“Enhanced time sense,” came a muffled reply.  “Freak of nature, that’s me.  And I’ve landed in a time where that sort of thing is turned into a science experiment and dissected.”

“Which is where I come in, if you will recall.”

“Have a lot of influence at MI5 or the SSR, do you?” he groaned.  “I’m sorry.  This isn’t your fault, and you’re trying to help.”

“Yes, I am.  Can you tell me what exactly I need to be concealing?”

Rory looked up at her.  He stared at her as though reading a book.  She could tell he was trying to decide whether he could trust her.

“Jack instructed me to tell you that he trusts me.  He told me his real name is Javic.”

Rory burst into tears.  Peggy reached out and held his hand, giving him time to express his grief.  When he calmed, he told her that he had been born human, that he and his wife had been travelling with a Time Lord.  He told her in broad brushstrokes about Rome and the Pandorica.  And he told her about the futuristic procedure that had rendered him no longer physiologically human.

Peggy had listened quietly, not interrupting, despite many questions.  When he was done, she stared at him for a moment.  “So are you… immortal, like Jack?”

Rory shook his head.  “I can die.  I just did, the day we met.”  At her startled look, he explained the paradox he had created in order to escape the angels.  “Assuming I don't get myself killed, my natural lifespan is probably a few thousand years, according to the Doctor’s best estimates.”  He scrubbed a hand over his face.  “It will look like I’m not aging.  I’ll look just like this when I get back where this all started.”

“That will make it difficult for you to keep a low profile.  Tell me about your education, your occupation.”

Rory explained that he was a nurse.  Almost immediately, an idea began to form.  When she shared it with him, he stood and paced a moment.

“Can I trust this man?”

“We can hide you away.  Find you a job, a place to live.  We’ll find a safe way to keep in contact, and in a few weeks I’ll approach him with the idea.  See what his reaction is.  If I deem it safe, we move forward.  Otherwise, you will have to remain hidden.”

Rory was surprised by the speed with which Peggy carried out her plan.  Within days she had found him a place to live, and a few days more found him working as an orderly in a hospital nearby.  It would be difficult to find him work as a nurse, but she felt he could pass for a doctor.  He was reluctant to do that, so they had settled for orderly (one who took many liberties in helping the people in his care) until they could figure out their next step.

Rory settled into his latest bout of waiting, going through the normal stages of grief.  By October he was no longer sleeping the entire time he wasn’t working or spending time with Peggy, who checked in on him regularly.  As they got to know one another, and as Rory accepted his situation, they found they enjoyed one another’s company and became great friends. 

It was not lost on him that this was the Peggy Carter, who his wife and daughter used to take turns pretending to be so they could save the world.  But she became more than that legend of make-believe.  She was an intelligent, attractive, funny, brave woman, and he was honored to know her.

***

Peggy left in November.  She had an assignment of some sort, he could tell.  She would never tell him, of course, but he knew from his time guarding the Pandorica, that look Jack would get when he was about to go do something dangerous.  Rory asked permission first, but gave her a hug and wished her luck.

He did not see her again until the spring.  Christmas had been a bleak affair, with him staring at the photos that had been packed into the Doctor’s messenger bag.  Jack and Amy and the Doctor, bless them, had gone to the trouble of printing out black and white pictures from Amy’s phone.  (His own phone had been stowed deep in one of the faraway pockets of the bag.) 

And his beloveds had then made a photo album, using period materials.  There were photos of Amy and the Doctor and Jack and River and Brian, but there were also some of the pictures that Sara Lance had taken in parallel Rome.  Aelia and Claudia and Drusus and Aurelia.  Rory wondered how long it had taken them. 

There were letters, as well.  One each from Amy, the Doctor, Jack, River, and even Brian.  Rory would treasure every word of each of these letters, allowing himself to read one each month.  It was not enough, but it was more than the silent indifference of the Pandorica, so he forced himself to be content with it.

His work was neither challenging nor interesting.  He was repeatedly chastised for overstepping, though only by ignorant doctors.  The nurses rather appreciated his assistance, and the patients were always grateful.  He volunteered for longer shifts, for difficult shifts, for holiday shifts.  What did it matter to him?

Early mornings or late nights found him on the roof of his apartment building, doing the endless forms that kept him strong and calmed his mind and helped him to cope.  When the loneliness became too much, he would go up with his sword (also thoughtfully included in the messenger bag) and choose a form.  There were several that took four hours or more to complete.  He would exhaust himself and then sleep, and then go in to work.

It was well past Easter when Peggy showed up at his door.  He had just come down from the roof and showered and dressed.  It was a dreaded day off, and he had planned to stop by the hospital to see if anyone needed a shift covered.  But he answered the door and there stood Peggy, looking bright as a penny and so lovely it took his breath away.

Without thinking, he swept her up in his arms and swung her around in a playful hug.  She gave a carefree laugh, but then he remembered himself and set her back on her feet, apologizing.  She smacked his arm in a way that was so like Amy it made his chest hurt.

“I spoke with Colonel Phillips,” Peggy said, seeing Rory’s expression change and hoping to steer him away from the sadness that had settled around him.

Rory nodded.  “And?”

“He wanted more details, of course.  I told him you were human, but from somewhere else.  I told him that you are trying to make the best of a difficult situation, and don’t need to be put under a microscope or harassed.  He wants to meet you.”

Rory had a hunted, haunted look.  “If he finds out I’m from the future…  He’ll want to know things, and I…  I can’t.”

“I know, Rory.”

“Horrible things will happen.  Are already happening.  And I can’t…  I can’t jeopardize the timeline.  My future won’t happen if I try to prevent…”  He looked at her.  “You’ll hate me, before this war is over, Meg.”

“We’re not at war, Rory.”

Rory closed his eyes.  “Britain has been at war for a year and a half.  You’re an MI5 agent on loan to the SSR.  Surely, you know that America cannot remain in isolation forever.”

She looked at him for a long moment.  “I see your dilemma.  You can probably tell me the exact moment the United States will join the war, and even what precipitates it.  And it would be something that I would believe I could somehow prevent.  But in preventing it, I would alter your history, irrevocably.”

Rory nodded.  He sat down, rubbing his chest.  “I don’t know how the Doctor bears it.”

“But you’ve told me.  He dives in and saves the day, all the time.  How does he do that?”

“Time is always in flux,” Rory tried to remember how the Doctor had explained it to him.  “But there are certain events – fixed points – that cannot be changed.  They will happen, no matter what you do to try to prevent them.  His people – the Time Lords – they can see timelines and sense what points in a timeline are fixed, and what can be… fiddled with.”

“Fiddled with,” Peggy repeated.  “But you told me that you have enhanced time sense.”

Rory snorted.  “I never need a pocket watch.  That’s not precisely the same thing.”

“But these fixed points…”

“I am not a Time Lord,” Rory said, standing and pacing.  “Yes, I have a Gallifreyan-adjacent physiology, and yes, there have been certain… side effects, but I can’t see timelines.  I can recognize a fixed point, but only once it has passed.  It would be useless if I tried, and it would be far too dangerous to make an attempt.”

Peggy nodded.  “I understand.  Please, Rory.  Sit down.  I won’t tell them.”

“On the plus side, I was a rubbish student, in history.  There’s only so much I remember.”

Peggy laughed.  They spent the rest of the day together, going to the cinema, walking in the park, and having dinner before Rory walked her home.  He noticed as he left her apartment building that he was being followed.  He lost the tail, easily enough.

In the weeks that followed, Rory was particularly vigilant.  He had gotten word to Meg about being followed, knowing that she would want to sort that out for herself with Colonel Phillips.  His rooftop excursions became more frequent as he felt more and more on edge, constantly on the lookout for unwanted observers.

In June, Peggy came to visit, once more.  “The colonel would still like to meet you,” she said, frowning.  “I read him the riot act about having my flat under surveillance, and he had the good grace to look ashamed.”

***

 

[1] Who are you?