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exploding TARDIS

Summary: Amy finds out that she is not the only one who has been keeping secrets.

Author's note: This is another memory themed h/c fic.  There isn't much action, really just bit of conversation.  I'm not sure if it works as canon, but it's an idea that wouldn't let me alone.  It's a one shot, all finished.  I hope you enjoy.

Characters: Amy, Rory and the 11th Doctor

Rating: K (nothing too offensive here today...)

"Doctor. Can I ask you something?"

The noise from under the floor was probably something in the affirmative. It may also been a muffled yelp as two of the thick cables arced and showered sparks everywhere. Amy decided that it was as close to a 'yes' as she was going to get.

"How do the translation circuits in the TARDIS work? Say, for example, when an alien comes into the TARDIS and starts speaking German. Do the circuits translate the same as they do when we're outside? Would I still hear English?"

There was a crash and another shower of sparks. Then the Doctor poked his head above the floor so that he could see Amy. Or he would have been able to see her if his goggles were not coated in oil and soot. The sonic screwdriver was clamped in his mouth, so the first time he tried to speak it sounded like "Yuuahhhh eaurrrraagg iisssss."

She scowled at him.

He removed the screwdriver and tried again. "Not many aliens speak German."

"It was just an example. It could be any language. What about Russian, or Martian or Latin."

"Ah-ha," he said. He clambered onto the glass floor in a tangle of arms, legs and cables. Once he straightened himself out, he sat in front of her chair with his legs crossed. He did not take off the goggles, but made an attempt to wipe off the worst of the grime with his sleeve. She could see his eyes through the smudges.

"What does 'Ah-ha' mean?" Amy asked.

"It's a noise of exclamation. In this case it means, 'Oh, what an interesting question.' Unfortunately it's not the answer to the question that is interesting. Terribly boring, I'm afraid. But the exclamatory noise is because there is a reason you are asking now and not, say, yesterday, or two weeks in the future. Why do you want to know?"

"Just interested, I guess," Amy lied. "And you haven't answered yet."

"Well then, Pond. I'll make you a deal. I'll answer your question, then you'll answer mine." But the goggles magnified a twinkle in his eye that suggested he had already guessed the reason for Amy's interest.

She hesitated. She had timed her question deliberately, knowing that her chances of getting a straight answer were higher if he was trying not to set his hair on fire again. She should have known better. Now that he was curious he would never let it rest. "All right. Deal."

"Okay. There are two answers. The short one is yes. The TARDIS can translate any language. After all, language is just a means to convert brain waves into a form that another individual can understand. The speaker has a thought and then converts it into sound, or gestures, or pheromones depending on the species. The recipient has to translate the message again using the same conversion factor, therefore turning it back into brain waves again. It's like..." he grasped for a suitable analogy. "Well, it's like a telephone. And the TARDIS is like the handset in the person's hand turning all those electrical impulses into sound again. Actually, no it's nothing like that. Forget that."

He paused for a moment before continuing. "The TARDIS skips the last step in receptive language. She senses the conversion factor that the speaker is using, then applies the same interpretation into the recipient's head. So, in effect, they understand the original brain waves. Simple really, although in practice a lot more complex and beautiful. The psychic paper is another function of the same template. So the translation circuits are not really about language at all, but brain waves. And humans have comparatively simple brain waves, so she is more than up to the demands of Russian, German and Latin. The tenses in Modern Martian are a bit of a sticking point, but the Modern Martians find it as much of a problem as anyone, although they would never admit it. But none of that really matters so long as the psychic link between me and the TARDIS remains active. And they should function on-board and anywhere we go."

Amy felt more confused than she had been before. With some trepidation, she said, "And what's the long answer?"

"Sometimes she doesn't want to."

"That's it? It's a lot shorter than the short answer. And I still don't understand."

"Well, the TARDIS is not a supercomputer running mindless calculations. She has a soul of her own and that means she has some free will. Actually, make that a lot of free will. And that means that sometimes she just decides not to translate. I've tried to understand it, but it's probably a bit of whim thing."

She knew that was the best answer she was going to get, so she jumped off the seat. With a bit of luck, he would go back to tinkering with the TARDIS controls again and leave it at that. She clapped her hands together in a brisk business-like manner. "Okay then. That's what I needed to know. Thanks. I'll get out of your hair as you're obviously busy with repairs or something. Maybe go to the library for a bit. Or play a game of squash. Or..."

"We had a deal, Amelia Pond."

"But you hardly answered my question. In effect you are saying yes, she can translate everything, but sometimes she doesn't. That isn't a great help. So, I'll just go off somewhere and consider..."

He took off the goggles. It should not have been possible for him to look so earnest with a soot-covered face and a white gap where the goggles had been. His hair was even more experimental than normal with the dust and electric shocks. But his expression was very serious and his voice was low. "Why did you ask about Latin, Amy?"

"I didn't. I asked about German. And Russian. And Martian. I didn't even realise that was a language."

"You asked about Latin, though."

She sat back in the chair again and admitted defeat. It was not fair when your best friend was nine hundred years old and could read your soul like a book. "It's Rory," she said. "It's probably nothing, and I wasn't going to bother you. In his sleep sometimes he... you know... talks. He's always done it, even when he was a kid. I've kind of got used to it, but since the wedding it's different. It doesn't always sound like English any more. Sometimes it sounds like Latin, sometimes a really weird sounding German. I just thought that the TARDIS should have translated it."


"I thought it might have been because of the Pandorica and the Roman Centurion thing, but he said it was just sleep talking. He said he could hardly remember it anyway, and that it was a different person, so it didn't matter that he had forgotten. But..."

The Doctor waited for her to continue.

"But if he doesn't remember, why does it sound like Latin when he's sleeping?"

"Hmmm. Why indeed? So, do you want to know what he's saying, or were you just enquiring generally?"

"It doesn't matter what he's saying. I'm not even sure it is Latin. That's why I was asking. It could be one of those mumbled pretend words that just sound like they're real."

"Oh, I think you can be pretty sure it's Latin. He was a Roman Centurion for two thousand years, and that's bound to leave an imprint. Even if he says he can't remember."

"But it was someone else. A plastic duplicate."

"Amy. You saw him. You talked to him. Tell me that wasn't Rory."

She did not answer.

"So, that leaves another point. Is it a bad thing that your husband is speaking in a long dead language in his sleep?" He leaned forward onto his knees. "How does it make you feel? The human instinct is normally very sound in these things. Any good, bad, scared feelings?"

"Not scared, no. Just a bit sad. This is going to sound really stupid. I've known Rory since I was six. He showed up at my door with his mum collecting for Christian Aid about two days after we moved into Leadworth. He was a scrappy creature hiding behind her legs with the hugest nose and ears I'd ever seen. He looked so ridiculous, and I remember thinking that England was going to be rubbish if all the boys were like that. I've known him forever, Doctor. But now there is a whole other life that he says he can't remember. And I don't know if I believe him."

"Are you angry?"

"Not really. How can be angry at him? I just wish he told me more..."

With impeccable timing, Rory asked, "More what?" He was standing at the stairs carrying the armful of cables that the Doctor had sent him for an hour ago.

Amy glared at the Doctor. Please do not say anything, she thought.

"More cables, Rory," the Doctor said. "I wish you had brought more cables."

Rory looked at the dozen cables slung over his arm. "More? I took all of the ones I could find."

There was something unusual about the way they were talking, Amy realised. She could not tell what was wrong, but there was definitely something different.

"Well, I think we need more, Rory. Lots more cables. And a different colour. Those yellow ones are fine for a little cable upgrade, but this is going to be a major cable reworking. Massive. Quite the most enormous cable upgrade that it is possible to do. And for that I am going to need maroon cables. Definitely maroon ones."

"I didn't see any maroon ones. There were only yellow ones in the stores, and the TARDIS had me looking around twenty different cupboards before I even found these."

"Okay. That will just have to do then, won't it. Leave them. On second thoughts, give them here. Leaving them on the ground would be a health and safety hazard. Someone is bound to trip over them. Give them to me." The Doctor took the cables out of Rory's arms, but instead of putting them away, he dropped them over his shoulder with a crash. He did not even look at where they dropped, but instead stared at Rory's face so closely that his eyes were almost crossed. Rory looked taken aback.

"Although, more important than the colour of the cables are your linguistic talents. When did you learn to talk Latin?"

"Umm. I didn't," Rory said slowly.

"No. You did. And you are now. You are using an excellent conversational Latin that died out about seventeen hundred years before you were born. It's a bit colloquial for me, and you do use lots of Germanic slang, but it's definitely Latin. With a Byzantine accent if I'm not mistaken."

Rory had gone very pale. He stepped further away from the Doctor. "I don't understand what you're saying."

"You shouldn't. That is rather the point. The TARDIS isn't translating for you, but she's working hard for Amy, who obviously doesn't understand Latin. Aren't you a clever multi-tasker?" He patted the console fondly. "But this does beg the question; where and when did you learn it?"

Rory glanced at Amy. He looked like he would rather the ground swallowed him up than have to answer. When he finally spoke, it was very quietly. "Where do you think I learned it?"

"Roman Britain." The Doctor circled Rory, talking excitedly. "From the original speakers, when you were a Centurion. Do you see, Amy? There was no TARDIS and no translations circuits in Roman Britain, so Rory had to learn it the hard way. One word at a time. But I guess you had time on your side, didn't you. How many other languages did you have to learn? And are they still all in there?"

"I have no idea."

"Rory," Amy said in a low voice. She had leaned forward on her her seat and folded her arms. And she was glaring at him. Anyone who knew her would recognise the expression as a warning . Her primary one teacher had called it 'the rage'. Her mother called it the tirrivee, and everyone else just knew it was a sign to lock the doors. When Rory saw it as a child he used to stuff his fingers in his ears. He looked like he thought this might be a good idea even now; he was not used to being on the receiving end. He tried to catch the Doctor's eye in mute appeal as he took a nervous step backwards. The Doctor shrugged and pretended to be very interested in the floor.

"You never told me. You said you couldn't remember."

"I... I was going to. I tried, but..."

She stood up and strode right into Rory's personal space. With her index finger she prodded him in the chest. "You... never... told... me..."

"I meant..."

"Why did you not tell me?"

"I tried to..."

"How much do you remember?

"Umm, sometimes, most of it... maybe..."

"You remember it all, don't you?" Her voice was getting louder.

"Not all the time, but sort of..."

"Did you tell him?" She gestured at the Doctor.

"I... well..."

"You have, haven't you. You didn't tell me, but you told him!" Now she focused on the Doctor. He darted around the other side of the controls, as if that could protect him. "You are just as bad. You should have told me too."

"I..." The Doctor started to say.

"Shut up. Don't say anything else. Don't even say it." Then she faced Rory again, and said quietly. "You should have told me."

Just as softly, Rory said, "Yeah. I should have."

The Doctor seemed to gather his courage again. He came back to stand beside them and put a hand on Rory and Amy's shoulders. "So. That's good. We're agreed that marriage and secrets don't mix, haven't we? From now on you'll both tell each other important things and not include me as some sort of weird secret-keeper? I'd really appreciate it."

Amy was going to say something, then stopped as she realised what the Doctor's cryptic statement meant. He was reminding Amy of her own secret, the one that Rory should have been throwing in her face right now. She should have told him that she thought she was pregnant.

She put her arms over his shoulders and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.

"So, we're good? Back to normal?" Rory said hopefully. "I'll go and find more cables and pretend I never interrupted. You and Amy could just carry on and forget that I even came in?"

He made to turn around and leave, but the Doctor stepped closer and pulled him around again. He spoke quietly. "You said it was like a door, Rory. Is it really?"

Amy did not understand the question. She would have demanded an explanation, but for the moment she felt chastened by the Doctor's hinted rebuke. And there was something about the seriousness of the Doctor's tone and the look on Rory's face that kept her silent. She felt like this was a continuation of a previous conversation that she had missed.

"It's sort of like a door," Rory said. "Sometimes it's just hard to keep it closed and memories leak out. In Leadworth, it was normally all right. I mean, it's almost impossible to remember being a Roman Centurion when you're buying bread and milk in the Co-op. At odd times something would trigger a memory, and that was awful. There was a woman on the ward with pneumonia. Every time she coughed, it was like being back in a plague hospital again. Then there was a fête with a pipe band. All I could think of was soldiers going into battle. But I've never really been a soldier."

"You went home from the fête. You said you didn't feel well," Amy said.

"When I remembered something without meaning to, it was horrible. It's hard to describe, but it felt like marching out of sync for the whole day. I couldn't keep it straight in my head, what was real and what was just plastic Centurion memories."

The Doctor shone the sonic screwdriver into Rory's eyes. As he checked the readings he said, "So, tell me about the headaches, then?"

"What headaches?" Amy demanded. Then, a whole set of incidents that hadn't seemed connected before made sense.

Rory had never had a migraine before, but since they had been married, there had been a few. Like the Saturday night after the fête. They had had a curry and gone to bed, but he had not eaten much. That turned out to be a good thing because he woke at two in the morning to vomit the whole lot back up again. Then the pain had started. She had never seen him like that before, and it made her shiver to remember it now. She had threatened to take him to casualty and who cared if one of their friends happened to be working, but he had protested and taken a couple of painkillers. It was the long shifts and missing breaks that had done it, he said and promised to see a doctor in the morning if it was not better. By lunchtime he was almost back to normal. She had believed him when he said it was 'just a migraine' and nothing to worry about.

There were other things too, now that she thought about it. She had seen him rub the bridge of his nose as though getting rid of tension in the muscles. And there were the times that he had swallowed a couple of paracetamol when he thought she was not looking. She had even made him go to the optician to get his eyes tested when he squinted at the TV once too often.

"Ah. Those headaches," she said, answering her own question. "But why?"

"The simple little human brain is not designed to be crammed full of two thousand years of memories. No offence, but the capacity for human ignorance is incredible."

"Hey, yes, a little bit offensive," Amy said.

"Doesn't matter anyway. It's true. Rory's brain could ignore the extra memories most of the time and things were just hunky-dory. Sometimes, though, it got forced down those pathways that it didn't like, like a door opening. And I'm afraid that hurt. But it's different here isn't it?"

"In the TARDIS... stuff leaks out all the time. Little things mostly; like how to pitch a Roman tent, or the time that the Egyptian priests visited, or the sounds of air raid sirens. I can't keep it closed while I'm in here. But it feels all right; like it's okay to have a head full of some plastic bloke's memories."

"And the headaches?"

"Better here. Like I said, it feels normal."

"Good. I think the TARDIS is helping. She's carried some strange things over the years, and an ex-plastic-two-thousand-year-old centurion is not the strangest. And," he dropped his voice to a stage whisper, "I think she likes you."

"She does?"

"Think so. She doesn't like to see you all uptight out about something that she doesn't think is so bad, so she just..." He waved his arms around to try to illustrate, "She nudges your brain towards 'keep calm and carry on'. And practice makes perfect. The more often the neurons are fired in that configuration, the easier your brain will find it. The headaches will get better, and the memories will stop being alien and just be a part of you."

"I'm not sure this is helping me feel better."

"That wasn't the point. Do you want empty reassurances? I can do them too - 'It's all fine.' But this is just truth, Rory, and sometimes that is not a easy thing. You can deal with it or not. But I might have something to suggest, if you want. I think the TARDIS can change things."

"What to you mean, change it?"

"The door. The memories. I don't normally recommend having a slightly cranky time machine mucking around with the synapses, but it would only be a quick re-wiring of the amygdala and..."

"You mean, change the memories? Would that close the door?"

"Close the door, slam it and make it so there wasn't even a door there in the first place. It's straight forward. She's already inside your head helping the neurons towards 'keep calm and carry on'. It's not too different to get those pathways closed off all together. I could do it, but, well, the TARDIS has already made a claim. And the last time I did it, well... not a pleasant experience..."

Amy asked, "Why? What happened last time?"

"That's not an easy question. Maybe I'll tell you later. Sometime. Ask me when you've got a month to spare, and I'll tell you all about it. But, for now, just enough to say she was brilliant. Really brilliant. You'd have liked her."

Rory had not been listening. He was even paler than before and his hands were shaking. "You could make it so that I wouldn't remember any of those things. It would be like those two thousand years never happened?"

"Oh, they happened. Just to some other Rory Williams. You could read about it in a book, or watch the documentary on BBC3, and you would know on an intellectual level that they had occurred. I'm sure Amy would remind you, but the real memories would vanish. No Centurion inside your head."

For a second, Amy saw something pass across Rory's face like hope.

He was the one who wanted to stay at home, the person who would have been voted 'most likely to be happy in Leadworth until they retire' if their school had done such a thing. Amy wanted to see the world. Rory told her he only wanted to see it if she was there with him. Then she called him a soppy fool and kissed him. He had never asked to be a Roman Centurion, or to be killed, or spend two thousand years in exile. He just wanted to get married and have children and be happy with her.

No wonder he had pretended that he couldn't remember. She could sympathise.

She was more annoyed at herself. Now that she thought about it, it was obvious that something had been wrong. When he said he could not remember, she should have figured it out. She had known him forever. How could he hide two thousand years of memories from her?

Of course, she knew why she had not realised. There was a distraction. She had been so consumed by her own secret that she had not noticed Rory's.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly.

Her eyes filled with tears. "I understand," she said.

She did understand, but, inexplicably, it still made her sad. Rory might pretend it was a different man who sacrificed two thousand years for her, and he might even pretend that it was someone else who had sacrificed himself for the Doctor. But it was still him, at his best. And it made her sad that those memories hurt him. And even sadder that he would want rid of them.

What did it matter anyway, she thought angrily. Twenty minutes ago, she had believed that Rory had forgotten everything about being a Roman Centurion. What difference would there be in making that true? It was not as if it was her choice anyway.

"I think you would be better to do it now. Just get it over with. I'm sure the TARDIS will take care of it and won't fry your brain or anything."

He had been staring at the Doctor. Now he looked at her in surprise. "Do what?"

She punched him in the arm. "Get her to rewire your neurons or something."

"Why? What for?"

"Don't be stupid, Rory. The Doctor said the TARDIS could change it."

He looked even more confused. "I don't understand, Amy. Do you really want me to? I'm sorry I never told you. I really am, but, it seems wrong just to forget it. I don't know if I could pretend that it just happened to someone else. But if you really wanted me to..."

"Oh, Rory!"

She hugged him, and smiled at his bemused expression.

"You thought I wanted to forget?"

"Don't you?"

He shrugged. "For about half a second, it would have been nice to go back to being ordinary Rory Williams. But then, well, what was the point of it all if no-one remembers it. Aren't you angry that I didn't tell you?"

"Shut up."

To reinforce the instruction, she kissed him so that he had to stop talking.

When she let him go again, he said breathlessly, "Well, you know, all that stuff might turn out to be useful..."

"Yes, it might be very useful indeed," the Doctor said. "If I ever need to put up a Roman tent. Or if the TARDIS translation circuits go on the blink around the time that Latin is actually spoken. Not a terribly large window, though."

"Hey. I can light a fire with a couple of sticks."

"You were made of plastic. Why were you mucking around with lighting fires?"

"It was dark. I was bored. And I didn't spend two thousand years only learning Latin you know. I got pretty good with a sword, and I play a decent mandolin. I might be a bit rusty, though."

"Mandolin?" Amy asked.

"It's a long story. The Pope made me a bet."

The Doctor smiled at them. "Hold that thought, Rory Pond, while I park us here for a while. Cup of tea and a few stories of your adventures as a Roman Centurion. Good for the soul."

He headed for the kitchen. Of course, he tripped over the pile of yellow cables first.

When he returned, Amy made Rory tell them a bit about two thousand years waiting with the Pandorica. By the end, the Doctor was shaking his head and muttering about 'trying to keep out of trouble,' and Amy understood why Rory did not want to forget. Their tea got cold.

The end...