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Time is Out of Joint

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Rory's life was different now. Most would assume that natural considering he spent it time-traveling with a bow-tie wearing alien in a blue box, but it was even more different than that. He had three lifetime's worth of memories stuffed into his head, vying for his attention. It was a constant battle to remember which life he was in, which Amy he was loving, which Doctor he was following. He had his life traveling with the Doctor and he had his life as a Roman centurion and he had his life when the Doctor had never existed. Sometimes he couldn't even decide which one he wanted to be true.

His habits had changed. He never quite went all the way with a military haircut, but he'd never grow that ponytail now. He was a bit fanatical about keeping his and Amy's room on the Tardis clean. They didn't spend much time in there anyway, always too much to do. There was basically a wardrobe and a bed with various knick knacks and alien souvenirs from trips past and future on Earth and other planets scattered everywhere. After living as a Roman, Rory built a bookshelf for them to keep everything on. Amy, for once, hadn't argued, but simply remarked on his new need to keep everything in order. She didn't know the half of it.

Just because it was her favorite period in history didn't mean she knew what it was like to really live that way. To not be able to do or say any of the things that had come so naturally to him at that time. To be under the fierce rule of a Roman general, to live in the barracks, to travel endless legions marching on his soft feet, to feel the sticky blood of another man on his sword. Life had been incredibly brutal back then and just when he'd thought it was over, he'd been turned into a robot (living plastic, whatever that really meant) and forced to kill the woman he loved.

Just when it seemed like that would finally end, he'd stayed. He didn't regret staying for one minute, he'd definitely owed that to her, but it had been lonely and maddening and exhausting. So many centuries of waiting, so many threats averted, so many times when he'd wanted to bash his plastic head in on the side of that horrible box. He'd stayed a Roman for that whole time. It wasn't until World War II that he'd finally shed his centurion garb, exchanging it for something more modern because, at that point, it had been a lot easier for him to keep watch on the box by more conventional means.

He'd done other things with his time, too. He'd finished med school and gotten his medical license, he'd traveled the world with the box, and he'd met more famous people in history than he could have imagined, and that was after traveling with the Doctor.

Now he was here, back in his original time, well, still time-traveling, and married to the love of his life. He had everything back that he wanted, including his original skin. He wouldn't be living another two thousand years. Yet, he was still stuck with the memory of them all, with the feel of the heat on his ever-so-capable-of-melting-away face, with the knowledge that Amy had left him for the Doctor and then chosen him and then forgotten him and then there was no Doctor at all. It was so confusing, so frustrating and it felt like the other two hadn't experienced it at all. Like it didn't matter to them. Amy had slept for those two thousand years and the Doctor had skipped over them. The Doctor hadn't been around for the life that he was never in and Amy seemed to have melded the two lifetimes with apparent ease.

There was a quiet moment once when he and Amy were lying in their bed. The Doctor had actually been confined to bed rest after a nasty scare with some aliens looking for payback and the Tardis had restrained him amid much protesting. It left Rory and Amy to explore the Tardis or make up their own brand of fun, which was quickly the option picked considering how much time they didn't get to just be together.

Amy lay in his arms and he ran his fingers through her hair. It was one of the times when he didn't feel so conflicted, like he was three different people, a time when he felt rested, like he wouldn't mind living this life forever. As long as he had Amy (and the Doctor) he could do anything.

Amy shifted beside him and tugged the covers farther up her bare shoulder.

“Can't this box ever keep warm?” she grumbled.

Instantly a wash of warm air blew over them and Amy smiled happily at the ceiling and kissed his cheek as if he'd had anything to do with it.

“Are you happy?” he asked her.

“Happy and warm,” she said, snuggling into him.

“No, just happy with life?” he asked again.

She looked up at him, a touch of insecurity in her face.

“Aren't you?”

“Right now I'm quite blissful,” he said. “But sometimes...sometimes I remember something else. I remember being someone else.”

“Ah,” she said and was quiet for a moment. “Sometimes it's like that,” she said. “Sometimes I remember life without the Doctor and it's not bearable. And the time when I forgot you.”

It wasn't quite what he meant, but he felt a little bit better anyway.

Sometimes he was a little paranoid about Amy's safety. He'd spent century after century making sure she was safe and sometimes it seemed like she was a little bit too reckless. It was something he'd loved about her in that other life, but now, it just felt like he was failing her. Or he'd get twitchy when she put her arms around him, like somehow he could shoot her again. He was beyond thinking that she'd choose the Doctor over him, in any of his lives; but, maybe, he'd become a little bit too crazy for her to take and one day she'd just not choose him, whatever else she chose otherwise.

Sometimes he woke up at night dreaming about the wars he'd fought in and the people he'd killed, mainly her, and he'd get out of bed and pace the halls of the Tardis. Mostly it was Amy who would wake up and come find him and bring him back to their bed and make him forget for a little while. Make him see only her and the movements of their bodies and the melding of their love. But sometimes it was the Doctor who would see him – the Doctor never really slept – and he'd look a little bit sheepish like he didn't know how to handle basic human comfort; which, to be fair, he probably didn't. But in the end, he'd distract Rory with a brilliant adventure story or he'd show him some marvelous wonder in the Tardis that Rory hadn't seen before. It wasn't much, but it would help a little bit. Then Rory would go back to bed and slip into Amy's waiting arms, and in the morning he'd feel more like a complete person.

But his life and memories were a fracture of time and it didn't matter that the Pandorica had spliced everything together again. It didn't matter that the Doctor had sacrificed everything to save the universe. It didn't matter that Amy had somehow brought the Doctor back. Rory himself was split and divided and he couldn't remember who he really was. He lived three lives simultaneously and which one was really better in the long run? Somehow he knew a life without the Doctor didn't bear thinking about. He already knew that life without Amy was not even an option. He ran around in circles in his head and the charade of funny, bumbling Rory was only sometimes a charade. He was everything and nothing and everything in between. He'd lived, died, been forgotten, come back to life, and been history.

He'd read some of the papers people had written about The Lone Centurion. Sometimes they'd made him laugh and others he'd had to weep over. Most were absolute nonsense and, naturally, none of them mentioned living plastic or Scottish girls from the future or aliens of any kind. His favorite was the drawing of him pulling the box from the London Blitz flames. It had been one of the hardest things he'd ever done and the hardest part had been knowing that the real life Amy should theoretically be somewhere close by, meeting Winston Churchill and saving the world. But the world had been changed at that point and history was all wrong, was all different, was all Doctor-less and Amy-less.

He felt incredibly old and he was. The combined lives he'd had, well, it didn't make up immortality but sometimes it felt like it might as well have. Sometimes he stood in the console room and felt like he was in charge of two squabbling toddlers. Amy was still so very young and while the Doctor may have been old, he deliberately didn't act like it. Sometimes Rory thought that the Doctor wouldn't want him around anymore because he wasn't young now. He got the feeling that the Doctor liked to be around the young, helping him to forget what he'd been through. It was a coping tactic that Rory occasionally tried himself, but it didn't seem to work as well for him.

He got mad often. Mostly he kept it to himself. It wasn't their fault, it wasn't their fault, it wasn't their fault. Or it was their entire fault. Either way, sometimes he felt like sectioning himself. Oh, the papers that doctors could write on him, his neuroses, his so-called delusions, and his stories. Nobody could possibly believe lives such as the ones Rory had to call normal. So he bit his tongue and he let the Doctor ramble and Amy snipe and when they'd finished he stepped in to settle it. Whatever rot it had been. Grown-up, three-lived Rory Williams, the Roman/Auton/Human doctor.

He supposed he was still technically a nurse since this life had never seen him finish his degree, but he had the knowledge and he studied to keep up with it whenever he could. The Doctor sometimes would look askance at him when Rory made a diagnosis, but didn't say anything. Rory had saved both of their lives since they'd started traveling together again. How could someone speak out against that, even if they didn't understand it?

Rory wanted to laugh when the Doctor got all puffed up about how old he was. Most of the time. He was good and kept quiet so much of the time, but one day he couldn't take it anymore.

“Well, as the eldest at nine hundred in this room, I think the question is a bit moot, yes? Yes,” the Doctor said and turned back to the console as if the matter was entirely settled.

“Uh, two thousand over here,” Rory said, raising his hand.

The Doctor spun back around, looking both annoyed and fascinated at the same time.

“Well, if you want to get slightly more technical, I'd say about eighteen hundred and ninety-fou-”

“That's still a thousand years on you,” Rory roared.

Amy and the Doctor looked at him, stunned.

Rory turned away and clenched the console rails so tightly his knuckles went white. He couldn't think straight, he couldn't remember who he was, what life he was living. He couldn't pretend anything.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and he turned, expecting to see Amy either showing a rare moment of compassion or preparing to rake him up and down for being stupid. Either would have been welcome, really. Instead the hand was the Doctor's and when Rory's head faced back their direction the Doctor was only inches away.

The Doctor put his hands on either side of Rory's face and looked him straight in the eyes. Rory wanted to shudder. The Doctor's eyes were so timeless. All nine hundred years of expanding universes were looking at him. It didn't make him feel any better or like the Doctor was worse off than he was. The Doctor was equipped to live that long, Rory was not. But he could understand the Doctor better now and if they ever came across any of those dream crystal things again, Rory would bet that he could give the Doctor a run for his money in the drawing-darkness-out-to-use-against-them contest. The thought terrified him.

“Oh, Rory,” the Doctor said softly. “Good Rory, funny Rory, gorgeous Rory. I can't tell you why that happened. I don't know why the universe chose you or Amy or me. But here we are and we'll never be the same again. I'm so sorry for your lives, for what you've been through. But you made the choice to stay there and you know what that makes you?”

Rory's eyes skittered over to Amy's and she was watching them with an inscrutable look on her face.

“W-what?” he stammered.

He'd never had the Doctor look at him with such focus and intensity before. He'd been brushed by, overlooked, laughed at, and forgotten but never made the single point of the Doctor's existence. He didn't like it. That must be what made the monsters run.

The Doctor's face split into one of his huge grins.

“The very best of humanity. The absolute best specimen and I only carry the best.” He pressed his hand on Rory's heart. “And this is your best, right here. Whatever life you're living, whatever role you're playing, however old you are. You're Rory Williams and you belong here. It's still your choice.” The Doctor stepped back and spread his arms wide. “But I can only offer a life where these things can happen. Is that what you want?”

Rory looked from the Doctor to Amy and felt like he lived all nineteen hundred and forty-four years all over again. (The Doctor had forgotten his other two lives.) They all flashed through his mind and the fractures seemed to fly together and coalesce into something more tangible, more comfortable, more him.

“Yes,” he said softly.

“Okay then,” the Doctor said and clapped his hands together and seemed to move on.

Just moved on while Rory leaned against the railing and felt like he'd just died and come back to life. Again.

“Yeah, sure,” he said.

The Doctor turned back round and Rory felt the intensity of his stare again. The Doctor stepped close and put his hands on Rory's temple and Rory wondered at the Doctor's strange new propensity for putting his hands on people's faces.

“There is...” the Doctor began “...I can take it away. I can make those lives never happen or I can take away the parts that make it hurt the most. You'll still be you, still have Amy and me, but...is that something you feel like you need? Rory Williams, Centurion made of Living Plastic and just as human as the rest of us, well, not me.”

Rory again looked at Amy and he couldn't tell anything from her face. He'd never known her to stay quiet for so long. She just looked at him with her eyes. Rory looked back to the Doctor and sensed that the other man was trying to tell him something.

The pain, the guilt, the shame, the awkwardness, the loneliness, the disorientation, and the multiplicity of his life...it could all go away.

“No,” he said softly, then louder, “no!”

“I can't hear you,” the Doctor cried, whirling away from him.

“No,” Rory shouted, the answer seeming to burst from his throat. “Those memories, those lives are mine and I paid for them. I won't let you take them away.”

“Good boy,” the Doctor said quietly and then did one of his awkward head bobs and winks and all the things he thought were subtle signs towards Amy, and Rory rolled his eyes.

“Are you okay?” she asked him while the Doctor went back to fooling around with the console.

“I'm better,” he told her and it was true.

He couldn't lie and tell her that he was fine, that there wasn't still too much information jockeying for position in his head. But he felt more whole than he had in a long time. Like the different pieces of his lives had finally accepted one another. They would never be all the way closed like the Pandorica had closed the cracks of the universe, but they would slowly heal over. And this time he wouldn't have to wait two thousand years.

Amy slapped his shoulder and he flinched.

“Ow!”

“That's for scaring me to death,” she said and then pulled his head down to hers.

She kissed him and with the first touch of their lips, he knew that no matter where he was or who he was or what life he was living, she was his home; she was the constant in the ever conflicting scraps of his existence.

“I might have to more often,” he said, grinning at her when they finally broke apart.

“I wouldn't even think about it, mister,” she warned him. “But I do expect you to come to me first. Don't hold it in like that. I already have one emotionally stunted man to look after; I don't need it in my husband, too.”

“Noted,” he told her, cupping her cheek and seeing with the corner of his eye that the Doctor had disappeared. “I'd love to take you up on that offer, Mrs. Pond. Say, right now, in our room?”

“Absolutely,” she said, and threaded her hand through his. “And, just so you know, it says Pond-Williams on the certificate.” His eyebrow lifted and he opened his mouth but she pointed a finger at him. “Don't say a single word. Now get in there and take your clothes off.”

He simply picked her up and headed for their room.

No matter how different his lives are/were, they never really changed. And, after all, that was for the best.