"Rory?" The word hung in the darkness with no accompanying answer or rustle from a duvet or a head on a pillow. Amy held her breath, waiting for a moment before she leaned out of bed to check on the bunk below. Rory's bed was perfectly made, but empty. She sighed and lay back again.
Last night Rory had taken one look at the bunk beds and refused to sleep in them. Tired, Amy had promised to speak to the Doctor tomorrow, but Rory had left, muttering something about finding somewhere better. And she thought there was something about the Doctor and sabotage, but she hadn't had the energy for his conspiracy theories about her and the Doctor. Amy had begun following him, but he'd disappeared around a bend in the corridor and could have gone anywhere. She'd ended up going back to bed to wait for him and fell asleep. Now she couldn't tell if Rory had been back at all.
The sun simulation light told her it was morning, so she got up to search for her errant boyfriend. The trouble was that there was a lot of TARDIS to search. Although she tried every door she passed, she found no trace of him. But she did notice that a mountain range and a storage cupboard for mops had appeared overnight. Why the Doctor needed so many mops when she'd never seen him clean anything, let alone mop a floor, she didn't know.
Eventually she reached the control room, where the Doctor was lying under the console tinkering. She was never quite sure what he did, except maybe for endless tune-ups that only he understood and never seemed to make any difference as far as she could tell.
The Doctor must have heard her come in because he peeked out from beneath the console and grinned at her. "Good morning, Pond."
She smiled back and pulled her dressing gown tighter around her, wondering if he could see up her nightie from that angle. "Good morning, Doctor. Have you seen Rory?"
As he scratched his chin and thought back she wondered what the two of them had said to each other last night, if they'd spoken at all. "No, I haven't," he said in the end and came out from under the console, jumping to his feet. "You don't think he's got lost, do you?"
She hadn't until now. "No," she said, but it didn't come out as confidently as she had intended. "I just haven't seen him since last night and I wondered where he was."
The Doctor looked grave. What had Rory got up to that he knew about and she didn't? "You should have dinner."
She blinked. "I haven't had breakfast yet."
"So you're hungry." He grinned. "That's perfect."
She was still confused by his thought processes, although that was nothing new. "For dinner?"
He nodded. "Dinner. With you and Rory. It'll be romantic." He spun his sonic screwdriver in his hand and slipped it into the inside pocket of his jacket.
Well, that was different. And dinner with Rory she wouldn't object to. "That would be nice." She smiled now. "Where?" The TARDIS was still in flight - she'd learnt to tell by the hum.
"Here." He said it as if it was obvious." I'll cook."
"You'll cook." Surely she couldn't have heard that right.
He looked hurt at her scepticism. "I can cook, you know."
"Of course you can." She patted him on the arm. "You've had plenty of time to learn."
"And plenty of people to practise on." He grinned. "It'll be ready in an hour. Bring Rory." He started on his way out of the console room, calling back, "In the library."
She wanted to ask how he knew, but he was already gone. She sighed, and hoped he was as good a cook as he thought he was.
"What is it?" Ian leaned over the Doctor's shoulder, earning himself a glare and he stepped back beside Barbara, out of the Doctor's eye-line.
"We're looking forward to trying it," Barbara added, and the Doctor smiled at her.
"It's an old family recipe." Susan answered for the Doctor as she crossed the kitchen with some pink powder in a bowl, which she poured into the pot. "You'll like it."
Ian wasn't so sure, but was unwilling to risk the Doctor's wrath by saying so.
"Should it be doing that?" Barbara's concern was quickly followed by Susan's cry of "Oh, no!" as the meal overflowed the pot.
Ian took a step back as the Doctor said, "I should have used a bigger pot."
From a safe distance they all looked on in growing horror. It became obvious that the ooze wasn't going to go back into any size pot, by the way it grew as it dribbled across the cooker and up the wall.
"It expands to fill the container," the Doctor explained.
Now Ian was really worried about what had gone in it. "I think we'll stick to the food machine for now." It was suddenly sounding much more appealing.
"I know what I did wrong last time."
Jamie and Zoe exchanged looks. "You never make the same mistakes twice," Jamie said, trying to be reassuring, but it seemed an odd way to cook, with glowing rings and not a fire in sight.
"I'm confident in your abilities." Zoe was rewarded by a smile from the Doctor. "Maybe Jamie and I can cook you something next time."
Jamie turned a worried look on her. They'd tried to go out for dinner once and he and Zoe had argued over everything on the menu. He couldn't imagine finding anything they were both willing to cook.
She didn't notice because she was frowning at a cupboard that appeared to be melting. "Doctor, is that supposed to be doing that?"
The Doctor looked where she was pointing. "Oh, no." He flapped a tea towel at it, without much effect. "I think I've made it a little too acidic."
Zoe quickly filled a small round container with water and threw it at the cupboard. It was too late, though, and the cupboard door collapsed, leaving a red liquid to ooze out of it.
The Doctor sighed. "We'll have to abandon dinner. And another kitchen."
Jo sat on the kitchen counter watching the Doctor as he measured out ingredients and transferred them between containers. He'd refused her help, saying that this meal was for her, so she refrained from asking why he was stirring flour (or something that looked a lot like it) with a fork.
He sang as he worked and she was glad he was happy. Finally being able to pilot the TARDIS again probably had something to do with that. Hence the celebratory meal with ingredients that could only be found on Arquemis IV (apparently).
Finally, he put a pot on the stove, lit the gas and stepped back. "Just be another twenty minutes, Jo."
She smiled and jumped down. "It looks delicious." Actually, it looked a sickly green colour, but she was sure it would be fine once it was cooked.
"It will taste delicious too." And then he stepped back to avoid getting his eyebrows singed by the burst of flame that shot up from the pot.
Jo grabbed the fire extinguisher and soon had the fire out, but dinner was ruined. "Never mind." She put an arm through his. "I know a lovely restaurant I've been dying to visit."
"No, that's not it." The Doctor slammed the drawer shut, but it jammed on a whisk.
While he started on another, Sarah opened the drawer to put everything back neatly. "If you'd tell me what you're looking for, maybe I can help find it."
"A Venusian ladle."
"Can't you just use an ordinary ladle?"
His eyes bulged at her. "An ordinary ladle?" he repeated. "Do you know what a Venusian ladle is?"
She shook her head.
"A Venusian ladle can stir." He slammed the drawer shut and ignored the tin opener that fell out. "It can serve." He opened a cupboard, peered in, then slammed that. "It can add just the right taste. Aha!" From the oven he pulled out a metal ball and grinned. "This is a Venusian ladle."
As much as Sarah wanted to ask she didn't want another lecture, so smiled at him instead. "So now you can finish cooking?"
"Oh, no, this is ruined. I need a new one!" He was off down the corridor.
Sarah looked at the mess he'd made, sighed, and followed him. At least she was going to get a trip to Venus and maybe the Doctor would forget all about cooking.
"What is it?" Tegan scooped some food off her plate and held it out towards the Doctor, who was playing waiter. It was a lumpy brown substance that didn't look like anything or worse, smell of anything.
Although Nyssa had tried a mouthful, Tegan wasn't so sure about eating anything the Doctor had cooked. Even if he swore he'd ironed out all the problems and hadn't set fire to the kitchen this time.
"It's a Gallifreyan dish," he replied. "A good introduction to the cuisine. Suitably mild. And the only recipe I can remember," he added, looking a little sheepish.
"What's it called?" Nyssa asked, as Tegan considered whether it really was safe to eat.
"Creamed porridge," he said proudly.
Tegan frowned at her plate. "Are you sure?"
"Well, it is baby food."
Tegan put her fork down and glared at him. "Baby food."
Even Nyssa looked a little less enthusiastic.
"I did say it was an introduction to Gallifreyan cuisine."
"Perhaps we should go for a meal somewhere nice," Nyssa suggested, trying to keep the peace.
The Doctor looked disappointed, but Tegan stood up. "I know just the place."
He looked mournfully at their hardly-touched plates, but was overruled.
"I assure you, Evelyn, I am perfectly capable of baking a cake just as good as any of yours."
"I never doubted it for a minute." She tried not to look disapproving at the mess he'd made of what she considered to be her kitchen, given that he never stepped inside it. Until now.
She refrained from asking him if he was intending to ice the cake, when he produced a knife and cut two slices. He handed her a slice on a plate, looking anxious to know what she thought. Looking more confident than she felt she tried a small piece. And then spat it out into her hand.
"Evelyn!" He looked scandalised.
"I'm sorry, Doctor. But did you check all all the ingredients before you added them?"
"Of course I did." He looked offended.
She pondered the horrible taste in her mouth. "And are you sure it's sugar in the sugar bowl?"
"Well, of course." He went and stuck his finger in it, then sucked it. His face fell. "I wondered why the salt cellar was empty."
She put the plate down and smiled at him. "Why don't you stick to eating cakes and let me bake them?"
Ace stood on tiptoes to look over the Doctor's shoulder. "What is that, Professor?"
"It's a dish I've just created." He sprinkled a pinch of salt over it and smiled proudly at her.
It was something red in a frying pan, that was about all she could make out. It was starting to go blue at the edges which made her wonder exactly what it was. "Are you sure it's edible?"
"Of course it is." He looked offended. "Would I cook you something poisonous?"
Yes, she didn't say, if he decided it was for her own good. "Not on purpose, no."
He glared at her.
She shrugged. "I just never knew you could cook." He didn't strike her as the sort.
"Of course I can. I've been practising for hundreds of years."
She was still doubtful when she noticed the blue bits in the pan had now gone white and were spouting small flames. "Is it supposed to be on fire?"
It exploded three seconds later and she and the Doctor dived under the island. "I think I put in something that shouldn't be fried." Bits of the kitchen were still coming down around them.
"Wicked explosion, though."
The Doctor smiled as he seated Charley in a small dining room she hadn't known existed in the TARDIS. It looked more like a large dining room, but since they were the only ones in it, it hardly seemed worth mentioning.
"We should make a toast." He held up his glass of water.
Charley picked hers up, but when no toast was forthcoming she guessed he intended her to find one. "To friendship."
"To friendship." They clinked glasses, had a sip, and then picked up their cutlery.
The Doctor was watching Charley intently as she took her first bite. She frowned as she chewed and eventually swallowed.
"How is it?"
"It has no taste." She looked guilty about it. "There is no taste there," she added, after a moment's thought.
"That can't be right." He stuck his fork in the stew and ate a piece. "You're right." He looked defeated. "I'm so sorry, Charley, I must have missed a step in the recipe."
She wasn't sure how that was even possible, but patted the Doctor's hand. "Why don't we eat something someone else has cooked and we can try again tomorrow?"
"Yes." He seemed enthusiastic about that. "Ninth time lucky."
"Not bad? It's fantastic."
"I wouldn't go quite that far." But Rose grinned at the Doctor anyway. "My mum always said to keep hold of a man who can cook."
"Ricky can cook?" He sounded surprised.
"Mickey." Just because he'd cooked a meal specially for her didn't mean he was going to get away with getting Mickey's name wrong again. Although she wasn't about to argue too much as she finished her glass of water. At the Doctor's worried look she said, "Just thirsty." There was a jug of water on their table and she poured another glass and downed that. And then just drank straight from the jug.
"Oh, no. I forgot. Interferes with human physiology. Wait there!" He dashed off.
By the time he returned she'd finished the whole jug, so was grateful for the glass he put in front of her. Once she'd finished she made a face. "That's horrible." And then glared at him, despite having finally slaked her thirst. "At least Mickey never poisoned me." She immediately regretted saying that, given the hurt expression on his face.
"I'll get it right next time," he promised.
Rose wasn't sure she wanted a next time.
"So where is this from, Mars?" Donna had another bite of the reddish-coloured stew. It was surprisingly good - who knew the Doctor could cook?
He shook his head. "Gallifrey. Although I had to modify the ingredients because some of them are hard to get hold of. Well, all of them. And by hard to get hold of I mean impossible. Not without going to Gallifrey." He hid a look of hurt about that behind another forkful of stew.
"Well, whatever it is, it tastes good." She yawned and stretched. "Such a big meal, it's putting me to sleep."
"The traditional post-dinner nap." He looked excited about the idea. Until Donna fell off her chair, fast asleep and snoring. "Donna?" He frowned and shook her, with no effect. "What have you been doing? Oh, no." Going back to the table he picked up her plate and sniffed it. "Pekt! Never give pekt to a human. I'm so sorry Donna." He considered picking her up and decided she was too heavy. He settled instead for folding his jacket under her head. "At least you'll sleep well. For twenty four hours." It was probably just as well that she couldn't hear him.
"This is nice." Amy smiled at Rory, willing him to enjoy himself. Although he'd put on a smart shirt and pulled out her chair, he still didn't look keen.
"Yeah." Then at her disappointment he repeated himself in a more enthusiastic tone. "Yeah, it is. Even if the food's terrible, it's the company that's important."
She reached forward to brush Rory's hand as he lifted the lid on the tureen. Underneath was what looked like some sort of meat stew and once he'd put a couple of spoonfuls on each of their plates she tasted some, hoping to reassure him. But she couldn't. It sat like a lump in her mouth, a taste that wasn't there and a consistency that was neither one thing nor another.
He must have guessed what she thought from her expression. "He can't cook, can he?"
She wanted to disagree, to defend the Doctor, but she had to admit he was right and she dropped her cutlery beside the plate. "He's had other important things to do. Hasn't had time for cooking."
"Right, well, I'm glad I didn't get too dressed up."
As Amy looked down at the short, blue dress she'd found in the wardrobe, Rory pushed back his chair. Amy shot up out of hers, grabbing his arm before he could get more than two steps away from their table. "Rory!" She wasn't going to let him leave their date just like that.
He stopped, but stayed facing the door. "I'll stay out of your way."
She shook her head. How could he think she wanted that?
"Yours and the Doctor's, I mean." His tone was expressionless.
She sighed. She'd tried to speak to Rory before about the Doctor, but protesting her innocence was hard when she remembered kissing him. In her bedroom. The night before her wedding. Even if it was a mistake. She had to try now though. "I want you, you idiot. And oh!" Her eyes widened and she put a hand to her mouth. "This is really good."
He blinked. "What?"
"The food. You have to taste it. Come on." She grabbed his hand and before he could protest, pulled him back to their table. As much as she wanted to taste more of it, the real thing, not this echo, she wanted to share the taste with Rory even more. So when she dipped her fork in the stew she held it out to him. "Trust me." She looked him in the eye.
He did and ate off her fork, but looked disappointed. "It doesn't taste of anything."
"It will," she promised. She didn't know how it worked, but it was definitely the stew she could taste. And it was good stew too. Feeling impatient she put a hand to the back of his neck and kissed him, hoping to share the taste that way.
Afterwards she stayed standing close to him, looking at him and waiting for him to taste the same thing she had. She knew he had when his expression turned surprised. She laughed and let go of him enough to feed him another forkful. "This is why I like the Doctor." She ignored his disappointed look to eat some more stew himself. "Because he's mad and brilliant and completely unpredictable. I love you because you're always there when I need you."
Whether it was her words or the Doctor's stew that did the trick Amy didn't know. All she did know was that Rory kissed her. All she cared about was Rory kissing her. She pulled away when she felt him relax in her arms and they took the stew to their bunk room to experiment with taste and bunk beds.
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