A/N: Okay, guys, come clean time. I'm struggling with Torchwood. I'm on the verge of leaving the fandom. I'm going to continue with this fiction, but my inspiration is at an all time low. It actually physically hurt to get this chapter out - I love writing for this fandom and I love the characters, but the direction Torchwood has taken in real life has broken my heart. I was so upset with Torchwood that I actually had to write this chapter from an entirely Doctor Who POV in order to get it done - I like the final result, and I hope you do to, but I just couldn't bring myself to write this chapter like a Torchwood fiction. It is actually damaging my mental wellbeing being a member of this fandom. I don't want to let it go, but there's nothing else I can do. My relationship with the Torchwood fandom is unhealthy in the extreme at the minute. I can't be part of a fandom that I am getting nothing out of. BUT - fanfiction is a different matter. Writing it was harder since I'd made the decision, but it didn't stop me from doing it. This is my baby, and I'm not just going to abandon it for something else.
I could really use some words of encouragement right now. Encouragement that this is worth continuing with, considering how difficult the last week has been regarding me and Torchwood. I write for you, primarily - I used to write for myself, but as this fiction has progressed I have started writing it for you. And I am so close to pulling away, I need to know whether it's worth it. I love you
Amy led the way, of course. Equals they may be, but equality had always required balance; she went forward and he held back. It was a like a seesaw that they just about managed to balance – sometimes one of them would find their toes brushing against the ground, but most of the time they managed to remain suspended, the both of them, in the air.
Her feet hopped quietly against the Tardis floor as she rather begrudgingly allowed Rory to stand firmly, protectively, at her back. Aside from the tap of her feet – a sound which Rory only heard because he was listening for it, the sound always a reassurance of her presence – there was an eerie silence that hung heavily in the air. It was if the very engines of the Tardis had been stilled by everything that had happened; finally, something too mad, too bizarre and too mind-bending for even this timeless ship to endure. The gentle thrumming that usually wound its way through every cell of the air had been silenced. Rory swallowed hard. He'd stopped noticing the gentle hum of the engines a long time ago, and their absence felt louder than anything he had ever felt in his life.
The screwdriver was still clasped in his hand, his fingers digging into the metal length as he followed the flurry of fiery hair ahead of him. He had no idea how to use it, but he hoped that the Doctor had given it to him for a reason. He knew the Doctor had given it to him for a reason. He just wished he knew what that reason was. The frustration bubbled up inside him with each step, his fingers tightening around the screwdriver until he felt his veins popping out from his knuckles.
"How do we do this?" he hissed at Amy, breaking into a slight jog so that he could draw up alongside her. "This place is a maze. He could be anywhere."
"We'll find him," her voice was as determined as she had ever been; it bore that self-assured confidence that had always sent a spark of courage shooting straight through him. But he didn't feel it this time. His frustration and irritation and helplessness was like a pot of water boiling over, the hissing liquid spilling over the sides and drowning out everything else.
"How do we find him?" he could feel his nails digging into his palm around the screwdriver, his skin screaming at him as it threatened to break under the pressure. "Wishful thinking won't get us anywhere. No one ever found anyone by using crossed fingers as a compass. Something more solid than that would be helpful…"
"Christ," Amy spun around, her hand whipping around to smack him across the arm. "Would you just shut up for two minutes? We'll never get anywhere if you're whinging the whole time. I'm trying to concentrate."
"And I'm trying to be realistic," he retorted, rubbing at the top of his arm where her knuckles had smarted against the skin. "We can't do this."
"It was your idea," Amy's eyes narrowed as squared up to him. "You were the one who decided you were going to do your 'noble knight' act. Perhaps you should have thought that through before deciding to be a big damned hero."
"Like the Doctor you mean?"
Amy stepped back as if she had been slapped.
"You know what I mean, Amy," he took a few steps forward, running his free hand through his hair. "He does exactly the same thing and it all works out in the end. He dives in without thinking, without planning ahead, and yet somehow he manages to make it all come together. He doesn't have to try to be a big damned hero; he just is. I can't be that, and I'm sorry if I'm disappointing you. I never wanted to do that. I just wanted to help. Nobody else was going to do it. I couldn't just…leave them like that. I couldn't."
He began to toss the screwdriver from one hand to the other, the metal slapping against his palms as his eyes seemed hypnotised by the rapid movement. Amy's teeth gnawed against her bottom lip, tugging gently at the flesh as she watched him move away from her.
"I'm just a nurse from a tiny little village that no one's ever heard of," he continued barely aware of her present. "I can't even pass my exams to become a doctor. Why I ever thought I could even begin to help with something like this, I have no idea."
Amy inched forward behind him, hesitating for a few brief moments before letting her hand settle on his shoulder. He jumped at her touch, his head snapping around to focus on the fingers that were curled around his shoulder blade. Eventually he managed to raise his gaze to her eyes.
"I never meant to disappoint you, you know," a tiny laugh escaped him, a huff of air which ruffled through Amy's hair. "I never really wanted to be a nurse. Not really. It was never on my plan of things to do. But then, I thought, I could…I dunno…be a doctor for you. Your own doctor. I thought it would give me more of a chance."
A tiny smile spread across Amy's face as he spoke, a slight sadness tingeing the gesture as she took note of the desolate look in her fiancé's eyes. Her hand tightened against his shoulder, squeezing down and pulling him closer until her mouth was hovering just above his ear.
"You're an idiot. You know that?"
He ducked his head away, desperate to remain as despondent as before and yet unable to resist the reassuringly teasing tone of her voice. His hand came to rub against his lips, desperately trying to hide the similar grin that was tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"Shut up," a blush crept over his cheeks, drawing a tiny laugh from her lips as she spun him around.
"You're both idiots. Both of you. You and the Doctor. But you…" she lifted her hand from his shoulder and poked him in the chest. "…you are my idiot."
The blush seemed to drain from Rory's face as she placed his name alongside the Doctor's. He was instantaneously catapulted backwards into those days when Amy had encouraged him to dress up as her 'Raggedy Doctor': making him eat fish fingers and custard, having him talk on and on about huge eyes and cracks and spaceships until he was sure that it wasn't actually him that she was seeing anymore. But he wasn't like the Doctor. That was make-believe. He'd never heard her put them together in that way before - and he wasn't really sure he liked it.
"I'm not like…" he stopped abruptly as her last few words suddenly seemed to register, the frown falling from his face. "I am? Yours? Really?"
The look on his face was so incredibly pleased that Amy couldn't help but break into a fit of giggles. Her arms came up, her fingers curling around Rory's upper arms as she pulled him towards him; her thumbs were roving in tiny, abstract patterns along the skin on the inside of his arm, the pads of the digits tickling reassuringly against his skin. A smile split the sides of his mouth as she enclosed him in the prison of her arms, the look of sheer, almost giddy happiness seeming to make his face shine.
As his eyes glinted, Amy once again felt that stomach-plummeting sensation she had felt in the dream world; that clenching, gripping feeling that had led to her getting into the van and driving into a wall. It was like a gaping hole had opened up beneath her, and she was plunging down into the depths of some dark, new, unknown world. It terrified her. It was something that she had never expected to feel, not really. Even in the years when their friendship had gradually developed into something that could almost be called a relationship – though she had always hated the word 'boyfriend' – she had never, ever expected to feel like this. And she'd never realised, not until everything had been snatched away in the cruellest and most sudden of circumstances.
She knew that she had been given a second chance to acknowledge those feelings properly. Her thoughts were plunged back into reality, to the two men who had been curled so helplessly together on the bloodstained sheets. She had lost Rory for the briefest of moments when they were under the spell of the Dream Lord, and yet, even in those painful minutes, there had always been that chance of salvation: they would have died and woken up in the real world, or she would have been killed there and then. Either way, she could have escaped the pain that was plunging a knife into her heart. Jack had never had that kind of salvation. He had had no way of bringing Ianto back and no way of ending his own pain. And even when they had found Ianto, alive, it had not been the quick fix that she had experienced with her Rory. Her relationship was strong as a result of everything that had happened – Jack and Ianto's was damaged, splintered and fragile to a point where the feelings just weren't enough.
Amy Pond was a lucky girl. She tightened her grip on Rory's arms, wanting to get as close to him as she possibly could. She wanted to breathe in his scent, feel his warmth, hear him babbling in her ear in that nervous, idiotic way he had always had. She wanted him to look at her in that way that made her feel like the most beautiful woman in the world; wanted to look into his eyes and see that look of complete and utter disbelief at having won her, just so that she could rebuke him for ever, ever thinking that he wasn't good enough.
"Of course you are," she whispered. "Of course you are my idiot." And with that she leaned forward, one hand cupping the back of his neck to pull him towards her. He followed her movement, kissing her softly as she melded every inch of her body against his. Every single contour seemed to fit in a mad, haphazard sort of way; elbows knocked together, curves slid against one another, fingers fumbled in a clumsy and not-particularly-smooth way that was utterly perfect in its sheer imperfection.
'Don't you ever breathe?'
The sound of the Doctor's bemused voice cut through the silence, forcing them to jump apart as the familiar sound took them completely by surprise. Rory reluctantly relaxed his grip on Amy's frame, turning away from her to try and work out just where the source of the voice was – there seemed to be no sign of the Doctor in the corridor that they were currently in, and the words had been far too distinct for them to have been shouted from around a corner. Whereas for a few, brief moments he had felt the reassuring familiarity of Amy and her touch, the frustration, irritation and confusion of just a short while previously came flooding back to him.
"Ah, so you can hear me over the noise of the all that…" they heard the Doctor smack his lips together a few times, the wet, slapping sound echoing through the space. Rory's frown furrowed further as the clear sound perforated the air, despite the lack of any actual physical lips that could possibly be making the noise.
"Doctor," Amy stepped in, the look of confusion on her face mirroring that of her fiancé. "Where are you? Where's your voice coming from?"
The slapping sound stopped.
"Hmmm? What was that?"
"She said," Rory took a breath, flailing for a brief moment before deciding that the best thing to do would be to face in the same direction as Amy. "Where are you?"
'Oh. Yes, of course. Sorry about that. I was distracted. You do know that, for a Time Lord of my extreme wisdom and stature, human mating rituals are very, very distracting? So, technically, it's your fault. You should stop being so distracting. It's…well…distracting.'
Rory turned red.
"We weren't mating," he shuffled his feet across the floor, using the sonic screwdriver to scratch nervously at the back of his neck. "We were…reassuring each other affectionately."
'Yes. Well. Stop it.'
"Doctor…"Amy rolled his eyes, crossing her arms and wishing that she could actually see the man in question – if only so that she could fix him with a disapproving glare.
'Sorry. Yes. Location. Well, believe it or not, I'm actually in the console room.'
"But," Rory shot Amy a confused glance, the mirroring uncertainty he found in her eyes not doing anything to reassure him. "How can you be talking to us? The console room is miles away – probably literally."
'Well, my dear Rory – and no, it's not miles, so please stop whinging about that – this ship of mine is really quite a marvellously wonderful thing. In one aspect you're right – I can't actually talk to you from the console room when you are way off wherever you are – but the Tardis is a sentient being. She has a living core, fuelled by the Time Vortex, and as a result of that she is more of a living being than actual machinery. She talks to me all the time – you just can't hear her, because human beings of your time are that teensy little bit too primitive to be able to do something requiring a more advanced level of psychic ability.'
"Oi!" Amy pouted, her disapproving tone cutting his explanation short. "What did I tell you about respecting the humans whilst I'm here?"
'It's true!' Rory could hear the mirroring pout in his voice, even if he couldn't actually see the man's face. 'The Tardis thrives on psychic energy. All I had to do was relay my thoughts through the psychic energy which runs through the ship – think neutrons passing messages from the brain into the individual portions of your body - into the correct place for you to pick up on them. Retune some of the psychic levels, a few adjustments of the internal systems and frequencies, and voila! I can relay specific thoughts to you without actually having to speak or ring you or otherwise let my evil devious plans be known to anyone of questionable means. Only specific ones mind you. I set up a filter. There's a lot of stuff in this noggin that you really, really would never be prepared to get your primitive little human teeth into. D'you still have the screwdriver?'
It took a few moments for the sudden change of direction to register with Rory. His mind had started to wander through sheer survival instinct as the Doctor's long-winded explanation had continued, and it took the sharp sting of Amy's elbow making contact with his ribs to drag him back to the task at hand. He fumbled, the screwdriver suddenly feeling very large and very cumbersome in his hand, finally managing to gain control of his own sweaty palms and hold the screwdriver up to the air.
'Are you holding the screwdriver in the air, Rory?'
He nodded, his mouth suddenly dry as he realised the true power of the implement now grasped in his hand.
'Are you nodding?'
A frown crumpled Rory's features.
'I can't see you, Rory, remember? Not. Helpful.'
The blush that had not quite left Rory's cheeks began to deepen for the third time that day – he could feel his frustration bubble up to the surface as he failed to hold back the crimson tide, just about restraining himself in time to avoid stamping his foot angrily on the floor.
"Sorry," he muttered.
'Let's try again. Do you have the screwdriver?'
"Yes, I do," he shoved one hand into his pocket, his anxiety of earlier – the memories of just why they were here, what they were doing, and the situation that was facing them – suddenly flooding back and sending a spark of apprehension through his brain. "I don't know what you want me to do with it. You said I had to use it, but you didn't tell me why. I want to help them, but I can't do that if you're going to be vague and mysterious. It doesn't wash with me, Doctor. You can't do it, not now. Now's not the time to be…
'All you have to do is aim the screwdriver and press the button. It's as simple as that. It's all I need you to do. I've already set it to the correct setting. You're big enough and ugly enough to look after yourselves out there, and, anyway, I needed to stay behind so I could twiddle with the settings back here at the console, to keep everything going so that you have an easier job. I've tuned it to the psychic energy of the Tardis, so the sonic frequencies are running along the same line is the psychic energies. With a little redirecting and fine tuning, this means that they can interrupt a certain level of brainwave. It's all a bit complicated and wordy and technical for simple village folk such as yourselves…'
'Woops. Sorry. Won't do it again, I promise. Well, maybe. But, anyway, distractions are bad. Basically, everyone has a different and distinct psychic print; very much like our fingerprints are unique to us and only us; and by combining the psychic energies and the sonic frequencies, the Tardis can focus in on one person. It can alter those brainwaves through the exposure of the sonic waves that come from the screwdriver. I've set it so it can subdue him, neutralise him in the least intrusive and dangerous way possible. It's the closest to a placid solution that I could come to in the time limit given.'
Something ticked uncomfortably in the back of Rory's mind as the Doctor spoke. All of the training, that had become a second nature to him during his brief time working as a nurse, came flooding back to him. He knew he might not have been good enough to actually qualify as a doctor, but he was a damned sight quicker than the majority of people bothered to give him credit for. He also knew that he had cared more than anyone on that course, because he wasn't doing it for him. He was doing it for her. And that had made it seem like it was so much more than just a job.
"Doctor," he said quietly, his tight grip around the sonic screwdriver loosening a little as a terrible thought struck him. "Why didn't you tell Jack?"
'What?' both of the humans could hear the Doctor choke on the word, the feigned nonchalance and joviality that he did so well not quite holding strong this time.
"You wouldn't tell us in the room," Rory's voice remained quiet, yet it was somehow stronger than the loud, forced confidence of the Timelord. "You waited till now, to tell us like this. You've never done that before. You've never needed to. Which means that you didn't tell us for a reason. And I think that reason is that you didn't want Jack to hear. So why not? What didn't you want him to know?"
Silence hung in the air – no, not in the air, in their minds. It was like a vast silence was filling their heads, the feeling of emptiness almost nauseating now that the incessant ramble of the Doctor's thought-speak was stilled.
'I'm not one hundred percent sure it's going to work,' the sound of the Doctor's voice echoed through their heads again, the tone completely different and tinged with the deep, intense sadness that often swam in his eyes. 'I've never done this before. The monsters are usually outside the Tardis. It's totally theoretical that it's going to work at all. It could go wrong.'
There was a brief pause as the Doctor coughed nervously - that he had done that even though he was only channelling his thoughts rather than his actual words would have raised eyebrows, if the two humans were not completely focused on the task at hand.
"Doctor, speak to us," Amy lowered her tone coaxingly, her fingers twitching as she ached to rest a gentle hand on the Doctor's shoulder. "There's something else, isn't there? You're rubbish at hiding things. Just tell us. It could go wrong. Okay. What else?"
'I've fiddled the settings."
'I can alter the brainwaves. But that goes further than just knocking him out. I can change the waves – not build something new, but edit what's already there.'
"Doctor," Amy snaked her hand around to link her fingers with Rory's. "What have you done?"
It was if a sigh permeated their minds – it wasn't a physical sound, but the feeling of complete and utter weariness overwhelmed their thoughts.
'I can't fix him. There's no chance for him. He'll have to be locked up forever, or he'll keep escaping and these things will keep happening. I don't want that. Jack doesn't want that. So, it's not just going to knock him out. It's going to change him. It's going to take his memories back to his childhood, before he was taken away from his family. Everything that has made him the person he is is going to be erased.'
There was an audible gasp.
"But…" Amy's eyes were wild as they flicked around the room, suddenly desperate for a physical incarnation of the Doctor; she wanted to look into his eyes. "Doctor you can't do that. You said that you wouldn't do that to Ianto, so why to him? Jack will never…"
'That's why I didn't tell him. He's not thinking straight. I would never let him do that to Ianto because it would destroy him. Jones is still in there, he's salvageable, I've always believed that. I know it. The Tardis - she's been inside his head and she knows that he's still there to be saved. I don't care what happens, I won't see both of them destroyed; Jack and Ianto would both be destroyed if I let Jack erase his memories. But Gray – he's a different story. He's beyond anyone's help. We can save him by doing this, we can let him be the person that he wants to be. We can let the little boy grow up happily. I don't like it. The only other option is to kill him or imprison him, and I won't let either of those happen. He doesn't deserve that, whatever he's done. This is the only way. I'm sorry.'
Rory looked at Amy, noting the conflicting emotions washing across her face. He knew that he was experiencing exactly the same thing. It went against everything that he had ever thought – everything that he had ever known. It felt like they were playing God, something that he had sworn never to do. He was a nurse. He helped progress forward, he didn't push them back. It went against everything – everything – but he couldn't think of anything else. And he could feel from the way Amy's fingers tightened around his own, that she was feeling exactly the same way.
"Okay," he said softly, each word burning like acid on his tongue. "We just point and press. Is that right?"
'Yes. Point and press. Simple as that. But this is still a delicate operation. Think of it as like stitching up a wound. If he tugs away, it'll get worse. It would be better if he didn't know you were doing it. There's less of a likelihood of permanent damage being done if you can get him when he's in a state of semi-calm. Whatever you do, don't let him get agitated…"
But, before the Doctor could finish his instructions, a hand wrapped itself around Rory's neck, yanking him backwards away from Amy. He stumbled slightly, choking as the arm tightened around his throat and yanked him back so that the only thing holding him up was the skinny frame. The rapid thrumming of a heartbeat thundered ominously against his back, his whole body stiffening in panic as rasping, anger-filled breath smarted like fire at the nape of his neck.
And that's when he felt the blade against his throat.
Thank you for reading.
Not much Torchwood - but I just couldn't do it. I hope you all think it was worth it - if you do, then I will continue with this. I don't want to let it go, but I'm teetering on a tightrope. If you have any comments, please let me know. I could also do with hug. Got any going spare?