Rory breathed heavily, loping along the corridors, chasing as he had always chased after that dazzling, wonderful redhead. Some sort of gizmo the Doctor had given her clasped safely in her hands, Amy far outpaced him. She only glanced back to shout, "Hurry! We're close!"
He didn't answer. It would do no good to protest or ask her for clarification, so he merely concentrated his energy on keeping up with her. Suddenly, she stopped. Wary of any Glurs-people coming after them, he twisted around and bounced nervously on his feet, dreading the sight of one of their furry persuers coming around the corner.
Amy typed in a code, muttering to herself. "5…squiggly thing…diamond…curly mark with tail…8…B…R…period…yes!" She cried in elation as the door hissed open, startling Rory. They both ran in, breathless.
A calm, quiet, yet rapid voice greeted them. "Ah, there you two are. Sorry, you're later. Turns out their code box wasn't really a code box at all…more like a giant computer. Made of plastic, of all things."
"So you didn't need us at all?" Amy sounded both dissapointed and teasing as she rounded on the Doctor for an explanation.
"Well, I never really need you…actually, I do need you a lot but just not at this point in…time."
Amy frowned. "Oh, that's just beautiful, coming from you! I suppose you didn't need us in the Pandorica either?"
"Yes, well, I had that in control from the future."
"Only cause Rory let you out in the past."
"But he wouldn't have let me out if I hadn't have told him."
"But you couldn't have told him if he hadn't have let you out."
"But if he had let me out…" The Doctor trailed off and concentrated fiercely on her. "You're trying to confuse me, Amy Pond."
"Not hard." She grinned at him triumphantly.
Rory wasn't really listening. He walked forward, his sneakers scuffing the floor gently as he approached the burning lump of plastic, with its wires still sticking out and sparking. He felt a little ill as it still seeped out across the floor, cooling rapidly. It shouldn't be like this…he shouldn't be like this.
He reached forward with his long, gentle nurse's hands. Just one touch…
"Hey, nunky!" Amy grabbed his hand and yanked it away. "You know that's hot, yeah?"
Rory tore his eyes away with difficulty. "Yeah."
The Doctor ignored them both, raising a finger as a clattering echoed into the room. "Right, let's get out of here."
Amy was ready. She jogged after him, stumbling a little over metal parts on the ground. "Where to?"
"Ask me when we get there!" The Doctor hollered. Rory raced after the pair, casting one more reluctant glance at the dead pile of melted plastic.
Amy pursed her lip in a pout, looking at the fallen trapdoor. "That was just a few seconds too close, Doctor."
He grinned. "Yeah, well, a little more leeway than usual, yes." Before whipping out his sonic screwdriver and scanning the sealance. "Works perfectly. No more invasive seaweed coming into this aquamarine base."
"Why do monsters always pick the toy room?" Amy bent down and grabbed something that was pinned beneath the door. She tugged hard and it came away with a pop. "Oh-oh…looks like we got one casualty." And waved the headless Barbie doll around.
Something inside Rory flipped sickeningly. He didn't say anything, but felt his face going pale and drawn. Amy laughed at the Doctor's eye rolling and held it towards Rory. He saw the headless plastic doll.
"Stop it." He snapped, wheeling around.
Amy raised her eyebrows. Rory never snapped, especially not at her. "What?"
"I said stop it…put it away somewhere."
Amy's tone was one of incredulous surprise. "Rory…it's just a doll."
"No." The Doctor interposed, suprising them both. "No it's not. Is it, Rory?"
He closed his eyes and swallowed, knowing his legs would start shaking if he let his mind dwell on it. He forced the sick feeling away. "Actually…yeah, its nothing. I'm just tense." He turned and gave Amy a shaky smile.
Appeased but still annoyed, she tossed the doll away and walked by him. He watched it fall to the ground where it landed with a clatter that sounded ten times louder than it really was. The sound echoed in his mind.
He looked up to see the Doctor's eyes gazing intently at him, searching for a secret. He hated that look because it broke through his privacy, searching his soul without asking. Which was funny, because he had never hated it before. Maybe he had never had anything to hide before.
He turned abruptly and followed Amy, watching her red hair bounce away down the corridors.
"Welcome to the Arkel Extra-Terrestrial Museum." The female voice vibrated from the speakers. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory, pushed through the crowd of humanoids. The Arkelians were only distinguishable from human beings by the position of their internal structure.
"A very old and very wise people, the Arkelians." The Doctor smiled winningly at a woman as she passed by. Amy laced her fingers in Rory's and pulled him over to an exhibit. They both were amazed at what they saw and bent in closer to watch the constantly rolling, bumpy, rainbow shining balls that whirled around faster and faster, than slower again inside a circular tube.
The Doctor peered disinterestedly at it and then turned to study an open holograph.
"Snob." Rory gestured at him. Amy burst out laughing. Several people shushed her and she made an apologetic face that really said, whoops-oh-well.
Something itched behind his ear. Rory scratched. It was when he did that that he realized it wasn't really itchy at all. It was a sound…a feeling. He turned around slowly. The constant flow of people seemed to part, revealing a tall, triangular structure. He went towards it.
Whirring…snap…low voice droning, "unsatisfactory" and "discard" and "program"…
He put out both palms and pressed them flat against the plastic surface.
Nothing. There's a human leaning on him from outside, but that's not important. He's trying to get back inside. But there is no response. Could he be mistaken? He needs to rejoin himself…become one with himself. He's disjointed, he's separated, he's…
He's Rory Williams.
The thought comes as suddenly as he opens his eyes, backing away from the thing with a breathless cry. His heart's racing, but he's not breathing. He hasn't been for who knows how long. He falls flat on his rear, sucking in air, panting. A lady shrieks.
Next minute, warm red hair is cascading before his vision as Amy pulls his face to her, her eyes sparking with worry. "Rory, Rory what is it…what's wrong?"
The Doctor's features, blurry but distinct, appears above him in the sea of faces. Rory points…doesn't even need to look to make sure he's pointing correctly. "Doctor…that…it's Nestene plastic."
The Doctor was gone in an instant.
Once Rory's body calmed down, he and Amy watched as the Doctor explained the danger to the museum staff and instructed them on how to properly dispose of it. Then, the three of them returned to the T.A.R.D.I.S.
As the Doctor wacked the Console about, dictating to Amy his account of today's adventures, Rory peered at his reflection in the shiny surface of the Console.
He had been…hadn't he? He wasn't supposed to dream, or eat, or breathe. He shouldn't be able to. He reached up with his fingers to sweep it gently across his cheek. No familiar spark of electronics, no warm plastic, bending from his touch. That was real moisture.
Amy saw him. The Doctor looked at exactly the same time; Rory was oblivious, feeling his cheek, trying in his mind to distinguish reality from dream.
"Rory." Amy's voice. Rory jumped, dropping his hand. "Rory, how'd you know that was Nestene plastic?"
"He felt it." The Doctor answered for Rory, whose eyes jumped to meet his, staring at each other for a few seconds.
Rory looked at Amy, wondering what she'd think. "Yeah, I felt it."
"Rory, I think you'd better tell us now, before it gets much worse," the Doctor said pointedly. Amy gave Rory a quizical look.
Rory stared at the Console.
Beep beep…pop…hissing steam…engine rumble…
Again, the Doctor spoke for him, softly. "When you shot Amy, you found out for the first time, all of a sudden, that you were nothing but an Auton duplicate. You were plastic for two thousand years, all alone, with nothing to think about except what you remembered. What did you remember, Rory?"
Whirring…steam hissing…hot…so hot…
Finally, his dark eyes never leaving the Console reflection of himself, that dream of another life began. What did he remember? "Being born."
He's so utterly cold. It's dark. Wasn't he standing on that hill with Amy? Isn't he supposed to live? He loves her…she's so beautiful! The pain in his chest is fading, and so is he.
And its over.
Next instant, he's alive. He can't see, he's got no heartbeat. No breath. He should be dead. But he can feel.
He's very, very hot. There's a million voices chattering around him. He's in constant motion, with part of him here, part of him there, some in another vat, more over there. It should be utterly disconcerting, but its not. Its familiar. He likes the feeling; he's one with them, inseparable,
Something whirrs out loud. Next moment, he's imprisoned. He wants to go back, back to the voices…he doesn't ever want to be lonely again. He wants to go back. But he's being poured, poured out, separated from them.
He's poured into a mold. He can feel himself being riddled with complex circuitry, feel himself cooling, hardening. Suddenly, he gasps. A hole where his mouth should be gapes and trembles. Air is forced in as two gears push where his chest is, making it go up and down. More circuits.
Limbs. Metal rods click as they pull up and down and sideways, testing for weaknesses. Hairs are stuck in evenly over his scalp. Even that little fuzz over his upper lip. He feels so warm yet so cold as he forms.
There's a constant whirring, whirring in the air. His form keeps getting turned around and around as the machine works on all the layers, all the details.
Suddenly, his eyes…or something…open. A pointed tool pokes in the minute he can see, scraping leftover plastic off his lenses. He can't blink. He wants to, but he can't. Now he can see. The roof is covered with metal arms that have drills, clamps, lasers, and hooks at the end, and they're all jabbing at him, moving him, poking him. He wants to scream, but his computer brain can't register fear yet. He can only watch in mute horror.
Suddenly, his arm…it looks like his arm, minus the fingers…is seized by a clamp. It twists sharply, and his arm pops right off. No pain, it's just gone. He feels sick.
"Unsatisfactory." A robotic voice drones out. "Discard."
And his arm is dropped into a vat of heated plastic. More plastic, boiling hot, pours into his mold, reforming his arm. Suddenly, gigantic metal arms and hooks lift him entirely out of the mold. He's so light…he shouldn't be. He's helpless and weak and alone, suspended a dozen feet in the air.
Then, just like that, the arms drop him. He falls, hitting something with a splash. Water rushes down his ear canals, bubbling and cold. It invades his mouth, his nostrils, his eyes. He's completely immeresed, while a sound, like a giant heartbeat, echoes through his body and through the water. He panics. Although the water can't get past the plastic barriers that protect his mechanics, he remembers being human. He should be drowning. He wants to swim up and out and into the free air, to run. But he can't move.
The arms push in swiftly, rolling waves of water over him as they hook him out and drop him suddenly on a table. Swift, strong air, like a hurricane, quick-dries him. And suddenly, with a fuzzy feeling in his chest, they switch on his mechanics to test their feasibility.
He can feel everything. Heat, cold, pain, nausea, terror, loneliness, Amy…where's Amy…he wants someone, anyone, to touch him, talk with him, tell him he's alive. He would cry if even the Doctor showed up. He cries, as moisture condensers trickle water from behind his vision lenses. Limbs twitch as his own commands almost override the computer's. He can scream. And he does. Vocal hardware in his neck clicks and pitches out the most human sounding, blood-curdling scream. It's not his scream. But it's so sudden and so near that he scares himself. Amy…Amy…
"Program." Again, mercifully, the voice drones out. Rory goes numb; they must have switched it off. It's so strange…he can hear every crackle of wiring inside himself, working to move every square centimeter of his plastic body.
Something hisses as a needle plunges through his head into the core computer. He goes black, with just green numbers streaming across his vision. Then, nothing…
"The minute…" Rory felt his voice break, and caught it. "The minute the orders came through and I heard the falty signal burning through my wires, I remembered it all. Then…I was with the Pandorica…then the Big Bang, and I was Rory again. Those memories became like…like a door in my head. I didn't want to open it, but I had to, sometimes. And I remember…remembered again." He closed his eyes, embarrassed, pale. Amy was there immediately. She put a gentle hand on his arm. "That's…oh, Rory."
Rory opened his eyes and looked at her, instantly tender. "No, really, I'm fine now."
"No you're not, Rory Williams." The Doctor pushed a lever, not looking at them. "And the question is, why?" He went around the Console, tapping it as he thought aloud. "The Nestene are alive. They just use robotic plastic bodies. Usually they just use plastic, but they needed fine machinery to make a good copy. Ok, remember Rory, you said you were with the Nestene; your mindset was with them in the plastic. Right, good, and you remember feeling them. So you felt them in the museum too. You still feel attracted to them. 'S only natural, brothers in plastic…" Amy glared at him, "no, forget it. But that means their psychic communication is still open with you. The solution is simple: I fix it."
"How?" Rory asked suspiciously.
The Doctor came up to them both, serious and intent. "I block the link and wipe it away. Quickly, no fuss."
"Wh-what do you mean?"
"He gets inside your head." Amy looked less happy about it than Rory did. "Messes about."
"I do not 'Mess about' Pond. I fix things."
"Does it hurt?" Rory asked worriedly.
"Not if you don't try something stupid."
"Better not do it then." Amy couldn't help adding.
"Amy!" Both men scolded. She made a face and grinned.
The Doctor flexed his fingers and reached out. Rory lifted both his hands to stop him. "See? Trying something stupid already." The Doctor sighed.
"Isn't this like what Spock does? Sounds a bit...dense."
"Mind meld? I think the name's much too hard-core, but physical touch near the nerve-sensitive fingers and brain really do enhance connection. Let's just call it telepathy."
Rory lowerd his hands and huffed, looking at the ground. He glanced up again, reluctant, his face only inches from the Doctor's. "You'll do it quick? You won't go snooping or look around?"
"I promise." The Doctor met his gaze squarely. "I won't go snooping."
"Or looking around?"
The Doctor had to smile at his cautious companion. "Rory." He said in a warning tone.
"Ok, go ahead." Rory closed his eyes tightly, as if expecting a needle injection. The minute the Doctor's hands touched his face, however, the eyes snapped open and his face went blank.
A few minutes.
The Doctor took a shuddering breath and pulled his hands away. Rory blinked rapidly. "Well?" Amy bounced beside them.
"It's over? What happened?" Rory looked unsure as he swayed a little on his feet.
"I was just asking you that, stupid!" She gave him an affectionate shoulder push, nearly flooring him.
"Diplomatic relations between Mr. Rory Williams and the Nestene Consciousness are officially cut off. They have to use the phone now, like everyone else." The Doctor sidestepped behind the Console as Amy and Rory kissed in elation.
The Doctor had promised, and he had kept his promise. The only thing he was ashamed of was how close he'd come to breaking it. He knew the shining, brilliant mind of Amy very well, understood her, sympathized with her. She was the girl who waited for her Raggedy Doctor. She was fantastic, beautiful, and absolutely, wonderfully mad. She was Amelia Pond.
But the mind of Rory Williams was a different matter entirely. At first, the Doctor had been so sure he would be another Mickey. (not that Mickey had been a bad chap, just…Mickey.) He wouldn't shine. The Doctor knew he was being unfair, but he had always tried to get companions who shone, brilliantly. And fiery haired Amy certainly fit the category.
But Rory shone, too. In his own way, in a way the Doctor had never felt the need to understand until now. Rory was funny, he was gorgeous, he was fantastic, and he was loyal. Rory was the kind of guy who could have only one love and wait for her forever. Rory read up on scientific theories and got closer to understanding the TARDIS than even Amy, who merely accepted it as a magical box. Rory was the one who shook in his shoes at the sight of giant eyes and elderly people with aliens in their mouths, yet stabbed Cybermen, fought Vampires, and shot Daleks to their faces when Amy was threatened.
What other secrets did Rory hold? Desperate to find out, nearly sick with curiosity, seeing all the answers lying out before him, shining bright. He nearly looked, nearly touched. But he had promised.
So he let Rory keep his secrets; let him remain the Dark Horse of the TARDIS. Rory would show him his secrets in time, making a wonderful surprise for them all every day. The Doctor would respect him, and wait.
After all, Rory waited two thousand years. The Doctor could at least wait fifty.