The steady clack-clack-clack of the wheels of the train as it rolled along the track wasn't what woke Amy. It was the sudden chill along her side that did it, and she opened her eyes quickly, disoriented but alert.
"Sorry," the Doctor whispered, pulling his hand back. She looked down and found her blanket had slipped from her shoulders. "Couldn't reach far enough."
"It's all right," she whispered back, equally low. She picked up the blanket, wrapping it around herself as best she could. It hadn't been there when she'd fallen asleep, physically incapable of keeping her eyes open any longer. The Doctor must have been the one to tuck it around her in the first place, but he was too far away to reach now, on the far side of the table in their compartment.
Rory was slumped against the Doctor, wedging him against the wall. There was a thin line of pain across his forehead, and the edge of the bandage-slash-brace could be seen through the tear in his shirt. Both of them looked drawn and pale, and Amy knew it wasn't just the dim light. The Doctor had shadows under his eyes — he was the only one of them who hadn't slept at all since leaving the TARDIS, which from Amy's count had been nearly 48 hours ago.
The Doctor saw where Amy's gaze had landed and turned to look at Rory himself. There was a smudge of bruising high on his cheekbone. "Rory'll be fine," he said again. "Once we get back to the TARDIS I'll have him patched up in a jiffy."
Amy clutched the blanket tighter around her and wondered if there was room on the bench for her to squeeze over there as well. "That was really close," she said.
The Doctor didn't reply. He kept his gaze on Rory's still form, the rise and fall of his chest his only movement.
"Sometimes I wish he was still plastic," Amy whispered, forcing the words out, then immediately wishing them back. But they ran away from her, intangible yet heavy in the air.
The Doctor looked at her with tired eyes. "That wouldn't save him from everything. The universe is just as difficult for people made of plastic."
Amy remembered the choking black smoke as the factory burned, the horrible flickering red light in the distance as they'd washed in the river, covering their tracks. Even the Doctor had stripped down, getting into the frigid water. All Amy could remember of it was a flash of pale, angular skin, her mind too preoccupied trying to convince herself that Rory was all right and with not falling over as her extremities started to go numb with the cold.
"I know." She was grateful to the Doctor for confronting that fact, not making any false promises about safety. She looked out the window into the dead winter night. The moon was full behind the thin sheet of clouds, and she could make out mountains in the distance, dead scrubland and the occasional tree crawling slowly past the window. "How long 'til we're back at the TARDIS?"
"Almost eight hours. Go back to sleep," he said gently.
She looked at the two of them, and the distance across the table seemed immense. She pretended to sleep, and the Doctor didn't say anything.
"You'd let me watch if you decided to snog the Doctor, right?" Amy asked, sitting down next to Rory on the dock.
"What?" Rory startled, nearly dropping his tea. He set it down carefully, on the far side of Amy. "Is this like when you decided what you wanted for your eighteenth birthday was a threesome with me and Jeff?"
Amy laughed, because she could laugh about it now, embarrassing disaster though it had been at the time. "Why would you think that?" Rory looked at her sidelong, and she smirked. "No, it's not, I promise. For one, this time I'm giving you advanced warning." She kissed him on the cheek, and stood to go again.
"What? Amy — wait, come back!"
Back in the warmth of the TARDIS at last, clutching a mug of tea with her still-cold hands, Amy watched the Doctor run a small machine the size of a salt shaker back and forth over Rory's broken collarbone. It whirled and blinked and beeped, emitting a pale green light over Rory's skin. She couldn't see any change in the bone, but Rory's posture relaxed incrementally as the Doctor worked, and that was proof enough for her.
Her feet dangled off the table she was sitting on, and she kicked them back and forth lightly. It made her feel like a kid, with no worries a quick plaster couldn't cure.
The feeling didn't last long. "There we are," the Doctor said, flicking the instrument off. Rory made to hop down from his own perch, but the Doctor stopped him, pressing a hand to his chest. "Hold on, I'm not done yet."
The Doctor continued talking, lecturing Rory about what he could and could not do for the next couple days, but it was like white noise to Amy. The pale skin of the Doctor's hand against Rory's bare chest struck her as oddly — well, no. Not odd at all. It felt perfectly natural to see, she simply hadn't realized it until she didn't have anything else to concentrate on. The two of them were hardly at odds any more, but she hadn't thought about what they were instead. The Doctor was still a cypher in so many ways, where Rory was an open book. Before, on the train, she'd been too concerned for Rory to have any thought for their closeness.
"You sure you're all right?" Amy asked as they walked back to their room. She walked her fingers up Rory's side — his good side — and he twitched away a little at the ticklish motion.
"I'm fine, really," he said. He smiled at her. That same sincere smile he always gave her. Was he better at keeping secrets than she thought? Or was she just worse at reading him than she thought she was?
Rory combed a finger through her hair, breaking her train of thought. "What about you? You all right? I kind of lost track of things after the wall collapsed." Onto him. Understandable. Thinking about it still left her a little queasy.
"Yeah." She wrapped her hand around his shirt, mustering up a smile. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"You look awful."
She knew he was looking for a flip reply, but all she said was "I just need a shower." The scent of ashes still lingered in her hair, like cigarette smoke after a day at the pub, but heavier. Either the river hadn't been enough, or the smoke had traveled further than she'd thought.
Rory nodded. "I could probably do with one too." He wrapped an arm around her. "Come on."
And suddenly, it was like it always was, him taking care of her. She never meant it to, didn't always realize he was doing it, and never knew how to stop it. It was what he did, Rory, practically since she'd met him. Two hours ago he'd been pale and unconscious, a slight form in the Doctor's arms, and now he was helping her take her clothes off, guiding her into the shower, washing her hair with careful hands.
"Amy, what's wrong?" He swiped a hand across her cheek. "You're crying."
She pulled away, shaking her head. "It's the shower —" she tried, but the choked sound of her own voice betrayed her. Her chest tightened as the fear hit her. "Rory —" She scrubbed at her cheeks. Where the hell was this coming from?
"Hey, hey, it's all right." Rory wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close again, and she let him, hiding her face against his chest. There was no reason she should be crying. What was wrong with her? "It's okay. Everyone's fine. It's just been a long day, yeah?" He kissed the top of her head. Water sluiced down around them, but neither of them moved.
"Promise me you won't go anywhere," she whispered.
"I promise," Rory said immediately. "I'm not going anywhere without you, and you're not going anywhere without me."
She laughed, watery and breathless. "It's not as much fun without you."
"It's not worth it without you." He ducked his head, pressing his cheek to hers. "Look at the two of us. We're ridiculous. D'you think our folks would even recognize us right now?"
"I hope not," she muttered. She forced her breathing to calm down.
Rory snorted out a laugh. "I think 'til death do us part' isn't going to be enough to cover it."
"I don't think death should have a say in the matter."
"Come on, Doctor, give us a boost." Amy tugged at the top of the worn stone wall. She was so close —
"Nnnnngh," the Doctor replied.
"There we go!" she exclaimed, finding purchase at last. From the wall, she looked down at the Doctor. "Um." The Doctor looked up at her. "You know, this sort of thing would be a lot easier if there were three of us."
The Doctor's face squinted funnily. "That's probably true. Unfortunately, there's only two of us." He jumped experimentally. His fingers just brushed the top of the wall.
"So why don't you, though? All those pictures the TARDIS showed me, and none of them two people at the same time." She watched the Doctor back up for a running start. He had a look of intense concentration on his face.
"I've traveled with more than one person before." He leapt, and hit the wall with a grunt, scrambling for purchase. Amy grabbed the back of his jacket and helped haul him over. "Things just tend to get complicated quickly when you're traveling with —" he stopped for breath. "Twos. Two people." He waved his hand about. "You humans are so —" he seemed lost for words.
"You just don't want anyone showing you up, don't you?" She poked him in the shoulder. "Mr. Bag-of-Bones. Well I promise if I see anyone who catches my fancy, I'll make sure he's at least as embarrassing as you, how does that sound." She stood, offering him a hand up.
The Doctor looked up at her, still winded. "Great. Just — yeah." He put his hand in hers, and Amy had to blink furiously to see it clearly, her eyes suddenly tearing up.
Must be the wind.
The Doctor probably thought she was still asleep, but she'd come awake again the moment she'd heard Rory's voice. She'd kept her eyes shut, at first thinking she'd be interrupting a conversation between the two of them, both their voices soft and indistinct. Then, slowly, their words became clear.
"I can't — I can't stop it." Rory's voice sounded agonized, absolutely wrenched. He let out a sob. "Amy —" She froze.
"Shh, shh. It's all right, Rory, you're fine. You did it, Amy's safe." The Doctor's voice was a soothing whisper, but it did no good.
"I can't stop it," Rory repeated. "I'll kill her."
"No you won't. Here. Just an ordinary hand, see?" Amy cracked one eye open, just barely, and through the curtain of her hair she saw the Doctor, wrapped even more tightly around Rory now, stroking his hand carefully. "And I know hands." He stroked his thumb in strong circles over the center of Rory's palm, waiting for him to calm down. "Mine aren't half as strong as yours, or as clean." Rory shook his head, muttering something inaudible, and the Doctor smiled, though it looked tired. "Two thousand years, and still you want more?" He shifted position on the bench, tucking Rory's head under his chin, placing Rory's hand over one of his hearts. "Why couldn't you be more like me, and trust a little less?"
She shut her eyes. Maybe she was still asleep. Rory hadn't said anything to her about bad dreams — but he wouldn't, would he? She wasn't a heavy sleeper, though, and she'd never woken up before. She turned the problem over in her mind, trying to think of any signs she might have missed — shadows under Rory's eyes, tiredness — but there wasn't anything that she could point at for certain. It didn't make her feel any better.
The compartment was silent, only the noises of the train itself present. She was still tired, but she'd gotten some rest, and her mind was too troubled now to let her return to sleep. She opened her eyes again, trying to avoid notice. The Doctor was staring out the opposite window. In the moonlight his skin looked even paler, like porcelain, or bone, and he looked impossibly ancient. Like 900 years was just a blink of an eye. What had he seen, in his life? Everything, he'd said.
Amy shut her eyes again, counting the rotations of the wheels below them, trying to make it drown out everything else. The air still smelled of ashes.
The lapidor's back was huge and broad, and it swayed with an easy rhythm as it plodded down the dirt-packed street. Amy watched it for a moment, the driver swinging in a slow pendulum in relation to the creature's ears, pricked stiff and dotted with reddish fur. Then she crossed her fingers behind her head again and looked up into the cloudless blue sky. It felt like summer on Earth, though the faint whiff of grass in the air was unlike anything she'd ever smelled at home, and the hay in the cart they were riding on was much redder, and ridged so that it reminded her a little of bamboo. Rory was lying next to her, soaking in the sun, looking as glad as she was to be off the TARDIS. Neither of them had expected to be cooped up in there for almost a week. She was sure it was the Doctor giving Rory extra time to recover, and not the time envelope matrix thing, no matter what he said.
Rory's eyes blinked open as she tickled him on the nose with a piece of straw. They crossed as he tried to keep his eyes on it, and she laughed, tossing the stick aside.
"Oh, sure, you bother me," he griped, though it was obvious he didn't mean it.
"You're more fun," she said. Rory rolled his eyes, but she meant it. The Doctor was only fun to bother when he didn't want to be bothered. The rest of the time he seemed to take the attention as his due, and where was the fun in that?
"Oh, thanks," Rory replied, and tossed a handful of the straw at her. Amy spat a little as some landed on her lips, and she scrubbed at her face.
"Where is he, anyway?" Rory asked.
"Not sure. He said he was going to check on something a while ago, I think he's up with the driver, or on one of the other carts."
"You mean he's hiding."
"Sulking, more like. No monsters or running, just harvesting."
"Not really his style, is it?" Rory asked, as the cart lurched over a dip in the road.
Amy nodded. "Too boring." And dirty. The water from the spring had been fine for a quick scrub-up, but she still wanted a proper soak.
"Too difficult to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on a sunny day with miles of sort-of-potatoes," Rory corrected, stroking her hair absently. "Defeat's rather, er, jawless."
Amy hmmm'ed, shifting closer to Rory. "I suppose I'll have to rely on you, then, to protect me from vegetable monsters and boredom."
Rory's hand stilled for a moment before continuing. "Potatoes are a starch," he said absently.
"Starch monster makes it sound like someone's gotten into the laundry and made your trousers all stiff." She was about to make a joke about stiff trousers when the Doctor's head popped up over the side of the cart. He must have been leaning on the running board, because he crossed his arms and planted his chin on them, grinning.
"There you are!" he exclaimed, as if they were the ones who'd wandered off, not him.
"Hullo," Rory replied. "Find anything interesting?"
The Doctor made a face. "No." There was a brief struggle and some grunting as the Doctor heaved himself up and over the edge of the cart, tumbling forward in the straw to land beside them. His head came to rest by Amy's knee, and she could feel the warmth from his hair, heated in the bright sunshine.
"You're starting to look a bit pink, you know that?"
"Hmm?" The Doctor replied, looking at his hands for any signs he was turning colors.
Amy chuckled. "Not all of you," she said, and tapped his nose with her finger. It and his ears were starting to turn that ruddy color that promised sunburn later, if no steps were taken. The Doctor's eyes crossed as he tried to investigate his own nose, and Amy blinked, forgetting to move her hand away.
"Amy," Rory said, from somewhere over her shoulder, his hand still resting on the crown of her head, "consider this your advanced warning."
Surprised, she looked up at him. He smiled back at her, looking a bit sheepish, and she couldn't help but pull him down for a kiss.
The Doctor was definitely looking pinker when she finally came up for air.
"Amy! Amy! Wait up!" Rory broke off, cursing, as he got tangled in another one of the creeper vines that moved through the forest. Amy rolled her eyes and kept walking, but after a moment, she stopped and waited.
"Are you mad at me or something?" Rory asked as he finally caught up with her.
"What? No!" She turned to look at him, surprised. "What gave you that idea?"
Rory looked relieved. "You've been — quiet?" he guessed. Not like he wasn't really sure, but like what he meant to say might make her mad.
"What?" she pressed.
Rory shrugged. "Dunno. You're — distant's not the right word. I can tell you're watching me, but I don't know why. Usually if you've got a problem with me, you don't hesitate to say so."
Amy bit her lip. "Sorry. I'm not doing it on purpose, I swear." She looked away from him, at the forest they were making their way through. "There's just been a lot to think about lately, you know?" She poked at the tree she was standing under. "With the Doctor, and the Pandorica, and all." And Rory. She started walking again. They did need to get back to the Doctor, after all.
"Oh." Rory paused a moment before walking after her, a pace or two behind again. After a moment, he spoke up again. "How much do you remember? Of the whole… everything."
Amy looked back at him, but this time, he wouldn't look at her. "What do you mean? Like, while I was in the Pandorica? No, I was —"
"I mean like how some things are different," Rory interrupted. "I mean, mostly it's still the same, but not everything. Like I somehow got better marks in chemistry this time around. And with your mum and dad —"
Amy nodded slowly. "Yeah. I remember growing up with them, but I also remember spending weekends at your house and your dad packing extra sandwiches for me on days when Aunt Sharon worked doubles."
"But we didn't." Amy frowned at Rory's words. "We didn't remember until the Doctor came back. I mean, you knew something was wrong, but you weren't sure what." Rory stopped walking again. "What if the Doctor hadn't come back? What if that really had been it, there was no way to bring him back?"
Amy's stomach twisted. "Don't be ridiculous, Rory. The Doctor wouldn't let that happen."
"But are these the same? Are they the same universe, just fixed?" Rory pressed. "If the other one never happened, how did you meet the Doctor? Are we really the people we are because of something that never happened?"
Rory was talking faster and faster, his own fears tumbling out, and Amy shut him up the quickest way she knew how — with a kiss. She grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him down, and after a reflexive start, Rory leaned into it, wrapping his arms around her hips and kissing her back with a kind of familiar desperation that left her breathless.
When she really truly ran out of breath, she pulled away, keeping her grip on his shoulders. "You idiot. You're still you. You're still the bloke that I married — that I love," she finished, rushing through the words in order to get them out.
It was easier to say now, but she didn't think it was because she was a different person.
"Rory! Doctor!" Amy shouted again, then stopped, coughing. Her voice was getting hoarse; she wasn't sure if it was from the shouting or the smoke. Possibly both. She wrapped her arm around her face, breathing into her elbow. The smoke stung at her eyes. She couldn't see more than five feet in front of her.
There was a roar behind her and she whirled around. Another support pillar inside the warehouse had collapsed, and this time it was enough to take out part of the ceiling and the outer wall with it, exposing the still-burning interior, and sending fresh gouts of black smoke billowing into the night sky, blotting out more stars.
"Doctor!" He'd appeared out of the black, on the other side of the low stone wall that marked the property line. She ran forward, stumbling over the uneven ground.
He hopped over the wall, and she wrapped her arms around him, face pressed to his chest. He squeezed her tight, kissing the top of her forehead, then pulled back, running his hands over her face, checking her for injury. "You all right, Amy? Where's Nina?"
"Gone," she choked the word out, and pulled back a little to swipe at her stinging eyes. "I'm fine. Doctor, where's Rory?" She turned to look back at the warehouse, which was crumbling as she watched. He couldn't still be in there —
The Doctor put a hand on her back, gentle. "He's over here. He'll be all right once we can get back to the TARDIS." He made to offer her a hand over the wall, but she scrambled over without him.
Rory was propped carefully against the other side of the wall. His eyes were closed and his shirt undone, the tee beneath it torn open, revealing an angry red mark on his skin.
"Broken collarbone," the Doctor explained from behind her. "I've reset it, but he's going to be in agony until I can fix it properly. It's best if he stays out."
Amy cautiously touched his face. "But he'll be fine?"
"Good as new." The Doctor ran his hand through Rory's hair.
"One of the walls came down on top of us. Or, it would've been both of us, if Rory hadn't —" The Doctor shook his head. "The two of you, honestly. I'm going to go grey again."
Carefully, the Doctor scooped Rory up. He stood there for a moment, looking back at the warehouse. The flames were beginning to die, but the whole area was permeated with smoke. "We should go."
She didn't realize she'd fallen asleep until she was waking up, her fogged brain moving slowly, the Doctor's voice rambling softly in her ear.
"She didn't even know she'd done it, but I didn't tell her, Ace wasn't the type to — Oh, Amy. Are you awake now?" She blinked, and the Doctor smiled at her.
She looked around. "Did I nod off in the kitchen?"
The Doctor craned his head in that way that meant 'Yes, but -' in his particular body language. "Ah, sorry about that. Rory was going to take you up to your bedroom, but I told him to go ahead and get washed up, I'd wake you, but I rather got away from myself." He tried to look shamefaced, but he was never ashamed of his own ability to ramble.
So she probably hadn't been asleep long, or Rory would have come looking. She sighed, and pushed herself to a stand. Her foot had fallen asleep as well, pressed underneath her body, and it tingled now, the sensation coming back. She stretched. "Well, I should actually go to bed, then. 'S probably quite late." The clock in the kitchen never worked properly. It always displayed the time as a little after four o'clock, and she'd rather not believe it was correct.
"Or quite early, if you want to look at it that way," the Doctor said.
Amy nodded. "Bedtime, either way you look at it." She stretched a hand out to the Doctor. "Coming?"
The Doctor froze perceptibly, though he hadn't moved an inch while she'd been watching him.
She walked closer to him, deliberately stepping inside his space. "You. Were supposed to escort me to my room. Falling down on the job, are we?"
His shoulders relaxed incrementally. "Can't have that, can we?" He stood, putting more space between them, even as he held out a hand of his own, in a practiced and elegant manner. "Well then. Shall we, Pond?" He sketched a quick, sloppy bow.
She took his hand with a nod and a quick bent knee, amused. "Do you ever sleep, Doctor?" she asked as they walked through the silent hallways, bronze walls gleaming and throwing back muddy reflections. She thought briefly about the Dream Lord, but that hadn't been sleeping, really.
"Of course I do." He sounded mildly offended. "Everyone sleeps. Except gaseous entities, but even they have dormant phases —"
She could tell he was about to go off on another ramble, and cut him off. "It's just you're supposed to be old, right? And all the old people I know sleep all the time, but you don't." She leaned her head against his shoulder, wrapping her arm around his. His jacket smelled like mothballs and peppermint and grass.
"I'm old, I'm not decrepit," the Doctor griped, but he didn't pull away. "I'm a Time Lord, we don't need as much sleep as you humans. You waste so much time faffing about in Alpha Waves, whereas we can drop right in and out of REM and get all the important bits in less than a third of the time. Takes practice for you lot — that's bad evolutionary design." He tapped her on the nose, and stopped walking. They were at her door already.
Amy wrinkled her nose at him until he removed his finger, chuckling. Then she tilted her head towards the door. Inviting.
He smiled regretfully. "You were supposed to stop that." He stepped back. "Get some sleep, Pond." Something brushed against her cheek, but she wasn't sure if it was him or just the breeze stirred up as he moved away down the corridor.
Inside, Rory was asleep on top of the covers. His hair was still damp from the shower, and he hadn't bothered — or managed, she wasn't sure which — to put on any clothes yet. She smiled fondly and tugged the sheets out from under him.
"Hmm?" Rory stirred a little at that, rolling over towards her.
"Go back to sleep," she whispered. Shedding her own clothes, she climbed in next to him.
"How long's it been since you actually had to chase after a bloke?" He wrapped an arm around her waist, thumb stroking the small of her back. He still hadn't opened his eyes. Amy didn't reply. "What're you going to do if he actually says yes?"
"— Like history was collapsing backwards, and I was the only one who knew it."
Amy hugged the wall. She was pretty sure she wasn't supposed to be hearing this conversation — she'd woken up in the middle of the night to find herself alone and had gone searching.
"I didn't want to think about it much, but two thousand years is a long time." If she peered around the corner, Amy could just make out Rory's back, hunched over the TARDIS console. "I kept wondering — if I wasn't there, was there someone else? Did my parents still have a kid, and it just wasn't me? Or was Jeff —" he cut himself off.
The shadows shifted as the Doctor moved closer to Rory, their shoulders bumping together. "The universe doesn't work like that. It can't. Cause and effect. Do you know how much work it would take for the timeline of probabilities and potentialities to adjust for an entire different person? A whole new personality? Or to shift around someone's timeline like that? It'd be like sand traps — one grain of sand shifts out of place and the whole thing collapses, knocking hundreds out of place. This was a violent event, Rory — a tear in time and space that never should have happened. The universe was busy trying to hold itself together; it didn't have the means to do anything other than patchwork."
"But Amy didn't remember me."
"But everything you two did still happened," the Doctor insisted softly. "She was still who she was because of you. And she did miss you. She just didn't know that was what it was."
"That's not what you said before."
"Would you have understood what I meant?"
Rory was silent for a minute. "What was it like?"
"You know what it was like, Rory."
"I saw about ten minutes of it. Not months. And it's not the same, the way it feels."
"I'm old, Rory, you know that. Nine hundred and seven, if you count linearly. And I don't. I'm used to mourning friends. I've got hundreds of timelines locked up in this old head of mine, futures and pasts that no one but me and this old ship remember. I'm used to missing people that were never there in the first place. I'm not used to getting them back."
"You didn't try." It wasn't an accusation, just a statement of fact. Amy wished she could see their faces, but she didn't dare move.
"I've learned to pick my battles."
"And what would you have done with Amy if there hadn't been a ridiculous miracle?"
The Doctor was silent in the face of Rory's question. Amy slipped away, frightened of the answer to a question she'd never thought to ask.
"Hurry it up, you two!" the Doctor called, tugging impatiently on the end of the rope harness they'd fashioned.
"I'm going as fast as I can!" Rory yelled back, his voice echoing down the stone chamber to the Doctor's position below them. He had the other end of the Doctor's rope lead in his hands and was tying it to a post in a really complicated-looking knot. He'd never been to scout camp or anything; there was nowhere he would have learned to tie knots. In fact, Amy was pretty sure that a year ago he wouldn't have been able to. And now here he was, doing it without even thinking about it.
"Hold this," Rory asked, handing her the end of the rope. "Keep it as vertical as you can."
"Right," she said. "You find it, Doctor?" she called down the well.
"I found something!" the Doctor called cheerfully. "I'll know for sure once we get the muck off — which is a bit more acidic than I thought, by the way." The Doctor's tone didn't change at all, but Rory pulled a little faster.
The Doctor, as he finally emerged, was covered liberally from head to toe in the mud from the bottom of the well, but it seemed to be all on his clothes, which were looking a little worse for wear. He set his prize down on the ground and wiped his hands on the grass, hissing a little.
"All right?" Rory asked, leaning over the Doctor a bit.
"Stings a bit, that's all," the Doctor replied. He smiled up at them. "Now, let's see if this is the lost treasure of King Armedes, or just the type of ordinary wooden chest you always chuck down a dry well."
"Hold it," Rory said, his stern tone coming out. Amy didn't hear it very often, but when she did, there was no arguing with it. Rory caught the Doctor by the collar of his jacket, the back of which was more clean than the front. "We thought that acid was strong enough to go through the chest. Show me your hands."
The Doctor sighed, like a five-year-old denied playtime. Grudgingly, he showed Rory his hands, flipping them over to show both sides. They were still smudged in places, and the rest of the skin was starting to turn an angry red.
The Doctor sighed again, huffier. "Fine." He slid out of his jacket, turning it inside out as he did so, to prevent the mud from getting anywhere else.
"We still need to get the mud off this," Amy reminded them, gesturing with her foot towards the chest.
"Right. Uh —" Rory looked around.
Reaching back into his jacket, the Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver, a regular screwdriver, and a string of magician's handkerchiefs. He tossed the screwdrivers to Amy and started cleaning off his own hands. "Give that a go," he suggested.
The lock popped open with an accommodating click, and Amy carefully prised open the lid with the manual screwdriver. The mud released its grip with a squelching, wet pop.
"It's empty," Amy said, disappointed.
"Really?" the Doctor replied. "It didn't feel empty." He tossed the handkerchiefs over his shoulder and strode over to Amy's side. He picked up the sonic and scanned the chest. He hmm'd, looked at the sonic, then scanned the chest again. He frowned at the chest. "Someone else has been here," he concluded.
Amy peered inside the box, but there was still nothing there. "How can you tell?"
"There's trace energy signatures here — can't tell what kind, but no matter how much mud's on the outside of this thing, it hasn't been down that well for long." He flicked the sonic open and closed, over and over again, thinking. "I think we need to go back to the palace. Talk to Prince Amandine again."
"Amy, don't." Rory tugged her arm, and she leaned backwards again. "It's not going to stop for hours."
"You're right," Amy said with a sigh. The air outside was a dark yellow as particles of sand flew through the air, fast enough to flay skin. "I can't believe this."
"Is the TARDIS going to be all right?" Rory asked the Doctor, who was wedged between them.
"Shouldn't need anything more than a fresh coat of paint." The Doctor hunched forward a little. Even seated in the tallest part of the niche of rock they'd squeezed into, he was still too tall by far. Rory and Amy's heads just brushed the ceiling of the cave, if it could be called that, and the Doctor was taller than them both. They'd been in the cave for nearly an hour now, and judging by the way he shifted position slightly every couple of minutes, the cramped conditions were probably starting to get to him.
Well, he was probably just as eager to get out of there as Amy was, but at least Amy wasn't bent double.
"All right, Doctor?" she asked.
"Hmm? Yes, I'm fine." He tilted his head another degree.
"Come off it, Doctor," Rory said. "It hurts just to look at you." He glanced around the cave a bit. "Here — come here. I have an idea." He turned ninety degrees, which allowed him to scoot another inch or so further back into the crevice. Amy saw what he was doing and followed suit, turning a little to form a pocket.
"Rory —" the Doctor protested, but he turned the way Rory directed him, sinking back reluctantly against Rory, his bent knees bumping against Amy's. It wasn't any more comfortable, but it wasn't any worse, either, and it gave the lankier Doctor a bit more room.
"Better?" Amy asked, bumping the Doctor's knees with her own companionably.
"Nnnnnnngh." The Doctor replied. Rory had dug his hands under the Doctor's jacket, and was kneading at the muscles of his shoulders.
"Christ, Doctor, you're like a rock. Much longer and you wouldn't have been able to stand up straight," Rory observed.
The Doctor made a noise like a creaking door. Amy laughed. Rory's hands were like magic — he put his medical training to good use. The Doctor's eyes rolled back in his head a little. She licked her lips.
The Doctor's eyes met hers and he stopped. He tried to sit up, but Rory pulled him back. "I'm not done," he said.
The Doctor pulled back again, shrugging his jacket back up over his shoulders. "I'm better, it's fine," he insisted.
Rory sighed. "Let me know if you change your mind." He exchanged glances with Amy, looking a bit tired. And unsurprised, she thought.
The Doctor looked at Amy, then twisted around to look at Rory. "Right." He looked at Amy again. "Right. Yes. I'll do that."
"Ha-ha!" The Doctor crowed triumphantly, looking with pride at the console in front of him. "We did it! There they are, look at them!" Amy and Rory crowded next to him. On the viewscreen a load of silver particles shimmered through the air, like a cloud of microscopic fish, swimming the currents of space. "Oh, you're just gorgeous," he said, a grin splitting his face. Turning to Amy and Rory, he laid a kiss on each of them, smack on the lips, then pushed off from their shoulders, bounding down from the platform.
"Come along, Ponds," he called when he saw they hadn't moved. There was a twinkle in his eye. "This isn't over yet. We still have an Assistant Administer of Agriculture to find, and an asteroid to save."
Amy grinned broadly at Rory, who was still staring at the Doctor. She grabbed his hand and jogged after the Doctor. "We're right behind you, Doctor!"blog comments powered by Disqus