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“She’s going to be alright.”
“When?” Rory didn’t care how angry he sounded.
“Soon, really soon. The nanogenes have just about removed all the plastic and metal shards, and we’ve got nutrients into her along with the neobiotics. We’ve already beaten one infection and we’re well on the way to beating the other— what?”
“I don’t believe you.”
The Doctor had been hovering above the silvery medi-capsule into which they’d placed Amy 12 interminable hours earlier, staring at readouts even as he tried to soothe his other companion. Now he pirouetted toward Rory, but stopped when he looked at the younger man’s face.
“You haven’t moved from her side since we got her in here. If you were really sure of anything, you’d be elsewhere. And you’d have told me to get some rest. Neither of which you’ve done.” Rory’s voice was flat.
The Doctor pursed his lips, then said slowly, “I told you it would be difficult. But she’s getting better.”
Rory threw up both hands, disputing the Time Lord with the convulsive motion. “Don’t. Just … don’t say it again. You’ve said it again and again, and she’s still not moving.”
Around them the TARDIS hummed, but something was off-key about the sound. It had been off-key since he and the Doctor had carried Amy inside. She knew, Rory thought; the TARDIS knew how close one of her charges was to dying.
Rory had known Amy’s injuries were serious by the drawn look on the Doctor’s face in the moments after they’d found her among all the other injured and the dying at the Nestorian field hospital. After his own quick once-over — once a nurse, always a nurse — he’d had to work very hard to tamp down on panic. His unconscious wife was burning and hallucinatory with fever that Nestorian antibiotics couldn’t touch.
The Doctor had quickly determined why. The medics had done their best to remove the poisoned shards of the anti-personnel explosive Amy had tried fruitlessly to throw back out the window of the orphanage before it exploded. But they couldn’t get all of the slivers out, not under the desperate conditions in which they operated. And what the medics wearily called an Eedee was built to deliver death multiple ways, both incendiary and chemical. On Amy, an alien with absolutely no protection from Nestorian bugs and weakened by going without food for close to an Earth-standard week, every toxin-coated shard went to town.
And now here they were, Rory thought, standing uselessly around what passed for her bed, listening to the countless whirrs and beeps that marked her every laboring breath, measured each passing journey of blood through her frail body, hoping that everything the Doctor had done up to now would result in the miracle they both wanted.
He’d been leaning against a wall, trying for one of the walking cat-naps he used to take on busy night shifts, but now he stalked back toward where the Doctor stood.
He caught a glimpse of his reflection in one of the mirrored operating shields separating him from Amy. His face still bore traces of blood from the last battle; he hadn’t spared a moment away from her side to clean himself up. His eyes were shadowed, the skin around them as thin and tight as his mouth. For the past few hours, he’d kept that mouth shut tight against the hot recriminations boiling up inside him.
But now he was too tired to hold back.
“Why did you let her go?”
The Doctor looked stricken. “ I … I —”
“She would have listened to you. She always listens to you, you know. Not me, you,” Rory continued, bitter as gall.
“That’s not true, Rory, I told her she couldn’t — I mean, I told her the rebels could find their way to the hostages without her.”
“Oh, yeah sure, right, you told her that. You saw how well she listened. That kind of thing she could always ignore, even from you, and you know it. You knew it. You didn’t tell her ‘No.’” Rory leaned in closer to the alien. “You. Didn’t. Say. No.” He hissed each word, accompanied every syllable with a finger shoved, hard, into the Doctor’s narrow chest. The other man fell back, yielding each backward step without protest.
“Every time we walk out of the TARDIS, you put us in danger. You put her in danger. And this is the end of it.
“You fix her, Doctor,” Rory continued, savagely emphasizing the title. “And then when she’s better, you take us home. Home, to Leadworth. Or London. Anyplace on Earth. Just so it’s not where you are.
“And then leave us alone.”
And with that, unexpectedly, all of his anger evaporated. He felt tired and dirty, empty and very, very sad. “I’m going to shower. I’ll be back.”
The Doctor hadn’t moved. His face was stone, white and set. But something moved in the depths of those deep-set eyes of his. As Rory turned to leave, the Doctor’s hand shot out and grabbed Rory’s wrist. Rory made to pull away, but the Doctor wouldn’t let go. The grip was like iron and when Rory looked at the Doctor’s face, he flinched at what he saw there, implacable and furious and agonized.
“No you don’t, Rory Williams,” he said, very, very softly. “You’re going to listen to me.”
And to Rory’s exhausted surprise, the Doctor drew him into an embrace, loosening his grip on the younger man’s wrist and encircling Rory’s shoulders, one of his hands drawing Rory’s head down to his own tweedy shoulder. In the moment before his face was buried in the Doctor’s jacket, Rory saw the rage and the sorrow in the Time Lord’s red-rimmed eyes.
“Do you think I haven’t gone over every possible way I could have prevented this? Do you imagine that I haven’t regretted doing something, anything to have kept Amy safe? Up to and including putting something in her drink, knocking her out, and enduring her anger afterward?
“There is nothing I could have done to stop her. She was gone before I realized it,” he said. “Rory, I admit it. was a fool; I thought she had agreed with me, and so I went with Darrick to the map room and when I came back, she’d disappeared, headed out with the scouts. Had I been 45 seconds faster, I could have—” Rory felt the Doctor’s throat move convulsively against his cheek. “— but I wasn’t 45 seconds faster because that’s how this timeline went.” Now Rory felt the Doctor’s chest heave; he thought he could feel the double stutter of two hearts under the jacket and shirt.
“Doctor —” Rory tried to think of something to say, abruptly aware that he needed to apologize, but he didn’t get the chance. The Doctor pulled away briefly, holding Rory at arms length and making it impossible for Rory to ignore his tears.
“You think you’re the only one who loves her, Rory? Are you such a fool? I never thought you were that stupid,” the Doctor said, his voice catching. “ I’ve known her since she was a child — as long as you have. You’ve loved her longer, but not more. Not more.”
Rory swallowed. “ I’m sorry.”
To his surprise, the Doctor shook his head and looked even more anguished. “No. You’re right. I put you in danger. Both of you. Perhaps you’re right; I should say goodbye before I get you killed. I couldn’t bear it.” He pulled Rory to him again and whispered. “Not her … and not you, Rory Williams Pond. You are precious to me, too … very precious.”
“Wha — huh?” Oh, that sounds intelligent Rory thought, unable to process what he’d heard in the Doctor’s voice.
“You, Rory, are kind, and gentle, and moral, and practical, and the voice of reason when Amy and I need someone to keep us in check,” the Doctor said, his lips to Rory’s ear. “You hold your anger and your frustration in when we’re idiots, you take care of us. In fact there are sometimes that you come along on adventures, I am convinced, solely to keep us safe. You care about the people around you …”
He hesitated, and finally released Rory. “Sometimes … sometimes I think you even care for me, maybe just a little.” His eyes looked very large in his face as he said it. Then he shivered and continued in a different tone. “So stay with me just a little longer. You and me, we’ll see her through. And then … I’ll take you home.”
Rory blinked rapidly, and tears he hadn’t noticed ran down his cheeks. He really was the idiot that the Doctor somehow believed he wasn’t, he thought, aware that that made no sense, but not sure how to make sense at the moment. He was willing to bang himself over the head for having forgotten how much the Time Lord loved Amy, but the thought that he cared for him … Rory shook his head, trying to get all his scrambled thoughts back in order.
It wasn’t his brain but his heart that finally connected various dots. Well, hell. I think I love the alien bastard. What do I do now?
Rory thought about Amy, about how she managed to keep both of her boys inside her crazy heart. Surely he could manage to do the same?
“Uh … no. You don’t need to do that. Take us home, I mean,” he finally managed. He gingerly reached out and touched the Doctor’s face, glad when the Doctor didn’t flinch away, indeed leaned into his hand. “I think this is home. At least for a while. Amy won’t want to go.
“And neither do I.”
The Doctor let out a long, shaky breath. “Thank you.”
“Finally. Thought I’d have to spell it out for the two of you.”
Rory and the Doctor both jumped when they heard Amy speak, her voice weak and thready, but definitely hers.
“Amy!” They chorused her name, then turned and made their eager way back to her.
“Yeah … can the two of you get me out of this contraption? I’d like someone to hug me, too,” she said, her voice rusty.
“No way, Amy; you’re nowhere near well,” Rory said, his smile threatening to split his face. “Right, Doctor?”
“Listen to the nurse, Pond,” the Doctor agreed happily. “But don’t you worry; we’re going to get you well.”
“And then you’ll let me join you?”
“You’re persistent, Pond.” The Doctor was good at side-stepping things, but Rory found that he didn’t want the Doctor to side-step this one.
“We’re just waiting for you,” he said, not at all worried about how that sounded. “We’re your boys, aren’t we?”
“And each others’?”
Rory couldn’t trust his voice, so he just nodded.
“Good …” Amy sighed and shut her eyes, still too weary and ill to avoid sleep for long.
“Good,” Rory repeated softly.
The Doctor nodded. “Very, very good.”
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