Appropriately enough, it was a dark and stormy night. Ominous clouds, sinister rain, flashes of lightning: you name it. The moon was full behind the shroud of black storm clouds, casting a dull silver glow during the momentary breaks in the weather. Everything about the mood and the setting that night was perfect, down to the gray cobbled streets and the foreboding stone buildings lit by gaslights.
Even their host was tailor-made for the dark, fairy tale narrative Amy suddenly found herself acting out. He was tall and thin, mouldy and unkempt: his thick, dark hair streaked with gray could use a good brushing, and the shabby black coat he wore was coated in dust. Dark purple hollows sunk beneath his blood-shot brown eyes, flanking a narrow, hook-like nose. His voice was dry and scratchy like an old wool blanket. His accent suggested an origin of some indeterminate European locale. He introduced himself at the door as "Dr. Stein".
"First name Frank, second name Neville…" Amy muttered, as soon as he was out of earshot.
The Doctor flashed her a warning look. "Amy, he's the only one who can help us…"
She bit her lip and nodded, starting to follow the mad scientist up the stairs to his la-bor-a-tory. Dr. Stein's manservant helped the Doctor to pick up the large, lumpy, bed sheet-wrapped bundle they'd dragged with them into the entranceway. It was heavy and unwieldy, and the servant managed to strike his end against the newel post; it made contact with a dull and sickening thud.
"Oi!" Amy spun round and shouted. "Watch it, Igor! That's the love of my life you're banging around there!"
"Sorry, ma'am," he rasped. "And it's Ivan, if you don't mind."
"Yeah, sorry 'bout that…" she mumbled. He didn't have a hunchback, but he did have a slight limp and a wonky eye, so she figured that was close enough. Events had shifted rapidly from "vividly real" to "surrealistically bizarre", and Amy's cognitive functions were running at half-power: all unnecessary systems were shut down, "politeness" and "tact" among the first to go.
Ever since Rory had been shot by that Silurian, nothing had made much sense to her anyway. There was the crack from her wall, and a flash of light, and Rory's shout of pain; then she watched him die.
He would have been swallowed by the crack in time, but Amy had insisted they drag his body into the Tardis, convinced that he wasn't really dead, and they could still save him. She'd shouted that demand at the Doctor: "Save him! You Ihave/I to save him! I don't care what it costs, and I don't care what you have to do, but you are going to save him! He is NOT going to die!"
The Doctor argued, he insisted, he told her it was impossible! Rory was dead, and you couldn't bring people back from the dead!
And then he'd paused. He got that look on his face. That look that said he had a plan that just might be crazy enough to work.
"What?" Amy prodded. "TELL ME!"
He looked at her guiltily. "I don't know…I mean, I'm not sure, but…I think I know a man who can help us."
Amy had been expecting to step out of the Tardis onto some futuristic alien world populated by flying cars and artificially intelligent drinks machines. She'd expected silver space suits, android cabbies, and amazing technology light years ahead of her own time.
When she'd walked out into what looked (and smelled) very suspiciously like early 19th century London, she instinctively turned round to smack the Doctor. "You got it wrong AGAIN? My fiancé is DEAD and starting to SMELL and you've brought us to the WRONG PLACE?"
The Doctor ducked out of her reach, before turning to her with indignance. "Ow! Amy, stop hitting me! You know violence never solved anything…and this is exactly where I meant to take us! So, shows what YOU know!"
"My fiancé is dead, and you're Imocking me/I?"
"Are you going to start beginning every sentence with 'my fiancé is dead?'"
In the distance, a murder of crows could feel the air around them vibrate with Amy's rage. They took to the skies in a flurry of ink black feathers and a cacophony of alarmed screeching. Amy's voice was cold and dangerously quiet when she turned to answer the Doctor. "Would you like to join him?"
He was going to point out that his ability to regenerate made that particular threat moot, but she had that look in her eyes: that look that said if she wanted something done, she'd find a way to do it, regeneration be damned! So instead, he'd taken a few precautionary steps back out of her reach and explained about Dr. Stein and his work.
The man was a genius. Completely bonkers, absolutely certifiably insane, but a genius nonetheless. He'd been fascinated by the discovery of galvanism: the contraction of a muscle in response to an electrical current. Like many scientists of his time, he'd been sure this link between flesh and electricity was the key to life itself. His madness mixed with his genius, and 17 stray cats, four stray dogs, three sheep, one cow, and two freshly-stolen corpses later, he was on the verge of achieving a feat to rival the powers of God and nature. All he needed was one last spark of inspiration, one flash of improbable creativity!
All he needed was the Doctor.
And so here they were amongst the bubbling test tubes and sparking electric rods of Dr. Stein's lab, trying to bring Rory, Amy's once and future fiancé, back from the dead.
Not a moment too soon, Amy thought, as she wrinkled her nose: he was beginning to smell more rancid by the hour. She didn't know much about anatomy or what happened to a body after it died—that was Rory's area—but she was pretty sure that greenish color that was starting to spread up his chest wasn't a good sign. Could you un-rot a body?
She certainly hoped so.
Of course she'd take him back whichever way he came to her; she wasn't picky on that account. Once you know you've found the love of your life, you're not going to let little details like death and putrefaction stand in the way of happily ever after. But really, she rather liked the color of his skin the way it was before, and would prefer it if he didn't stink like a bin on rubbish day, if that were at all possible.
She reached out to stroke his cold, pale forehead as he laid spread out on a slab in Dr. Stein's lab. This was her moment to say goodbye and wish him luck before the doctors did their work. She had insisted on staying with him, but the Doctor wouldn't take "no" for an answer. "You won't want to see this, Amy; especially if it doesn't work!" he insisted.
Finally she'd relented when she saw the thick, twisted metal cables the mad doctor was dragging out, and the giant electrodes he was attaching to Rory's slab. Feeling a little green herself, she let them shove her out the door, lured downstairs to the kitchen with promises of tea and a slice of bread and butter.
The bread was stale, and the tea weak, but the little bit of nourishment did her good. Once her stomach was full and her nerves soothed by the familiar tastes of tea and sugar, the hours she'd spent since waking up in the tunnels of the underground Silurian city started to catch up with her. She wanted to stay awake in case they should need her help, but her exhaustion was overwhelming.
She spent a fitful night tossing and turning and trying to sleep on the little divan Ivan grudgingly offered her as a place to rest. It was a stiff, rigid monstrosity stuffed with horsehair and upholstered with faded, threadbare velvet. She could barely fold her long frame onto the length of it, and the clumps of ancient dust that stubbornly clung to the arm rests made her nose and throat itch.
Each time her eyes managed to close and her head to nod, a bright flash of lightning, followed quickly by its attendant thunder, jerked her awake and back into the nightmare reality of the dismal London mansion where her future husband lie, cold as stone, waiting to be reawakened.
Would it work? Could they bring him back? A younger Amy would have believed the Doctor capable of anything. He traveled through time and space, and she'd seen him save countless others. Why not her Rory?
That he had brought her here to this damp, decaying house full of dust and shadows was not a good sign. In her own time, science wasn't even close to bringing a dead body back to life. How was it possible that this eccentric scientist with the wild stare and the terrible hygiene possessed greater skill and knowledge than the clean, efficient science of modern time? How could this ancient, barbaric world of horse-drawn carriages, gas lamps and coal heat hold the technology necessary to restore a man to life?
Again and again she closed her eyes, each time hoping to see behind her eyelids the smiling, rosy, blood-filled face of her dear beloved…
When the Doctor came to wake her, there was pale light breaking through the faded brocade curtains of the hall. Amy watched as motes of dust floated in the hazy morning sunshine, blinking the sleep from her eyes and trying to work out where she was. She rubbed at the crick in her neck and searched the Doctor's face for a clue. What madcap adventure had they taken off on this time?
There was something about the expression in his eyes that gave her pause. His brow was knit forward with worry, but his eyes were dancing with excitement. The usual buzz of electricity that ran through his limbs and gave him an air of constant movement was palpable, crackling like static. She met his eyes and he gave her a weak smile, equally full of hope and trepidation. Then she remembered: Rory!
She was bolt upright in seconds, startling the Doctor and sending him staggering back into a side table crowded with tarnished pewter candlesticks that fell about him with a clatter. "Where is he? I have to see him!" Her eyes flew to the narrow staircase at the end of the hallway that led upstairs to the attic laboratory.
She moved to push past the Doctor, but he stopped her: "Amy, now wait just a minute…"
What was it that she read in the tone of his voice? Apprehension? Sadness? She grabbed his arm, fingers turning white with the intensity of her grip. "What? Did it work? Doctor, tell me that it worked!"
The desperation in her voice stabbed through the Doctor like a knife. He was going to have to be very careful now. "Amy, it worked! It did!" He had to grasp her arm to keep her from bolting up the stairs. "There is something you should know, though: Rory is…well, he's alive! In a sense…that is, he's Imostly/I alive…"
The heat of Amy's stare could have melted lead. "What does 'mostly alive' mean?"
He let go of her arm to run his hand through his mop of hair. "Well, Amy, there are different standards by which we determine something to be alive or dead…there's brain death, for instance, and…Amy, wait!"
Free from his grasp, she didn't linger to hear his rambling explanation for what state of existence she'd find her fiancé in: she was going to determine for herself just how alive or dead he was!
She was up the rickety wooden steps in seconds, heaving her body weight against the heavy oak and iron door at the top. It swung open slowly with a loud, dramatic groan.
The attic laboratory was lit by a single circular window opposite the door. Through the window ran a thick iron cable, attached to a lightning rod outside. The cable snaked down the wall, across the floor, and over to the long metal slab on which they'd lay Rory the night before. She shielded her eyes from the streaming sunlight and directed her gaze toward the center of the room.
Rory sat perched on the edge of the slab, stripped to the waist. "Hello, Amy," he rasped, in a voice rough with disuse.
The last thing she remembers before the room goes black are the angry purple bruises clinging to his smiling green eyes.
It's true that sacrifices must be made in order for a relationship to be successful. For example, old dinosaur bones and stuffed dead animals bore Amy to tears, but she's been with Rory to nearly every natural history museum on the island of Great Britain. Rory's not particularly fond of Ryan Gosling, but he's sat through IThe Notebook/I enough times to quote the lines along with him.
They've both made a lot of compromises over the years, to the point where it's become second nature.
The compromise that's staring Amy in the face when she comes to on the hard, dusty wooden floor of Dr. Stein's attic is anything but second nature to her. In fact, the last word she'd use to describe the face gazing down at her right now is "natural".
She wanted Rory back, it's true, but she wanted Iher/I Rory back! With his misty green eyes so bright when he laughs, and the warm pink blush that creeps over his cheeks when she whispers in his ear. She knows she said she'd take him back any way she could get him, but the Rory staring back at her now is nothing short of monstrous!
As she feared, the sickly green hue of decaying flesh still mars the former perfection of his skin. His veins stand out an angry, dirty blue: there may be blood flowing through them, but it's not as it should be: healthy, warm, and red. All of the bruising that formed when they were moving his body is still there, as is the feathery-lace burn pattern of the laser blast that killed him. He looks like a corpse, only breathing, with a shuddering, gasping rhythm.
Amy's eyes widen as he reaches out a hand to her forehead. "Are you all right?" he chokes.
His eyes are full of tenderness, but all she can see are the clouded, milky white corneas staring back at her.
She can't help it. This is Inot/I the man she loves. She sucks in a great, deep breath and screams with all the strength left in her body.
Rory staggers back, falling onto bum and elbows beside her. His face shows only concern and confusion.
Amy pushes herself up and scrabbles backwards against the wall, putting as much distance as possible between herself and this abomination wearing her fiancé's face.
Her scream has alerted the rest of the household, and heavy steps are racing up the staircase.
"Amy!" the Doctor's voice shouts from the door. "Amy, what's wrong? Why are you screaming?"
Behind him pops Doctor Stein and the curious, peering face of Ivan. "Vhat is wrong?" asks Stein, in his ambiguously foreign accent. "Vhat is all ze noise?"
"What is wrong? What is WRONG?" Amy's voice is hysterical. "What did you do to him? What the hell have you done to my Rory?"
"Amy, what do you mean?" Rory croaks. He raises a hand to his throat, unsure why he sounds as if someone has scoured his voice box with steel wool. Carefully, he adds, "Why are you so afraid? What's happened to me?"
"We've brought you back!" the Doctor announces, cheerfully oblivious as always. "We've brought you back—from the DEAD! Isn't that brilliant?"
"Dead?" Rory's starting to get the hang of talking now. "I seem to remember…we were underground…you're saying I was Idead/I? As in all the way dead? As in…no heartbeat, not breathing, pushing up the daisies dead? That kind of dead?"
The room nods as one.
"How long was I dead?"
Amy has moved strategically toward the open door, and is now standing slightly behind the rest of them. The Doctor steps forward to field Rory's question. "Only for a couple days," he assures him with a smile.
Rory's purple-socketed eyes widen. "A couple of Idays/I? I can't have been dead for IDAYS!/I In two days, my body would have already started to break down, to decay…" He looks down at the sickly gray pallor of his arms. "Oh my God, what have you done? Somebody get me a mirror!"
Ivan lurches off to obey, and Amy and Dr. Stein stand back awkwardly, trying to avoid Rory's eyes. The Doctor stands and beams at him like a kid eyeing a new bike at Christmas.
"Look at you!" he gushes. "Last night you were dead—all the way dead, as you so aptly put it—and now you're…well, maybe not alive, but alive-ish! Talking and everything! It's amazing!"
Rory hasn't taken his eyes off of Amy. He can read in her terrified expression the full horror of what's been done to him. "Amy," he says, speaking only to her. "Amy, please—it's still me! I promise you, whatever I look like…it's still me!"
Amy starts worrying her bottom lip with her teeth, eyes still wide and frightened, when Ivan returns with a large gilded mirror stolen from the wall of a disused drawing room. He stands in front of Rory now, awkwardly hefting the filthy mirror before him.
Rory's loud, choking gasp when he first sees his reflection startles the room, and Ivan nearly drops his heavy burden; Rory grabs the sides of the garish golden frame, and stares at the drawn gray visage that greets him. It's distorted by the natural processes of death and the warped silver surface of the mirror. A sob, raw and wild like the scream of a wounded animal, escapes his throat. He can hardly look at himself, but nor can he look away. "What have you done to me?" he whispers, almost to himself.
Ivan and Dr. Stein have the good grace to look ashamed, but the Doctor still hasn't caught on. "Pardon?" he asks, leaning in with a hand cupped to his ear.
"I said," Rory began slowly, before turning to the crowd with madness in his eyes; "I said: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?" His voice is mixed equally of anger and heart-wrenching sadness. He would cry, but his tear ducts aren't quite working anymore.
Not a one of them dare answer, except one: the one who always answers, whether answering be the best course or not. "We brought you back!" the Doctor insists evenly. "You were DEAD, and we brought you Iback to life/I! I should think a little gratitude would be in order…"
Rory practically chokes on his rage before he can spit out: "Grateful? I should be Igrateful/I? You've turned me into this monstrosity, this IFREAK/I, this aberration of nature, and you want me to be grateful? What kind of life is this?"
"What kind of life? I'm sorry…you have to ask Iwhat kind of life/I? THE KIND OF LIFE THAT'S NOT DEATH, that's what kind of life! You're breathing, you're thinking—you are REUNITED with the woman you love! What can more can you ask for when death is the only alternative? And you're fixating on little Icosmetic considerations/I…"
"Cosmetic? I'm a walking corpse, and you call that cosmetic? Amy can't even look at me! What good is my life now if Amy thinks I'm a monster?"
The Doctor looks back at Amy, whose expression is now unreadable. She looks from one man to the other with uncertain eyes. For the first time this night, the Doctor is speechless.
Rory throws the mirror across the room. It smashes against the attic wall in a brilliant cascade of silver and glass. He feels as though his blood is boiling inside him, but still he is as pale and gray as a rainy afternoon. He opens his mouth to speak, but what will he say? What more is there to say?
Finally, Amy's voice breaks the deafening silence. She's quiet but determined when she speaks. "He's right."
All eyes turn to her. The Doctor's voice is full of poorly concealed anger when he answers her. "He is Inot/I right, Amy, and you should be the one reassuring him now…"
"No," she interrupts. "I mean, yes; that's what I meant. That Iyou/I were right. I wanted him back." She turns to face the specter of the man she loves, forcing herself to keep her gaze locked steadily on his gruesome features. "I wanted you back," she confirms, "and I said that I would take you however you came. You've come back to me. That's all that matters. It has to be!"
Rory barely dares to hope. "Do you mean that?" He takes a step toward her, and she flinches involuntarily. The effect is immediate. His face crumples, and he turns back toward the wall in anger.
"Rory, I'm sorry!"
"You can't even look at me!"
"I just need some time to adjust…"
"I'm a horrible monster! How can I ask you to get over that?"
"Rory, STOP!" Her voice is shaking with emotion; the air around them pulses with it. All eyes are on her, but for Amy and Rory, they're the only two in the room.
"Rory, you know I've never been good with the gory stuff! Remember when I got that sliver in my foot, and it hurt too much to take it out so I just left it and it got infected? And it was all pus-y and swollen, and when you pulled it out with tweezers I almost fainted?"
A ghost of a smile crosses his lips, and he nods.
She smiles back at him, softly. "Afterwards you kissed me and you told me I was very brave, even though I was being a baby. Well, I'm trying to be brave now, and just like then, I…I need you to be braver!"
Somehow it's exactly what he needed to hear. Few people know about Amy's vulnerable side…he counts himself as privileged to have seen it, that she trusts him enough to show it to him. Being brave for himself doesn't always work out, but being brave for Amy is what he does best.
He nods and takes a few steps towards her; this time she stays put.
The Doctor gives them a beaming grin, and starts herding Dr. Stein and Ivan from the attic. "Come on, lads, let's leave the two lovebirds alone, eh? Say, Igor—you a fan of Cribbage?"
"It's Ivan," the servant grumbles as he's shoved out the door, "and I don't play games."
"Vhat iz zis Cribbage you speak of?"
"Sir, prepare to have your horizons expanded! Amy, Rory," he throws over his shoulder, "whenever you're ready. Take your time! Get re-acquainted. Later!" He pulls the heavy door shut behind him and Amy and Rory are alone together for the first time in awhile.
Rory reaches for Amy's hand, and she hesitates for just a moment before taking it. His skin is slightly cold against her warm flesh. She holds his hand up so she can examine it, and wrinkles her nose at the black and purple beds of his nails. "Perhaps a little polish…" she muses out loud.
"Whatever you think," he grins. "Just so long as I get to keep holding your hand!"
"Aww! Glad to see you're still a sweetheart even after cheating death."
"Death is nothing to me! I've spent my life pursuing the elusive Amy Pond—what could be more harrowing than that?"
She smiles again, then fidgets slightly under his gaze. What are they going to do now?
He's wondering the same thing. "Can we still get married?"
"Um…" She grabs his hand firmly and squeezes it reassuringly before he can bolt off in a sulk; she's relieved when it doesn't come off in her grasp. "Let's just take things slowly, all right? You were dead to me up until an hour ago…I need time to readjust my perspective. Besides, where would we get married? I don't know what kind of laws exist about marriages between the living and the 'mostly alive'."
Still sulking, he nods grudgingly. "I guess…"
She tries to meet his eyes with hers. "Can we just work on being friends again for now?"
His breath escapes in a ghastly, rasping sigh, but he nods. "Friend, bad…" he adds under his breath.