Title: Wandering Back to the Path
Characters: Rory, the Doctor
Summary: A late night walk on the TARDIS leads Rory to an interesting room and a more interesting man.
Rory can close the door, but it likes to reopen itself, now and then, and this is what leads Rory to throw off the sheets and, with a last glance at Amy, leave the bed entirely.He's become good at this. He slips away, and then he wanders the halls of the TARDIS. Doors line each side of him, some of them ordinary, others strange, others made of metal, others that don't even seem to be doors. He wonders sometimes, how far the TARDIS goes on for. Maybe she never ends; it wouldn't surprise him.
All he knows is he needs this time, walking around in short and a t-shirt, getting lost and knowing he won't be found, to wake up from the bad dreams.Rory can close his eyes, and see the image - her hair, almost purple in the dark lighting the TARDIS gives them to sleep by, spread across the pillow, still. Amy sleeps deeply, you know she always has. There have only been two things known to rouse Amy from sleep no matter the volume: one is the sound of the TARDIS engines (or the brakes, so she says), and the other would be her mother's voice in the morning. Which was interesting, because in his other set of memories, in the world where Amy's mother had been sucked into the crack in the wall, well, nothing had worked.
Sometimes Rory wonders why he hasn't gone insane yet, with the number of memories in his head.Sometimes Rory wonders if he hasn't already.He can hide it, and actually, he's fantastic at hiding it, but on nights like these it's hard to function. He wakes up with images of places he's never seen in his head. Rory dreams of faces he's seen, people he'd known and loved and he can't even remember who they are, not as they deserve to be known. There's a handsome Captain who saved his life; a Scottish lad who helped him save Amy's. A young woman in a white dress, and he should know her, and he should remember the way she kept his secret, way back when.
And he doesn't.It's hard not to wonder which is worse: the pain of all the faces, or the pain of the wars and battles he recalls, the blood and the fighting, centuries of it, all around him. Waking him up, and he wants to scream as he sees the javelin pierce a man's throat spot-on, in the middle of the night.
Nothing but the hum of the TARDIS guiding him on.Rory wonders how long he can hide the lasting effects of war.
But - this, it helps. Amy helps. The Doctor helps.Each adventure with them is new; every step on an alien planet is something to know and to keep hold of, because it's important. He probably couldn't handle Leadworth, not anymore, but on this wondrous ship, there are no limits. There is nothing to keep him from doing anything he needs to keep a sense of who Rory is, and was, and will be. And that's good.He reshapes himself around Amy, and the way she looks his way.
That seems to work.As he walks - and he has been walking, all this time - he smiles.
And it's then that the corridor of the TARDIS he has been walking through comes to a sudden stop, right before a bright white door.She hums under his feet. Rory trusts her, by now. They've become friends on his nighttime excursions.
So he opens the door.The room is as blindingly white as the door itself; Rory squints for a moment, adjusting. It's almost empty. The whole room seems, unlike the rest of the ship, slightly muted. There's nothing in there, nothing at all - except a man.The man is lying down in the middle of the room, his hands behind his head, apparently relaxed. Rory knows better - he recognises, a bit of familiarity seeping through that crack of a door left open in his head, the thrum of tension running down the man's body, keeping him tight and focused even when he doesn't want to be. He is a man prepared for war - and needless war, if this is still the TARDIS and this, as Rory suspects, is a safe place. The safest any place can possibly be.Rory sits down, silently, crossing his legs.
"Nice jacket," he remarks.The man sits up instantly, staring at him. "How'd you get in here?" he says, his voice thick with a Northern accent.
"The door," says Rory."Well, how'd you find the door?"
"I walked?""This is the TARDIS. Nobody just walks in."
"I never said I 'just walked' into the TARDIS. Just into this room. Uh - you don't happen to know what this room is, do you?""It's called the Zero Room, that's what it is. And it's supposed to be safe."
"Looks safe to me...""Then how'd you get in?"
"Because I'm a safe person? I'm a nurse, actually. If that... means... anything?"The man shrugs. "Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't. Either way, I don't want you here. Get out."
"I didn't come here on purpose. The TARDIS brought me here, for some reason. So sorry if I don't leave. Besides, I think I can help you.""Help? I don't need any help. I'm fine on my own, good as anything. See?"
The man smiles. Rory sighs."You were trying to relax, but you couldn't let yourself. You're too used to battle and war. Jumping at everything you see. It's a mild version of Post-Traumatic -"
"I know what PTSD is, thanks.""Then do you know you have it?"
The man is quiet for a moment. And then, he tells Rory, slowly, "I know that when I close my eyes, I see it. I see an entire planet burning before my eyes. I see metal monsters converging on me, killing people I've known for years. I see towers falling, crumbling in the wake of their slaughter; I see black holes and paradoxes and all of space-time being warped to violent measures. The greatest war ever. Greater than you can even conceive of in your tiny little head. That's what I see when I just close my eyes. But just because I know I have all that, doesn't mean it can be fixed.""Doesn't mean it can't."
"How?""You have to learn," Rory says. "Like I've been doing."
"You're too young to have gone to war.""I'm two-thousand years old... Sort of. I was a Roman centurion for a very long time. I think I know a bit about war."
The man considers this, and then smiles. "Go on, then. Do your magic. Prove me wrong.""You just need time." The man scoffs, but Rory continues anyway. "You need to find family, or a friend. Somebody who hasn't been through the things you have. You let them show you what it means to live normally again. I was lost - I mean, I hid it, but I was, for a while. But my wife, Amy, she sort of... anchored me. It's because of her - and the Doctor, I guess, that I'm okay now. I still wake up and wonder in the middle of the night, sometimes. The memories sort of... spill in. But it's getting better. Find somebody who can do that for you?"
"What if there's nobody? What if I'm the only one left?""Find somebody," Rory replies.
"You make it sound easy.""And you make it sound like you've already found somebody, haven't you?"
The man looks down. "Almost. I invited her along... She turned me down." He looks back up. "I don't need anybody. All I do is get them killed.""I doubt that."
"Oh? Really, now?""Anybody who travels with the Doctor tends to be a good person. As good as he is," Rory says plainly. "Go back."
"Go back where?""Where she was. Whoever she was. What did you tell her? Did you tell her everything? About what it's like, going on adventures in this blue box, through all of space and time?"
The man slowly starts to relax, understanding. "I might have forgotten to mention the bit about time.""Might want to mention that."
"Might. What's your name?""I'm Rory Pond. Uh, I mean, Williams."
"Rory Pond. I like that, Rory Pond. I'll see you again, I guess." The man stands up, stretching his limbs, and grins. "Get up."Rory obeys.
The man, and Rory thinks he knows who he is, all but bounces forward and lands a short kiss on Rory's lips."Thanks," he says. "I'll go get Rose now."
Rory stares."What? Have we never done that before? I can tell, you know, that we're going to. Don't act so surprised."
"I'm - I'm married! To Amy!""And I'm sure she's lovely too," the man says. "Tell her I said hi. I hope both our nighttime scares get better. It's good to know I'll have others to make sure I do."
"...Right."The man grins again, clearly amused with what Rory assumes must be a very, very confused look on his face. He turns around, hands in his pockets and presses a hand against the wall. "Thanks," he says to the TARDIS. A door Rory hadn't even noticed slides open, and the moment the man has stepped through, it's gone once again.
Rory knows he won't ever understand this mad-brained ship. But he's okay with that.Unaware that he is smiling, Rory leaves the Zero Room. That man, who, just maybe, might have been the Doctor, wasn't the only one who had needed that talk, Rory thinks. Sometimes it takes a reminder. Sometimes he just needs to remember that he doesn't have to be the strong 2000 year old warrior. He just has to be Rory the Nurse, Rory Williams, Rory Pond, the Doctor's companion Rory in the TARDIS. He can do that.
The TARDIS guides him down a few hallways, and then, rounding a corner, he is met by a last door, leading back to his room with Amy. From here, he can see the Console room."Sneaky," he tells her, knowing she'll hear. There's no response, no silly beeps or anything, but there doesn't need to be any.
He turns the knob, and climbs back into the sheets, sparing only a moment to kiss Amy's cheek before falling back asleep.