He can tell by the rising note at the end of his name that Amy wants something. She isn't lingering on the first syllable, so it isn't something that he'll dislike. Probably. His mouth is full of Frevissian spice cake, but a tilt of his head and raised eyebrows speak as clearly as any words.
"Let's play dressing up."
Rory's eyebrows go up another centimetre. They're on their honeymoon, traveling the Universe in a time and space machine with a 900-year-old alien as their pilot and tour guide. They're having fantastic sex every day, except when they're in the dungeon of a would-be planetary despot - and even then, if they have a private cell... Never mind that. The point is, do they really need more excitement?
And now he's surprised that he was surprised. This is Amy, he reminds himself. He and Amy have been 'dressing up' since they were little kids. Even her obsession with playing 'Raggedy Doctor' hadn't completely replaced the other games in which they dressed up as pirates or spies or rock stars (or on one mortifying occasion, ballet dancers). Later, she introduced the adult versions of those childhood games. He remembers lusty afternoons of 'pirate captain and captive maiden' (or 'pirate queen and captive sailor boy' - they'd always been equal-opportunity ravishers).
Her imagination can turn anything into a sexy outfit. Rory had to replace his special-occasions suit after Tim and Barb's wedding. He'd found himself reminiscing about the last time he wore it, which was a lively session of 'Inland Revenue agent and crooked financier'. Only a strategically-placed hymnbook had saved him from very public embarrassment in the front pew of Saint Agnes Church.
It's no wonder Amy was the life and soul of the Leadworth theatre group. Rory remembers sitting beside Amy's parents in the village hall, the three of them grinning like loons as a 15-year-old Amy took her third curtain call as Juliet. He also remembers trying to comfort a 15-year-old Amy as she wept in frustration because Aunt Sharon wouldn't allow her to join the theatre group. "You need a hobby that's more grounded in reality, dear. I understand the Women's Institute is offering knitting classes."
Another example of the weirdness of their lives: they each have several sets of conflicting but equally real memories. He knows that Amy remembers three childhoods, including two in which she was an orphan living with her Aunt Sharon. One of these timelines - the one without stars - ended abruptly at the age of ten when the Universe exploded. The Doctor's mind-numbing explanation was full of terms like 'nexal loop' and 'non-causal branching', but ended with a breezy promise that memories of the revised timeline would become dominant. . . eventually. Do we really need to pretend to be other people?
Still, there is no timeline, no memory in which he has found it easy to say no to Amy, so Rory finds himself walking down a corridor and into the wardrobe room. They have the TARDIS to themselves for now. The Doctor is shopping for spare parts on a planet where humans are species non grata - something about an attempted invasion in 4327.
Amy is practically vibrating with excitement as they enter the wardrobe. He can't blame her. This place is bigger than the combined costume departments of the BBC, the Royal Shakespeare, and a Bollywood movie studio. Not only that, but everything here is real. That shimmering blue gown is handspun silk. The walking-stick handle shaped like a dragon's head is silver with ruby eyes. The black tricorn hat hanging on an old coat-rack actually belonged to Napoleon.
He watches Amy spin in slow circles as she studies the nearly endless possibilities. She darts towards shelves of men's clothing. Rory trots after her, then freezes as he see what she's reaching for. Oh, no. No.
Turning, Amy holds up her find. "Rory, look!" She shoves the tunica and the red cloak at him.
"Umm. . . no, not that," he protests, but she's already turned back to the shelf, looking for the rest of the uniform. Within moments she's retrieved the sandals, helmet, and assorted bits of armour and added them to the pile in his arms.
"What do you think I should wear?" she asks, moving off to inspect a rack of women's gowns. "One of those toga thingies?"
He nearly blurts out that she wants a stola. Togas are for men, and the only women who ever wear them are prostitutes. And that's completely beside the point. "Amy, I don't want to wear this." He has to repeat her name several times before she hears him.
"I don't want to wear this." He drops the Roman centurion's outfit on a nearby dressing table. "Let's find something else, yeah?"
Amy gives him a look: half pout, half entreaty. "Why don't you want to wear it?"
He makes an effort to sound casual. "You know - been there, done that. Wear something for long enough, and you get tired of it." He waves a hand at the mound of wool and leather and iron. "After 1800 years, it stops being exotic."
"It doesn't have to be exotic to be fun," Amy says with a meaningful pause before the last word.
"I'd rather have something else," he repeats. "We're spoilt for choices here, Amy, so why not find something we'll both like?"
She tosses her hair and gives him the full-on pout. "Rory, I want this. I really, really want this." In a heartbeat, the pout becomes a dazzling smile. "I'll make it very good for you. Promise."
He shakes his head. "Pick something else. What about Vikings? Or those people with hats, you know the ones, from that planet with the purple moon?" Even as he says it, he knows it's hopeless. When Amy gets an idea planted in her head, it's almost impossible to shake it loose.
"Ro-ry. . . please?" she wheedles.
"No," he snaps.
He mutters to himself, "Eheu! Lymphabit me!" and feels a cold lump the size of an asteroid form in his stomach. "Actually, I don't think I'm in the mood for dressing up right now. Sorry," he adds, knowing that he doesn't sound sorry at all, and he turns and strides out of the wardrobe.
Amy is too gobsmacked to follow him immediately, so he makes a clean escape. Rory dashes down the corridor, around two corners, down a flight of wrought-iron spiral steps and into his garden.
His garden. He's got rather ordinary tastes when it comes to gardens. Something cheerful, with a tidy bit of lawn and bright flowers. Tulips and petunias and. . . stuff. This garden hasn't got any of that. It's Japanese or something. At any rate, it's got pebbles and stone paving instead of grass. There are no flowers, just a few slender stalks of bamboo and some green shrubbery, and the brightest bits of colour are the koi swimming in the tiny rock-edged pool.
It's not at all the sort of garden he would expect to like, but he's become rather fond of it, actually. It's quiet and calm, which is something he needs now and again. He loves Amy more than he can put into words, and the Doctor is an amazing bloke, but they're both so. . . so very. . . very, and sometimes he needs a breather. Sometimes he needs to be alone and do some thinking, and this garden is a good place to do it. The others never come here.
He settles himself on the stone bench inside the small open-sided pagoda. "She's going to drive me crazy," he says again, this time in English instead of in Umbrian-accented Latin.
It's a wonder he isn't already barking. Like Amy, Rory remembers a third childhood, not in Leadworth (with or without stars), but in the city of Carsulae during the reign of Titus Flavius Domitianus. His father was a wine-merchant; his mother the daughter of a British chieftain who was distantly related to Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes. He remembers the smell of incense burning on the household altar, and the taste of the Greek honey cakes that Glykeria the kitchen-slave made on feast days.
None of it was ever real - and what does 'real' mean, when reality can be rewritten? - but he remembers it clearly. All of those vivid memories were programmed into his plastic duplicate, just as though he was a character in one of Jeff's video games. None of it really happened. His life as a fake Roman began in the spring of 102 A.D. at the encampment on the Plain of Sarum.
A few months later, 'Cleopatra' arrived, followed shortly thereafter by two other strangers. Peculiar memories stirred in his mind: dreams of an incomprehensible life far from Carsulae. That evening, the centurion saw the red-haired woman, and Rory Williams woke up. And then the world ended. Or started ending. Rory Williams of Leadworth, who was also a plastic Roman centurion, hung around to guard the Pandorica. One thousand eight hundred and ninety-four years later, the universe was rebooted. A flesh-and-blood Rory Williams woke up, brushed his teeth, and married Amy Pond. Amy remembered the Doctor back into existence. There was cake and champagne and dancing. They ran into the TARDIS, waved goodbye, and went off to enjoy a fantastic honeymoon interrupted by the occasional spot of deadly peril. Happily ever after, just like in the fairy tales.
Fairy tales leave out a lot of the details. They don't mention the bad dreams that make you sit bolt upright, in a cold sweat, cursing in dead languages; or the nights you just don't go to sleep at all for fear you'll hear Gaius Fulvius screaming while Frankish warriors slash his belly open. Thank God, once Amy is asleep, almost nothing will wake her.
He hasn't told anyone about his dreams. He doesn't want to worry Amy, and he doesn't want the Doctor to think he's a wimp. Thing is, Rory did as he was told. He kept out of trouble as much as possible. His job was to watch over Amy. If a man with a sword - or in later years, a 'ghost' with a sword - was not enough to scare off intruders, a warning shot with his blaster usually did the trick. There were long stretches when nothing at all happened, and the worst adversary he faced was boredom. The seventy years he spent in the cellars of the Vatican would have been much more tedious if he hadn't discovered the restricted section of the Papal library.
Though the Lone Centurion existed for twice as many years as the Doctor, the Time Lord has spent his long life getting into trouble, and getting other people out of it. All those nasty aliens who showed up at Stonehenge - Rory doesn't know how the Doctor pissed them off, but he's sure it wasn't by sitting in a cellar and reading the poems of Catullus. His planet is gone, too. Anything that could destroy an entire world of people as clever as the Doctor probably would make the Fall of Rome look like a child's tea party. No, he isn't going to complain about a few bad dreams to the Doctor.
It's getting better. He hasn't had a nightmare in weeks, and some of the memories are getting fuzzy. Tiny human minds, the Doctor told Rory in his usual mixture of kindness and arrogance, are not meant to contain that many centuries of memories.
The memories that remain are an odd hodgepodge. He's still fluent in Latin, and can curse like a sailor in Arabic, Greek, and Mandarin. He can saddle a horse silently in complete darkness, cheat at knucklebones, and rehaft an axehead. He has forgotten most of the history, the wars and the endless procession of kings, popes, emperors, - no loss there - but can clearly remember many individuals. He remembers Bertrand the Templar, who tried unsuccessfully to exorcise 'the Demon of the Box', then taught him to play Persian-style chess. He remembers clumsy, cheerful Ugolino, servant to Messer Marco of Venezia. He remembers Asad ibn Ismail and Eliezer ben Yacov in Jerusalem; Fra Renaldus, Pietro the Hunchback, and Suor Donata in Rome. He remembers a gaggle of London street urchins who he allowed to take refuge in the warehouse during an air raid in 1941. Their leader, a dark-haired girl (Annie? Nan?) came back a day later to offer him food he didn't need and she probably couldn't afford to give.
He remembers Ermenberga, a young Frankish woman who left offerings of bread and wildflowers in front of the Pandorica, and prayed for protection from an abusive husband. Lothar, the elderly sot, followed her into the forest. He and his drunken friends were expecting to find a pair of guilty lovers. Instead, they were confronted by the Guardian Spirit of the Stone Shrine, who hurled bolts of fire into the sky with his bare hand, and threatened terrible vengeance against anyone who dared harm his faithful servant. Rory hadn't gone looking for trouble, but when it got in his face, he dealt with it.
Those memories may disappear one day, but there's one that will never fade, even if he lives another two thousand years. It's burned into his mind, as indelible as a brand on the face of a convicted robber. Does he want to forget it? That doesn't matter. He doesn't deserve to forget it.
Rory rises from the bench and crosses the garden to the fish pond. When his shadow strikes the water the koi rise to the surface, swimming in excited circles. "Cupboard love," Rory says, and gives a weary laugh. "Sorry, guys. I haven't got anything." He shoves his hands in his pockets and finds some sticky crumbs in one: the remnants of the spice cake he was eating earlier. "Right. Here you go. Tuck in." Within seconds the crumbs are gone, and a minute later, the koi are drifting in languid contentment.
"You've got a great life," he informs them. "No stress, no responsibilities, no rows." No adventure, no friendship, no love. No Amy. Rory sighs. No point in putting off the inevitable. "Valete," he says to the fish, and heads for the door.
As soon as he walks in, Amy springs up from the bed. "Oh!"
She's frowning, and he braces himself for the recriminations, the demands, the questions. He's not prepared for what comes.
"Rory, I'm sorry I was such a cow. Forgive me?" Her arms are around his neck in an instant.
"Nothing to forgive," he mumbles into the jasmine-scented cloud of her hair.
"Yes, there is. I was horrid." She pulls back far enough that he can see her face: intense, fierce, lovely. "I shouldn't have nagged, but I was so excited when I found that in the wardrobe. I've never seen you wearing it - not in decent light where I could really see properly. It was dark at Stonehenge, and so smoky with all those torches, and when I got out of the Pandorica in the museum you had on that fuddy-duddy uniform."
"But. . . why?" he stammers. "Why do you care if I wear it?"
"Because it reminds me what you did."
Rory feels like he's been kicked in the gut.
Amy must see it in his face. "Rory? What's the matter?"
"Oh, God," he mutters, and he's not sure what language he says it in, or which god he's addressing. "Amy, I wore that costume when I killed you." He looks down at his right hand, the hand which was once a deadly weapon, relives (for the millionth time) the endless moment in which he battled with himself, with the thing he'd become. Battled - and lost. He remembers pleading with Amy to run, to get away, but she didn't understand what he was, that he was wrong and dangerous and not her Rory any longer. And he'd killed her.
"Oh!" Amy says, and looks at him as though seeing him for the first time. "Rory, you numpty!" The old, beloved insult falls gently from her lips, like a kiss. "No, you've got it all wrong. You wore that costume when you protected me." Restless, she paces across the room, then returns to stand in front of him. "Do you know I dreamt of you?"
"You did? Of me?"
"When I was inside the Pandorica, it was like drifting in and out of sleep. Sometimes I thought I heard you talking to me. A few times it sounded like you were reciting poetry. I couldn't understand the words, but it didn't matter. I heard your voice and I felt safe. I knew that when I woke up, you'd be there. My centurion. My hero. My Rory."
"You only needed guarding because I hurt you," he protests. "I shot you. If the Doctor hadn't-"
She shakes her head, and lays a silencing finger across his lips. "The Doctor saved the Universe, but you saved me. Remember the Cyberman? He was going to get me, but you did your swordy thing and you saved me. And then you guarded me for two thousand years. That's why I wanted you to dress up. So I could make love to my hero."
Amy's smile is as sudden and bright as an exploding sun. It chases the shadows from the dark corners of his soul, and burns away his guilt. Rory raises his right hand, his hand that is now warm flesh, no more dangerous than any other human hand, and caresses Amy's cheek. "And what are you going to dress up as?"
Amy wants to be a Scottish warrior queen. Rory thinks of the statue of Queen Boudicca by Westminster Bridge. The long, flowing gown would look fantastic on Amy. He just hopes she isn't planning to make love in a horse-drawn chariot.
They return to the wardrobe to collect the centurion costume. Amy doesn't look for a gown or a stolla or anything for herself. She marches out of the room, and leads Rory to the library, where she rummages through a mahogany Hepplewhite desk. Triumphantly, she pulls something from one of the drawers. "Got it!"
"My costume, only you need to help me with it." She shoves a blue felt marker into his hand. "Think that'll do as a substitute for woad?"
It makes a splendid substitute. Rory-the-Roman was never stationed in the north, and if he ever saw a Pict, he's forgotten. But he spent decades in a museum surrounded by all kinds of thingummies with patterns on them, and centuries in the foreign places the thingummies came from. And though he's no Vincent van Gogh, he can draw circles, triangles and squiggly lines with the best of them.
When they're playing 'dressing up', foreplay usually means taking off Amy's costume. This time it means just the opposite. Rory crosses the room to where Amy stands, gloriously naked. She doesn't need any ornament to look like a queen, but this is what she's asked for, and he will give it to her.
"O Regina Potentissima!" The iron plates of Rory's lorica segmentata clank as he drops to his knees before his Queen Most-Powerful.
He begins with the instep of her right foot, pressing a kiss against the pale skin, then carefully drawing a blue crescent moon. He shifts his attention to the ankle, kissing the spot before inscribing a small triangle. Slowly he makes his way up the leg, bestowing kisses and 'tattoos' with equal solemnity. As he goes, he softly names each muscle. This is Latin from his real life, words that he learned long before he ever saw an alien or set foot inside the Raggedy Doctor's blue box. Medial malleolus. Tibialis anterior. Gracilis. Near the top of the inner thigh he pauses to breath in the familiar scent of her, sweet and earthy as a sun-warmed garden, before bending down to kiss her left instep.
The arms are next. Unblinking blue eyes appear on the palms of Amy's hands; flowering vines coil around her wrists. A bumblebee perches on one shoulder and a ladybug on the other. Circling behind her, Rory kneels again. His tongue flickers across the sweet curves of Amy's arse, followed by undulating blue lines like the wavelets of the Mediterranean. Gluteus maximus. Gluteus medius.
Amy shivers. "Ooh! Tickles!"
He sprinkles stars across her back - the constellations of a Roman summer sky. Sagittarius appears on the serratus anterior, Aquila the Eagle flies across the latissimus dorsi, and Cygnus the Swan curves gracefully along the trapezius.
Turning Amy around, he covers her face with kisses, but leaves it unmarked. He wants to see her expression when she comes, without any masks to cover or distract. A necklace of azure butterflies circles her neck.
The breasts. . . Rory has to pause to think. Got to be something special. Flowers seem much too obvious. He takes Amy's left nipple into his mouth, swirling his tongue around the aureola. Amy moans, and fists her hands in his hair, but Rory pulls away, gently scraping his teeth against the stiffening peak. By the time he pays proper attention to the second breast, he knows what he wants to do. No cliché daisies or dahlias for his warrior queen. Frowning slightly in concentration, he traces a sunburst on one breast and a swirling galaxy on the other.
"Hurry up and finish, will you?" Amy's voice is raspy with desire. "I can't wait much longer."
He chuckles wickedly. "Almost done, love."
Only the belly is unadorned now. Rory can think of many things that are lovely and magnificent and worthy of his Amy - a falcon, a lioness, a gazelle - but they'd come out looking like a child's stick drawing. He's not an artist, not with pictures or words.
Words! Rory doesn't have to cast his mind back a thousand years; the TARDIS library provided him with a copy of the book just the other day. He begins to write. Vivamus mea Emilia, atque amemus. . .
The TARDIS should translate for Amy, but he supposes that she can't really see the words at that angle. "Tell you in just a mo," he promises. Da mi basia mille, deinde centum,dein mille altera, dein secunda centum. . .
When the last word is completed, he leads her to the bed. "Mighty Queen, there are many advantages to a close relationship with Rome. Allow me to demonstrate some of them."
"Aren't you overdressed for the occasion?" Amy begins to fumble with the buckles and straps of his lorica. Rory reaches up to help her, but she bats his hands away. He stands there obediently while she strips off armour and clothing. When the last of his centurion's kit is piled on the floor, the Pictish warrior queen studies him approvingly. "I see that the soldiers of Rome are very well-equipped."
He grins. "A Roman centurion is trained to have his weapon ready the moment it is needed."
"Oh, it's needed, soldier boy, it's needed. In fact-" Amy pulls him down onto the bed. "-the need is urgent. You might even call it an emergency."
Their love-making is wild and hungry and just a little bit desperate. Rory gasps out the words of the poem in time with his thrusts. "Let us live. . . and love." He's not sure if he's speaking English or Latin or some garbled mix of the two, but he knows Amy will understand. "Give me a thousand kisses, and a hundred more."
In reply, Amy reaches up and pulls his head down, pressing his lips against hers. When she releases his mouth, he continues, "Then. . . 'nother thousand. . . an' a second hundred. . ." He manages a few more lines, but he's running out of breath, and then he can't think, can't manage any language except the wordless language of the body. And that expresses everything he wants to say just now.
Afterwards, they lie in a tangle of sweaty limbs, too pleasantly exhausted to move.
"We should take a shower," Amy mumbles. The felt marker wasn't completely waterproof, and her 'tattoos' are streaked and blurry.
"We should do," Rory agrees. There are smudges of blue on the palms of his hands. "In just a few minutes, okay?"
Amy's only answer is a soft, queenly snore.
She really shouldn't fall asleep like that, Rory thinks. In the morning, she'll. . .
Rory comes slowly back to consciousness. He rolls over, and finds himself staring at a motionless woman with mottled blue skin. My God, she's cyanotic! Training kicks in. Call 999, then begin CPR. He jerks up into a sitting position. Shit! His mobile isn't on the nightstand. As he scans the room, his gaze falls on an iron helmet, half-hidden under a red wool cloak. Nearby is an uncapped blue marker. He curses himself for being a dozen kinds of an idiot, and feels his heart rate slowly return to something resembling normal.
He stands, wincing at the stiffness in his joints, and heads towards the en-suite. The full-length mirror shows him a sight that would either have his colleagues at the hospital grabbing for an oxygen mask - or laughing themselves sick. Enough of the blue marker rubbed off on his skin that he looks freakish. Some of it is on his face, but most of it is on his chest and belly and thighs and- Oh. Gives a whole new meaning to 'blue balls', doesn't it?
Sighing, he rummages through the cupboard of Amy's 'potions, lotions, and notions' until he finds the bottle he wants: Boots Baby Oil. When he started working at the hospital, he picked up some useful tips that were never taught in nursing school, such as how to clean various substances off human skin. There was the time that scrawny git Alfie Wilson saw something on the telly about beetroot juice being good for muscles. Unfortunately, he missed the bit about drinking the stuff, and rubbed it all over his body. The reaction almost got him killed - not an allergic reaction, but his mum's reaction when she saw the bright purple splotches all over her expensive new bath towels.
Twenty minutes later, Rory wanders back into the bedroom: clean, shaven, and with an appropriate skin colour for a healthy member of his species. "Good morning, Amy-my-love!"
Amy-his-love blinks up at him and scowls. "I don't know what I was thinking when I married a morning person."
He smiles at her. "You were thinking that I was the sexiest man in Leadworth and you couldn't possibly do without me."
"I suppose you may have a point," she concedes. "Rory?"
"Mmmm?" He peers into his sock drawer. How is it that he can travel through time and space, fight aliens, and help save the universe, but not find a pair of matching socks?
"Are we. . . okay?"
"Of course we are," he replies, pulling out two socks that look like they may match. "In fact, we're bloody magnificent."
"Rory. . ." There's a note of uncertainty in her voice that has him dropping the socks on the floor and turning to face her.
His heart sinks. "I thought we cleared that up last night," he says calmly.
She shrugs. Only two blurry spots show where a bumblebee and a ladybug rode on her graceful shoulders. "We didn't do much talking."
"We did all the talking we needed to do."
He finds himself wishing for eloquent words and grand gestures, but they've done those already. "Yeah, I'm sure."
She studies his face for an endless moment, then gives him one of those dazzling smiles that are so uniquely Amy. "Come back to bed, sexy morning person." She grasps his wrists and tugs insistently. "I need you."
Rory braces himself against her pull. "What you need right now, my bonny blue lass, is a shower."
She pouts oh-so-prettily. "Sex now. Shower later."
He leans forward, and sees the glint of triumph in her eyes. It promptly turns to alarm as he slips his hands free of her grasp and scoops her up from the bed.
"Rory! What are you doing? Put me down! Rory!"
He drapes her over his left shoulder in a fireman's carry, and heads for the en suite. "It's called a compromise," he informs her. "Sex and shower."
To the counterpoint of her shrieks and laughter, he whistles the tune of the naughtiest song he knows - the one about the Legionary who disguised himself as a Vestal Virgin - and carries his wife into the shower.
They lie contentedly between clean sheets and feed each other bites of Frevissian spice cake.
"You were right," Amy says.
"Of course I was," Rory replies promptly. "Err. . . what was I right about?"
"Us. We're bloody magnificent."
And so they are.
- THE END -
If you think you recognize the garden from another of my fics, you're right. It is based on the Astor Court Garden, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It is a lovely and restful place to be.
Rory quotes some lines from Poem #5 by Catullus, though he substitutes 'Emilia' (a Latinized version of Amy's name) for 'Lesbia'.