A/N: This story was inspired partly by "The God Complex" and a little bit by "The Curse of Fenric" (though I had the idea before I knew about that story). If you see anything here that you think needs work - characterization, writing style, whatever - please feel free to tell me. All comments/criticisms are gratefully accepted!
Rory wandered down to the space under the TARDIS console. Ever since he and Amy had been left at their new house by the Doctor, there had been something nagging at him. Now that they were reunited, and Lake Silencio finally behind them all (not counting the headaches it gave Rory whenever he tried to understand it), he figured this was as good a time as any to ask about it.
"Doctor?" he asked. The Doctor, engrossed in wiring, gave an absent grunt.
Deciding to assume he was actually listening, Rory continued speaking to his back. "You remember the hotel - with the Minotaur-thing?"
There was a pause. The Doctor's shoulders had stiffened. "...Yes?" he asked guardedly.
"Um, it didn't show you the exit..."
The Doctor swung around to face him. "Ah." His tone had changed again, to Rory's relief, and now he was smiling - one of his actual, genuine smiles. "Do you want to know what I believe in, Rory Pond?"
"Uh, yeah, that was what I was working around to."
Seeing his question might actually get an answer, Rory sat down opposite the Doctor. Much though he had pondered the matter in his odd moments, he had never been able to find a really likely possibility for the Doctor's faith.
"Well, it's a bit complicated, in some ways," the Doctor said, leaning back contemplatively.
"I suppose..." he began slowly, "if I had to explain it in the abstract, Rory, I suppose I'd say I believe in...well, the immortal existence of goodness. I believe...that there is always potential for it - for morality, and selflessness, and heroism - in every time, every world, no matter how terrible things are. I believe those qualities can't ever be wiped out..." He shrugged, "Although I don't generally consider it in those terms."
"Really?" Rory asked, surprised. "Even after everything you've been through? Everything you've seen?"
The Doctor tapped him on the forehead with his screwdriver. "Because of what I've seen, Pond. I have been convinced, over the years, that some things are truly..." he grinned, "Indomitable."
"'The good, the true and the beautiful'?" Rory asked. He couldn't quite suppress his skepticism.
But the Doctor's expression only grew more affectionate. "Perhaps. I never knew any of them by those names, though they'd fit pretty well, come to think of it."
Rory shrugged, giving in to his curiosity. "What are their names, then?"
The Doctor twiddled his screwdriver in his hands, staring into the middle distance. "It'd take ages to name them all, but I can give you most of my best reasons for having faith." He smiled softly and began:
"Susan." The word was pronounced with very clear love, and his smile, though also holding loss and longing, showed it too. Then his expression changed.
"Barbara, Ian." Now his affection seemed mingled more with a reverent honor.
"Vicki," almost like the first name, but far less sad and less sharp in its emotion, "Steven." An admiring respect.
Then his head bowed. "Katarina," pure grief, but with reverence, "and Sara..." grief and a great regret.
As he reeled off names, Rory realized that every one brought a unique smile to his friend's face. Some were sad, some joyous, most mingled, but each bore a subtle difference from all the rest. The only common factor in all of them was the great affection.
"Dodo. Ben, Polly, Jamie," his face lit up there, "Victoria, Zoe. Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart" -an almost teasing expression as he pronounced the full name.
Rory. watching and listening with rapt attention, wondered what each expression meant. It was...surprisingly unsurprising, to find the Doctor's faith was founded on a list of people. He wondered, though, what they were all like, to give such faith to the Time Lord.
"Benton, Yates, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Harry," his gaze dropped toward the ground for the next few moments, though the names still bought their smiles. "Leela. Romana..." A very slight pause, before he plowed through the next names. "Adric, Nyssa, Tegan... Turlough." That name carried a more unalloyed - almost triumphant - joy than any of the last five. "Peri. Mel. Ace. Grace. Charley, C'rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly."
He paused a second, expression darkening, but then another glowing smile came.
"Rose. Martha, Donna..." He trailed off, then resumed with a smile Rory already knew.
"Amy, Rory." And on the last name he looked Rory in the eyes for the first time since the list had started, and gave him a second familiar smile.
Rory blinked at the Doctor, who was still giving him that knowing, rueful, admiringly affectionate expression.
"Those names give me the strength I need," he explained softly. "Those are the people who showed me how powerful goodness is. The universe that produced that list can't ever be all bad, not irredeemably...not when each of you became the person you did."
"But..." Rory gaped. "Us?"
The Doctor tapped the underside of his chin to shut his mouth.
"Amy saved a magnificent living being from being destroyed by my mistake, on the second day I knew her. She stopped a tragedy by seeing mercy where everyone else was expecting hatred. She'll fight for the people she loves with everything in her, and she'll never back down in the face of cruelty...but then, you're probably not surprised about her, so much as about you. Am I right, Rory Pond?"
He continued without waiting for Rory's assent. "In that case, you're ridiculously modest. I mean, for starters - you stood guard over your fiancée for two - thousand - years, Rory! You don't think that's something anyone might admire? Just a little bit?
"And, y'know, you'd do anything to make Amy happy, or to take care of River. And, you're a nurse! Your whole life's been devoted to helping people - whenever you see someone hurt, even when you're in the middle of an alien battle, that is your focus. You care about other people, just - automatically! With the little things, too, not just if they're dying or something."
He grinned at an even more dumbfounded Rory. "I told you, Rory - I don't pick up just anybody and make friends with them. And you are brilliant."
Rory managed to nod, completely overwhelmed by the Doctor's torrent of praise. He...had not been expecting that.
"Um..." he said at last. "Thanks. I - Thank you."
"Just answering your question, Pond." The Doctor tilted his head cheerfully. "Any others?"
Not wanting to overstep any of the Doctor's boundaries, Rory started to say "No" automatically, but stopped himself. The Doctor's offer seemed genuine, and he had just been thinking...
"Er. Would you...if you wouldn't mind, um, I'd like to hear more about some of the other names?" he half-asked. "-Only if you really don't mind, though," he added hastily.
The Doctor blinked, startled by the idea. But then a slow smile came over his face. This one looked like his "Rory smile," his human friend thought, but with half-a-dozen others added in.
"No. No, I don't think I'd mind some storytelling at all," he answered. Then he frowned, turning something over in his mind."But - who to start with...?"
Then something in the machinery beside them apparently reached the end of its endurance. There was a loud bang, a shower of sparks that made both men jump away, and then a thick cloud of smoke poured out of the console and engulfed them.
"Seriously?" Rory gasped, waving his hand in front of his face ineffectively. "What was that?"
The Doctor squinted at the approximate source of the explosion, while grabbing Rory's arm and leading him out of the smoke-filled area. "Not sure - haven't had that happen in ages." Then he chuckled suddenly.
"I think I ought to tell you about the UNIT days," the Doctor answered.
"Yeah, UNIT! That'll be stories about the Brigadier, and Liz, and Benton, and Yates - and Jo! But she wasn't there at the beginning - and there was a lot of...well, that," he waved a hand behind them, toward the dissipating cloud. "In and out of the TARDIS, actually, come of think of it..."
As he steered Rory toward the kitchen, where they could talk more comfortably, the TARDIS hummed to herself.
She is glad her Thief takes her hint about where to start the stories - it isn't too easy simulating a breakdown of the kind she has when stranded at UNIT, but it works.She is also glad the Pretty-and-Devoted One asks the questions. That turns out well.
It seems to help her Thief when he is reminded of his friends, sometimes. Perhaps she should add reminders of them - her Names for them? - into her console design... Yes, that is a good idea.
She and her Thief like giving tributes to their Reasons when they can.