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Summary: Rory starts to understand the Doctor when he finds him looking through an old photo album. Suddenly, he's not so envious of the Doctor anymore.
Author's Note: So, my first Doctor Who fic. I'm pretty happy with it, though I am really nervous about posting it, because I hope that I got everything right. I'm really surprised (and pleased) that my lead in this is Rory. He's one of my favorites. Hopefully I did Rory justice and hopefully my Eleven sounds okay. The title is inspired by a quote by Bernard Meltzer.
Set: After 5.07 – Amy's Choice. Expect spoilers.
A Good Egg, Slightly Cracked
It had been such a long day. Time Lords, Dream Lords, evil space pollen, freezing stars, eldery alien ladies, ponytails, nearly dying... yeah, it had been a long day, he thought.
Rory bid Amy a goodnight and decided to wander around a bit. He wondered where the Doctor had gotten himself off to and didn't fancy his chances of running into him. Sometimes, Rory thought the TARDIS was alive, the way it always seemed to move around. Then he would shake his head, tell himself that he'd been in space too long, and remind himself that ships couldn't do that sort of thing.
He didn't feel like swimming, though he'd found that the pool was wonderful. Rory was too keyed up, a bit too on-edge for his own liking. He was a simple guy, Rory was. He loved his job. He loved his fiancé. He loved living in Leadworth, though yes, Upper Leadworth would be nice, eventually. The dreams had shaken him, shaken his faith in himself, until Amy had told him (without telling him, really) what had happened. Then his heart had broken for Amy, for her pain, for the pain of losing what could have been.
He wondered how the Doctor was holding up. It had to be hard, to face the darkest part of yourself. It had to be hard to have a part of yourself that you hated — that hated you. Truthfully, he worried for the Doctor.
Rory continued to wander around the TARDIS, somehow ending up passing Amy's room a few times (she was still sleeping soundly) before finally finding the Doctor.
He was in the library, sitting in a large, overstuffed reclining chair (that had seen better centuries, knowing the Doctor), perusing some kind of photo album when Rory found him.
He felt like saying something, if only because he had enough awkwardness in his life.
"Amy, uh," Rory began. "She's asleep. I'm guessing she had a doubly hard time of it today, what with your dark side taunting her and all." There, not confrontational at all, he thought.
The Doctor looked up from the photo album and gave him an even look.
"He wasn't wrong," the Doctor said.
"Who wasn't wrong?" Rory asked, sitting down across from the Doctor in the only chair available — it was small, stiff, and decorated with very loud, very obnoxious plaid purple flowers. Manly chair, Rory thought wryly.
"The Dream Lord. He was right. I lied in the dream. I don't come back, not ever. The only times I have, I was dying or it was a mistake. I leave people, or people leave me, or," his voice got very soft and sad. "...or some kind of horrible thing separates us and I never see them again."
Rory snorted and the Doctor looked affronted.
"But you did. You came back for Amy — twice! I can see why, too; she's special, Amy is."
The Doctor smiled sadly and dropped his gaze down to his photo album.
"Yeah, she is."
Rory tried not to fidget and patted his chair with a strained smile.
"Love the furniture," he managed.
The Doctor looked up and studied Rory's chair. With a roll of his eyes he looked up at the ceiling.
"It's okay, Dear, he can have a comfy chair," the Doctor called out. "We agreed that we like him, remember?"
"Who's Dear? Who're you speaking to?" Rory asked as he feel the chair beneath him change into something far more comfortable than what he'd previously been sitting in.
"The TARDIS, of course."
"You mean, the TARDIS, she really is... alive?" Rory asked, awestruck. "I thought I was going crazy seeing hallways change and rooms disappear, hearing chimes in my head, like the sound of laughter. Is it her? Is she speaking to me?"
The Doctor nodded.
"Well, she's emoting at you. If she actually talked to you, you'd die because your brain would explode from the strain. She talks to me and used to talk to other Time Lords, but she's only talked to one human, once."
"Who was that?"
The Doctor didn't answer, but instead flipped a page (backwards, Rory noticed) in the photo album.
"I can't save everyone. I try and on a great day, which is far and few between, everybody lives. But I can't do it all the time. I try so hard, but in the end, I can't save everyone."
"Is this an alien thing, saying things humans don't understand? Or do you just like to be mysterious and all that?"
"A little bit of both, I'm guessing."
They were both quiet as the Doctor just continued to stare at the page in the photo album.
"It's not your job, you know?"
The Doctor looked up, interested.
"It's not your job to save everyone. If you try to save everyone, a lot of the time you end up getting everyone killed. You're a Doctor, you should know that," Rory said quietly. "But, it still hurts, the triage does. You want to save everyone, you want to so bad, and you can't. All you can do is what you can manage and you have to turn the rest over to a higher power, whatever the hell you think it is."
"I am the higher power," the Doctor said softly.
"Are you?" Rory gently challenged.
The Doctor met his eyes briefly and then turned back to the page in his album.
"Sometimes I feel like I should be. I feel as though I could be better, that if I had been better, I could have saved... I could have saved them."
"You're only alien," Rory said, smiling slightly. "You can open up, you know? I don't rightly know if I can really trust you yet, but I'm a nurse, I'm good with people. I can listen."
The Doctor smiled warmly at Rory.
"You're going to make a brilliant Doctor one day, Rory. You'll be one of the best. Amy will be so lucky to have you."
Rory blushed slightly, trying not to look too pleased with himself.
"Why don't you ever go back?"
The Doctor didn't smile but spoke quietly.
"It hurts. I always think I'll make their lives better. "Hey! Come see time and space with me! Help fix some planets, right some wrongs, get hit on by former Time Agents and join in on revolutions!" But it doesn't always turn out like that. Sometimes I ruin them or something terrible happens and they can never find their way back. Then I'm left all alone and I swear that I won't do it again. But I always do. I always find someone else and each time I promise myself that it'll be different, that I'll stop it before it goes too far, but I never do."
"It would be worse if you didn't hurt," Rory said. "At least you feel something for them."
The Doctor quietly considered Rory's words.
"You may be right. Maybe I am all right. Maybe not."
"You didn't ruin her, you know. You didn't ruin Amy. She's been jumpy about the wedding from the start. I think she needs more time, and I'll give it to her. I'll do anything for her." He had the feeling he resembled a pouting puppy right then.
"She's a great girl," the Doctor said enthusiastically. "She's absolutely magnificent. You're a very lucky man, Rory, I mean it."
The Doctor sighed and closed the album, putting it on the table next to his chair.
"I'm going to head to the console, make sure the stabilizers aren't going to go ka-poom. Feel free to help yourself to anything in the library. But uh, mind section 'Nova'."
"Section Nova?" Rory questioned incredulously.
"Yeah, get's inside the brain, scrambles things a bit. Horrible to sort out. I'd have to go inside your head and I really don't think either of us want me to do that."
As much as he was warming up to him, Rory found the Doctor more than slightly mad.
"Okay then, I'll shy away from section Nova."
The Doctor had just reached the door when Rory called out.
"For what it's worth, I'm sorta glad I met you."
The Doctor turned briefly to smile at him and left.
Curious, Rory stood and then sat in the Doctor's chair, taking the album into his hands and studying the embossed symbol on the cover, a sort of elegant figure made up of what looked like figure eights.
He flipped through a few pages, seeing the pictures and the captions. Usually, the pictures had women in them, though there were some men as well. Susan. Ian. Barbara. Polly. Ben. Peri. Ace. Alastair. Sarah Jane. Adric. Vislor. Romana. Another Romana. Grace. Jack. Martha. Donna. He flipped through the pages to the end. He flipped back a page and stared. And flipped back a few more pages.
Taking up several pages all on her own, was a pretty blond girl, not much younger than himself.
Rose Tyler, the elegant script read.
There were pictures of her by herself. She had a beautiful smile and kind, mischievous eyes. Some pictures of her featured an attractive man with dark hair and a dashing demeanor. Rose and Jack. There were a few pictures of Rose and a tall man with large ears, short-cropped hair, intense blue eyes, and a leather jacket. Rose and I. Others still were with Rose and a younger, slim man, in a pin-stripe suit. Rose and I.
Hadn't Amy said something about the Doctor mentioning that he was different? That he'd been someone else?
Rory had figured out after looking through the album several more times that the Doctor was in most of the photographs. Sometimes young, sometimes old, but still the same. The others, the men and women, they were his companions, the people he had shared travels with. The people he had loved and lost.
Yet the Doctor had been studying the same pages over and over, Rory had realized. This Rose, whoever she had been, was someone who had been very dear to the Doctor. Whatever had happened to her, the Doctor felt an enormous amount of guilt over it.
For a moment, Rory was terrified for Amy, for what could happen to her. He calmed himself down, mindful that now Amy had both the Doctor and him if she ever needed help. Or she would, if Rory could manage to not get himself attacked or killed in a dream or some-such. It was his goal for the next time they landed: don't get in trouble.
Then, he felt a great swell of pity for the Doctor, because after flipping through the album, Rory knew that whatever happened, the Doctor was always going to be alone, in the end.
Since he'd first met him back when the world was due to be incinerated, Rory had often thought of the Doctor as a carefree sort of agent, who swept in and out of peoples' lives like a tidal wave, saving the day but leaving regret and false hopes. After all, he'd seen it with Amy. But the more Rory got to know him, the more Rory realized that the Doctor was a man of great feeling. He seemed carefree, acted carefree, because it was easier than showing the pain.
He placed the album back on the table, stood, and stretched before leaving. He ran a hand gently over the hallway wall and smiled up at the ceiling.
"You know, I think I like him."
The TARDIS chimed pleasantly in his mind.
"And I like you too."
The next morning found Rory and the Doctor in the kitchen. Amy was still fast asleep. Rory, at least, was eating breakfast: bacon and toast and eggs with the yolk swimming on the plate. The Doctor was eating fish fingers and custard. Gross, Rory thought.
"Feel any better?" Rory asked.
The Doctor didn't answer, but instead dipped another fish finger in custard and ate it. He took a drink from a glass that was filled with a yellow liquid.
"There's no such thing. Banana's don't make juice," Rory argued.
"Says you," the Doctor retorted. "And yes, I'm feeling somewhat better."
"You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to," Rory said.
"I know that." He got very quiet. "There used to be loads of us, Time Lords. We were old and powerful and then in the blink of an eye, we were gone and I was the only one left."
"What always happens? There was a war. Another race wanting to end the universe and we tried to stop it. Well, most of us did. A few just wanted absolute power. So I made a choice and I ended it. I went on a suicide mission to destroy the Daleks and in doing so, I destroyed the Time Lords and burned my planet to a crisp."
"Suicide mission? But you didn't die."
The Doctor gave Rory a dark look, filled with bitterness and self-recrimination.
"So what happened after that?"
The Doctor shrugged.
"I regenerated, and boy was I a mess! I was lonely. I'd been able to feel my entire race in my head for nine hundred years, and all of the sudden they were gone and everything was so quiet — too quiet. I traveled around a bit, but I was tired and defeated and I wanted to give up."
The Doctor smiled sadly.
"I met a girl. I met the most wonderful girl."
Rory smiled, knowing it had been.
"Her name was Rose and she was fantastic."
"You loved her," Rory said, a statement, not a question.
The Doctor said nothing, but Rory could see the tightness in his mouth as he slowly pushed his plate away from him.
"And you lost her."
The Doctor nodded slowly, sadness heavy in his eyes.
"I lost her."
"And you miss her."
"And I miss her. Right before I changed, into me, I went back and visited my friends. Then I went back, back to before she ever knew I existed and I saw her. I wanted more than anything to run to her, hug her, and drag her away on some fantastic adventure. But I couldn't. So I smiled, acted odd, and I told her she was going to have a great year. Then I left. And then I changed into the man you see before you."
"It must get so lonely," Rory said, his heart hurting a bit.
"It does. Oh, Rory, it does."
"But you have us now," Rory said, with a smile. "You have me and Amy."
The Doctor slowly grinned.
"Yeah. Yeah, I do," he slid his glass over towards Rory. "Banana juice?"
"You're not on, sometimes, you know that?" Rory replied, praying for the best as he took a swig. Hmm, not too bad.
"Yep, I'm a mad man with a box. And I'm really glad of that, too."
"You won't get any arguments from me on that end of things."
They sat and talked for a bit, the atmosphere lightening as the Doctor began to regal Rory with tales of his previous travels.
Rory managed to stop laughing long enough ask.
"And you seriously took the alien out to dinner? In Cardiff? Real romancer, you are!"
"Yes! The Slitheen from Raxacoricofallapatorius. And she thought she was being so clever with everything, trying to poison me and all, and it was just hilarious, now that I look back on it."
"Dinner and bondage! Never a dull night with you, huh?"
"Never," the Doctor agreed heartily, before glancing down at his watch. "Oh, look at that, I need to get back to the console room. The TARDIS was complaining earlier about the vents. I really should get a look at those, she gets tetchy when I don't. You'll be okay?"
Rory waved the Doctor off.
"Yeah, yeah I'll be fine. Think I'll head back to the library. And yes," Rory said, before the Doctor could remind him. "Yes, I'll mind section Nova."
"That's Amy's Rory!"
They parted, the Doctor for the console room, Rory for the library.
The album was still on its stand where Rory had left it.
Rory pulled out his wallet and pulled out a photograph. It was a picture of him and Amy, the one that he had a billion copies of (three in his wallet alone), the one on his stag party shirt. He smiled as he placed the photo on a blank page and closed the album, setting it back on its table.
He looked up at the ceiling.
"I know he's lonely, but he has Amy and me for now. I reckon we can stay a bit. After all, we have ages until tomorrow morning."
Smiling, he went to if Amy was awake.
New adventures to have, and all that.
I hope you enjoy! Questions, comments, and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated!