Quantum Equilibrium

by pocketmouse [Reviews - 5]

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  • Adult
  • Explicit Sex
  • Action/Adventure, Character Study, Drama, Romance

Author's Notes:
General spoilers for all of the fifth season of New Who. Takes place before The Hungry Earth, probably?

Amy is used to people watching her. Aunt Sharon, the psychologists, neighbors... Leadworth may be small, but that's not the only reason everyone there knows her name. Rory watches her the least of anyone, she thinks, because he doesn't have to look too hard before she'll tell him, and showing is different from being revealed.

The Doctor, though -- he looks at her, and sometimes she's not sure if what he really sees is her, or some other version of her he's just made up. Though she's made up years of stories about him, so maybe it's only fair. And it's nice being able to surprise someone for once. It's been a while since she's been able to do that. There's always this surprise and wonder when he looks at her. No fear, no weariness.

She likes it a lot.

The Doctor's fingers brush her hair out of her face as she arches her back further, head in his lap. Her breath hitches as Rory continues his ministrations, head buried between her legs as he tongues at her clit. His fingers stroke her g-spot, she's absolutely soaked, wrung out and right on the edge of coming, teasing touches keeping her there, preventing her from spilling over, and she wants to, so badly.

She traces her hands over her breasts, rolling her thumbs in tights circles over her nipples, drowning in pleasure. Opening her eyes a little, she sees the Doctor's face above her. His mouth is open slightly, and his gaze is fixed on her face. His hands rest lightly on her shoulders now, and she plucks one of them up to cup around her breast. He mimics her own movements, fingertips callused and strong.

Rory builds his strokes, not faster but stronger, more pressure. He looks up for a moment, and he gives her this look, heat and desire, so specific in counter to the Doctor's star-struck wonder. She loves them both.

Rory twists his fingers harder, mouth pressed against her, and she can't take any more. The Doctor's hand slides away as she comes, like he's drawing her out of herself and exposing her to the universe.

She wants to know what he sees.

 


 

Amy has indeed gone to put the kettle on, so it should come as no surprise to Rory that he's standing in a spaceship in what is technically another dimension, and this is the only room of the blasted thing that he knows. He bites his lip, but before he can admit this problem to the Doctor, the man is clapping him on the back, and then he slings his arm over Rory's shoulder.

"Right then, Rory, let's get that cuppa. What'll you have, you look like a Darjeeling man. I find myself partial to a nice simple black tea myself these days. Used to be English Breakfast, actually, though for the longest time before that it was Earl Grey." The Doctor rambles as he leads Rory down endless identical corridors, seemingly without thought or looking where they're going, taking turns almost at random, until Rory is thoroughly lost, and still the Doctor is talking about tea -- "It varies, you understand, but no matter what, I always love a good cup of tea. Nothing else quite like it."

Taking the last turn of the corridor almost blind, they burst into a room that Rory can only assume to be the kitchen. Though that's not really accurate. It's more like someone stuck the back half of a camper onto the end of the hallway. There's a kitchenette with hot plate and sink, and lines and lines of cabinets, more than the room should possibly have, with mismatched knobs and weather-worn wood, leaning against each other awkwardly, doors askew, as if if you opened one, the contents of another would come tumbling down, and the whole stack would collapse. Amy doesn't seem aware of the chaos above her head, though, as she pulls a tea towel out of a drawer too small to hold it. She sets a tray down on the table next to Rory.

"Sit," she says, and he does, automatically. He notices out of the corner of his eye that the Doctor has done the same, but he didn't notice when. Amy pours the tea (he suspects she's getting some sort of thrill out of the situation, but he doesn't want to speculate as to exactly what. It's just easier to go with the flow) and he glances around the rest of the room.

Aside from the kitchenette, it's a fairly normal sort of sitting room, light coming in from some unidentifiable source and warming up the cream and yellow walls. The floor is a wood parquet, shabby and shiny with wear. All the furniture is a little beat up, really, like the sofa they're sitting on, but it's comfortable, lived-in. Like a house that's had the same family in it for sixty years. It's a bit like his gran's house, actually.

The couch shifts as Amy settles next to him, legs crossed under her, asking the Doctor something about vampires and whether he's seen any proper ones. The Doctor is across from them, in an ugly behemoth of a wingback chair, puce green and looking too painful to sit in, which it must be, because as soon as he finishes his tea, he's up again, moving around the room even as he answers Amy's question. He springs up to illustrate some point and never manages to settle back down again.

Amy is like this too, at home, sometimes. She's always doing three things at once, turned away from him while talking and smashing things about, tossing words over her shoulder as she shrugs on a coat and slams out the door, keys rattling in her hand. He always wants to take her hand and ask her to just stay still, please, just for a moment. And he does, sometimes, disguising it with a kiss or a question.

And yeah no, he's not going to kiss the Doctor. The Doctor in motion is right; he can't remember seeing the man still except for that long painful moment after he'd tumbled down the staircase after being electrocuted by the space-fish-vampires' defense system. The Doctor still is unnatural, uncomfortable to see in the same way that Amy in motion is, that ball of tension and unease in the pit of his stomach.

The Doctor -- somewhere he can't see, though his voice still rings through the room -- has moved on to discussing something to do with the squidgier parts of a spaceship engine, and why exactly one should never use a cantaloupe instead of a bowling ball in a game of late-night ninepin unless you're absolutely certain you can find the cantaloupe at the end of the night, and really Rory doesn't want to know. Amy's foot is tapping against his thigh, and she smiles at him over the rim of her cup, pleased by this secret she's sharing with him.

He smiles back, raising his mug in a sort of 'cheers,' but Amy plucks it out of his grasp and leans over him, kissing him full on the lips instead. She's soft and warm, familiar cherry lip gloss and smooth skin as his hand settles automatically at her waist.

"--But then again they have six limbs and opposable knuckles, so of course he said y-- oh."

Rory stiffens, but with Amy firmly on top of him, he can't really move other than that, and she seems to feel fine right where she is. She kisses him a moment longer before pulling back slightly and sitting up. The Doctor is still standing there next to the chair, fingers twitching restlessly. His mouth is drawn in a small 'o,' and Rory can see his eyes glance over at them then flick away again.

He swallows a sigh and taps Amy's knee. "So tell me where you've been, then. You said lots of running."

 


 

It really is just a series of misunderstandings that leads them to being turned into wolves on Geleris III. Or a wolf analogue, at least, the planet's native equivalent, but Amy still has memories of scent, dusty brown shaggy coats and silent feet padding down wooded pathways, pine and dirt between her claws.

She thinks werewolves, she thinks shared hallucination. The TARDIS doesn't smell right any more, and she's taken to wandering its halls barefoot. Rory can't sit still.

"You'll get used to it," the Doctor says absently, as she wanders by for the third time. "Or it'll go away. One or the other."

"What do you mean?"

"New body. New senses." He's studying the screen in front of him carefully, but she's pretty sure it's blank. "Or old body after new body. Similar. It doesn't all line up."

She knows he's not looking at her. She wonders if he can still smell her, though. Last night Rory fell asleep with one arm around her waist and his nose buried in her hair.

She has a bite mark on her shoulder. She's pretty sure the Doctor knows it's there. She hopes so.

She's disappointed that it seems he's decided to go the denial route. Even if he doesn't say, there's no way he can think she doesn't remember the way he smelled, the attraction rolling off of him in waves, ready to follow her anywhere, do anything.

Amy steps closer, wishing she still had that ability. The Doctor doesn't move away as she draws nearer, but he is definitely aware of her, paused frozen on the edge of flight, like that moment in her bedroom, like the moment in the curve of a ricochet where the net velocity is zero.

The moment breaks.

"So unless you suddenly decide you have a craving for raw meat, it's not really worth bothering about, and we should move on to bigger things." The Doctor's in a flurry of motion, pulling the levers and knobs that set the TARDIS flying, rocketing away with that familiar and necessary groan. "How about Tibet? I haven't been to Tibet in ages, lovely people. Wonderful food."

"No." She moves counter to him, cutting off his movements. She catches his wrist in her hand and he stops, frozen, half-curled over the console. "I think it is worth bothering about." She wishes he still wore the old tie instead of the bow tie, but she has to satisfy herself with grabbing a fistful of his shirt as she yanks him down to her height.

"Amy, I --" is all he manages to get out before she kisses him. It's different, this time. Last time, she wanted the idea of him, and she thought he'd understood her the way she understood him. There's more persuasion now, slower, because she knows what she wants; if doing it properly means doing it slowly, that's better than not at all.

He makes a little noise inside her mouth as he finally starts to kiss back, close-mouthed and slow. It sends a rush of heat through her and she lets go of his wrist to trace over his jaw, touch light. His skin is cool, shaved smooth but on the edge of being rough.

She wants more, she wants to keep going, but she pulls back instead, hand smoothing out against his chest, open palm letting her feel the double beat of his hearts. His eyes are shut tight and it takes him a moment to open them. He licks his lips cautiously. Tasting her.

"Of the three of us, the only one who seems to be afraid of this is you." She speaks quietly, but firmly. "And don't tell me you don't want it, because if I wasn't sure if you were lying before, I know you are now."

"I never said I didn't," he replies. "But just because we all want it, doesn't mean it's a thing we can -- or should -- have."

"You'll have to be more specific," she reprimands him slightly. "So far you haven't come up with an excuse I feel like buying."

His tension is evident across his face, though he hasn't moved away.

"I know this isn't forever. I know you'll have to leave eventually."

He shakes his head. "I said I wouldn't --"

"And I know," she interrupts, "that means you won't leave me alone." She smiles at him. What he wants isn't always what he can do, she's well aware of that. "We're not asking for forever. We're asking for now."

She kisses him one more time, then slips out of the room to go find Rory. It's probably just her imagination, but she thinks she can smell the Doctor's scent again as she brushes by him on her way out.


Everything seems to become spectator sport on the TARDIS after that. The Doctor believes Amy when she says she's talked with Rory about this, but sometimes it still seems like Rory doesn't know what's going on, either. He's going along with it, but in his stumbling, awkward way that suggests he's not in on the whole plan.

And damn if that doesn't make the whole thing more endearing.

At the very least, he should tolerate this whole thing because it means Amy's opening up to Rory more, open affection on a level he suspects Amy's rarely ever shown, if Rory's reaction is anything to go by. The boy's enjoying the attention, and it's good to see, the two of them.

Maybe a little too good.

It's no accident when he catches them going at it in the library. Especially with the way Rory's hand doesn't unthread from Amy's skirt, and she's so achingly slow to do up the buttons on her shirt. Amy grins at him, and Rory stares with a look of open curiosity.

He doesn't know what to say back.

Really he should say no.

Really he should stop watching.

He gets distracted from his own game of 'spot my influences' at a spaceport sculpture garden watching the two of them. The thin amber lights of the artificial sunset halo Rory and Amy, bent over a waist-high sculpture, a simple cube, its metal sides acid-etched in intricate patterns, a forest of right angles and shadows. They're completely caught up in what they're doing, they may as well have forgotten that he's here. And they're beautiful, glowing golden in their exploration, that simple energy humans have, that fascinates him.

He wants to touch, but he's afraid of sullying that spark. He is too much like them, he's been told, time and again, yet here he is afraid of turning them into something like him. And they wouldn't even understand it if he told them. He thinks of Chameleon Arches and pain tearing through his heart. The transformation really only works one way. He thinks of looking at himself across a stretch of empty beach. He can't be the things he wants to be.

 


 

The thing is, Rory thinks, the Doctor is always watching, except when he's not. He manages to miss Rory and Amy falling into the pit trap on Rigel Prime, and it takes him hours to notice that they've been taken by the palace guards in New Ottawa, but to be fair he had taken quite a knock the the head that time, and kept calling Rory 'Ben.'

But when Amy tugs Rory by the wrist to show him something in a market stall, or he puts his arm around her waist as the TARDIS shudders and spins, he can feel the Doctor's gaze on the two of them. He can't always catch him at it, as the man turns away again, ducking behind the central column of the TARDIS console, face distorted by the uneven glass.

Rory isn't sure how he feels about this. Aside from the unfortunate conversation in the cake, none of them have really said anything about Amy and the Doctor's kiss. The Doctor is a hard one to read -- half the time Rory thinks maybe he's got a perception filter too, and underneath that worn coat and suspenders there's a giant blue bug-thing with four eyes and a prosthetic forehead -- and if he's alien enough to think that it's okay to tell a bloke his fiancée's a great kisser, then he's probably alien enough that kissing in general might just be a whole other thing. And -- it's not like he's just tagging along, brought along like a shield to distract Amy, like the time Jeff took him clubbing and it turned out his definition of 'wingman' actually meant 'pretend you're queer so I can hit on the girls.'

But he does keep watching. Rory tries to tell himself that he's just being hypersensitive -- but he's the Doctor, and for all he never cared about Amy kissing strangers and being a flirt to pay her way for three years, this is the fucking Raggedy Doctor, the only person he's ever truly felt compared to and judged against his entire life. And isn't that just messed up.

So he watches back. He watches the way the Doctor runs, always the last to leave and the first to turn back. He watches the way his face lights up at anything new -- anything he hasn't seen before, or before like this -- the way he just absorbs knowledge, until it comes out again hours later when you don't even realize he's been processing it that whole time. He treats them both the same -- he treats everyone the same, really, like a friend. A possibly stupid friend, maybe, but one you don't want to point that out to unless they're doing something particularly idiotic. And he treats everyone that way right up 'til the point they do something dangerous, and then it gets sort of scary. But then again, by that point there's usually laser guns and explosions, so scary goes with the territory.

He still doesn't know what to do about it, and worse, he's not sure how he feels about it. It's possible (just possible) that he's only upset that he's not more upset.

 


 

The rules have always been this:

-Rory won't complain about Amy's job if she doesn't tell him about it.

-It's just kissing, and skimpy outfits. It's not -- Amy -- that he doesn't agree that a girl can be a stripper if she wants to. He just doesn't want to share that much of her.

-If something else does happen, she has to tell him. And if some bloke tries something, she has to tell him that too, even if she's already taken care of it herself. That's the one time he wants to know names.

Amy had argued the need for rules at first. "You can't tell me what to do at my job, Rory. Do I come to the hospital and tell you what to do?"

"I work in the coma ward, none of them call for kissograms! You can do whatever you want at work as long as it's just work. If it's not work, then I think it affects me, yeah."

Her first instinct is to tease him about his reluctance -- he's so old-fashioned. Rory's only kissed four people in his life besides his mum: her, Vanessa, Owen, and Jeff. And Jeff's a rotten kisser. But she relents, and that's the end of the conversation until she remembers to make him promise not to tell Jeff's gran.

"You weren't going to tell me, were you?" Rory asks out of the stillness.

Amy sighs and leans back. "Rooooory," she says, drawing it out. She doesn't want to analyze -- 'discuss' -- it.

Her feet dangle in the water of the small pond, shoes tied together and sitting further up the bank. It's a bright spring (she thinks) day, and they could almost be back on Earth if it wasn't for the alarming red of several of the grass species, and the abundance of deer-sized lizard things grazing on the other side of the water.

"I don't know," she says at last. Quiet. "I --" She reaches out and puts a hand on Rory's knee, thumb tracing little circles in the denim. Her nail polish is chipped.

She tries again. "Because I wanted to. Because I was scared. Because that's the way the story's supposed to go -- I don't know, Rory." She slumps forward, hair falling into her eyes. She doesn't want to look at Rory. "You know what it's been like, this past year. Since he came back. Part of me expected it to be another twelve years before he showed up again. And so I jumped at the chance to go with him."

"But..." She hesitates, bracing herself. She owes Rory this. "I was running away, too. Getting married -- it's a big thing."

"I told you we didn't have to," he says quietly. He doesn't sound hurt, but she's afraid he is anyway.

"No, I do, I want to." She turns towards him, clasping his hands. Rory is -- he's always been there. He knows everything, but she doesn't know how to explain this to him right. "There's just so much I want to do first. Getting married, that's something that grownups do. I'm hardly ready to be a grownup."

That's not right, but it's closer. Something he can't accidentally brush aside with 'I don't need a big wedding' or 'Summer or fall, that's not important, Amy.' Something that's not an empty excuse.

Rory smiles at her, the set of his shoulders relaxing. He pulls her closer, hugging her shoulders. "That I can believe." He kisses her cheek. "I don't expect you to be anything but yourself." Whatever that is.

"I just wanted an adventure that wasn't pretend. I wanted to see if I hadn't just been making it up in my head." She leans into him, mumbling the words into his shoulder. Rory's smell is so familiar. And it's not that she's sick of familiar, or Rory. But she's sick of Leadworth, and her life, and the tiny little circles she treads in the two. Rory's the one who usually breaks up the boredom. They keep each other distracted while they plot for something better.

"And how's it been so far?" he asks. "More mud monsters than you could possibly dream of?"

"Different than I thought. A bit." Amy sits up a little, Rory's hand sliding down to her waist. "The monsters are a lot scarier than the ones we thought up when we were kids." Less kissing monsters. More bile. "The consequences are -- so much bigger. But it's brilliant. Actually being out there, on a spaceship in the future; on alien planets, with aliens that aren't cardboard and plastic. Less princesses and mermaids." She tilts her head. "Though we did meet Queen Elizabeth X."

"And fish from space are like mermaids."

Amy makes a face and smacks him lightly in the chest. "Rory." He laughs with her, and she is so glad he's here.

 


 

Rory doesn't exactly relax around the Doctor after Amy tells him what happened in the dream. That would imply a level of defensiveness and needing to be defensive that he would never indulge in, or have need to. But he does, coincidentally, start to find he's having more of a good time. It's just getting used to new things, that's all.

But he doesn't stop watching the Doctor.

He's learning more about the other man -- first of all, it's really creepy that that whole dream was just the Doctor's -- apparently twisted -- subconscious, and he died in it, but the idea that the Doctor hates himself that much... That's something that Rory really needs some time to get his head around. Sure, there's self-doubt, but this is bigger than that, somehow. The Doctor's been -- well, hesitant's the wrong word, but different. Rory's not sure how he can tell after only a couple weeks on the TARDIS, but it's there. So he's watching.

Amy notices too. "He's sadder," she says. "He won't --" she tilts her head. "In my dream," she says slowly, "when you two were asleep and I was alone on the TARDIS, the Dream Lord -- the Doctor's subconscious, whatever -- was taunting me. He... I always thought the Doctor told me everything. But he doesn't, really. It's -- you know -- I don't know how much he's not saying, because apparently I don't know what those things are!" She throws her hands up in frustration. "He's nine hundred years old, of course he's got a lot -- but it never feels that way, you know? He just goes away, and he never comes back. And it's like he forgets all about you."

"But Amy, he did come back."

"Yeah, and he dreamed he visited us having a normal life and it was so boring he had to dream us up some monsters too."

Rory isn't sure what to say to that. So he keeps watching.

And the Doctor is watching back. Watching the two of them. When he thinks about all the things the Dream Lord had said about the Doctor, Rory's got to wonder why. If he's going to leave and never look back, why? How can you care that much and then leave forever? Nine hundred years old, time machine, that's got to mean a lot of avoiding people.

They visit Pluto in 2477, theoretically for the shopping, and end up stopping an assassination. Not on purpose even, they'd just been chasing a shoplifter, and they'd collided going around a corner, all of them going down in a pile of limbs. Rory, Amy, the Doctor, the shoplifter, and the would-be assassin, weapon still in hand. Of course, they didn't get thanked for their work, they got accused of conspiracy and stuck in a cell.

Not that that lasts very long. The Doctor has claimed the single cot, sitting on it cross-legged (still wearing shoes) and frowning in thought. Amy and Rory exchange glances and elect to keep quiet. But the Doctor doesn't get much past "I think --" when there's a hissing noise from all corners of the room, and the world quickly goes black.


Rory comes to in an unfamiliar room -- though it's definitely somewhere in the TARDIS, there's a background hum he recognizes, and the design scheme is unmistakable, though this room is a lot -- neater. Bare. He blinks, trying to focus on the ceiling. He has no idea how they got back here, how much time has passed, or why, he discovers as he tries to sit up and nearly pitches over, his entire body feels like jello filled with eels.

He's sliding off the bed and unable to do anything about it, but strong cool hands catch him before he hits the floor.

"Careful, careful," a voice whispers as he tries to catch his breath. His chest aches and his lungs are on fire like he's been running at high altitude. He can't get enough oxygen. Something cool is pressed against his forehead, and it scents the air, bright and sharp, making it easier to breathe.

After a minute, he opens his eyes again. "Doctor?" His voice is strained, harsh. He can barely hear himself.

The Doctor leans forward over him, one hand on Rory's shoulder. "You're all right, you're on the TARDIS. It's okay, it's over." The Doctor smiles, but it's shaky, false, full of guilt. His face is pale and haggard. He looks like Rory feels.

"What --?" Rory tries to say, but he stops after the first syllable, lungs treacherously close to vacating his body for a stabler tenancy.

"Don't talk, just breathe," the Doctor says, mouth a tight line, hands squeezing Rory's shoulders. "You're fine, Amy's fine. Your body's just tired from the trial process. I'll explain it to you later. Right now I just want you to rest. Can you do that for me?" The Doctor cups Rory's cheeks gently, looking him in the eye, upside-down though he is.

Rory forces another word out, even quieter. "You?"

The Doctor smiles, but it just makes him look sad. Maybe it's the upside-down. "I'm fine too. Now sleep, okay?" His voice drops to a whisper, hands still framing Rory's face. His hands feel cool to the touch. "I'll be watching."

Rory wants to say something, argue -- he's missing a step in here somewhere. He needs to think it through, figure out that missing step, but everything's fading away again, softening around the edges. The Doctor must have slipped him something, though he hasn't stepped away from Rory at all, still right there. But he hasn't done anything to justify being this tired...

He wakes up again to Amy's voice. "--Not like last time, I remember that --"

"Amy, you can't remember forgetting something. That's why it's called forgetting."

"I know that," Amy snaps, sounding genuinely upset, and Rory decides it's a good time to break in.

"I've changed my mind. Pluto doesn't deserve to be a planet." He fades away again.


They made him watch.

They'd put Rory and Amy through a series of tests, mental and physical and humiliating, and made the Doctor watch. That was their trial. Rory sits on the sofa with Amy's hand tight in his grip, unable to recall any of what the Doctor tersely sketches out, face a blank mask. Neither Rory or Amy can remember a bit of it, and now that the physical strain is gone from their bodies, there's no sign of it at all except in the Doctor's mind.

That's not a trial, that's a fucking punishment. Rory's angry, frustrated. He can't do anything, the Doctor doesn't seem to want to, and Amy is -- undecided.

"If he doesn't want to do anything about it, then we won't. But I want to know what he saw." She looks over her shoulder in the direction the Doctor had disappeared. "I'm sure if it was something really important, he'd tell us. Like the dream." She looks him in the eye.

"You said he hasn't even told you his name."

"I don't know! What counts as important when you're running around helping people and stopping invasions?"

"Amy, he's 900 bloody years old and we know how much about him? You'd think there'd be something in there he'd be able to share." Silently Rory thinks the Dream Lord was right -- and he should be, being the Doctor's subconscious -- and they're not the first. Not special at all. He knows it's not something Amy wants to think about. She'd told him like it was a secret the Doctor couldn't know.

Rory doesn't care.

 


 

The Doctor's dreading the moment when Rory finally corners him alone. "Of course she's special. She's a brilliant girl who wasn't afraid of strange men in her garden, and she refuses to listen to a thing I say." He smiles fondly, but it can't hold. How does he continually fail at such a simple thing? He knows he should say something, but he doesn't know how. New life, new body, new everything -- somehow he thinks this all used to be easier.

"There is no measuring, no competition. I've done that before, unintentionally, and, well, fresh start here," he gestures at his face, his body, "and I'd like to not foul that up again."

Rory makes a face. "Don't think you've got much of a choice there."

His smile feels wrong on his face. How to explain? After that nightmare, haven't they seen enough of the inside of his skull? But he owes them something.

This was all such a bad idea. Hopefully something will come along soon to distract them all.

"I'll have a talk with her," he says reassuringly, curling an arm over Rory's shoulder, drawing him away. Rory feels solid and whole beneath him, with that addictive warmth that humans have.

Rory's head bent closer to Amy's made something inside him twinge, the cold feeling of his nightmare falling over him again. It hadn't been having to visit Amy and Rory in a boring life that had been the nightmare. It was having to see that they were happy and had moved on from him.

It was a punishment, he knew. His subconscious teasing him, castigating him for watching them now. Wanting them now. But he couldn't even tear his eyes away, let alone tear himself away from this stupid, beautiful, backwater little planet and its gorgeous, incredible inhabitants.

One day his valorization of humans -- his excuses -- were going to backfire on him, and it wouldn't be fixed with a little memory wipe and a trip to the medbay.

But it was never tomorrow on a time machine.

 


 

He likes this little planet. He loves its people. Their sense of wonder with the universe.

They're so excited by the stars that they forget to ask about him.

Which is good. Romana used to ask what his fascination with the planet was. So did -- well, most of the other Time Lords. He has a lot of reasons for not wanting to dwell on them, he was an outcast for a long time before he was a 'survivor.'

Observe and be impartial was drilled into him for centuries. It's still not all gone.

He is, he thinks, too good at watching sometimes.

Things he didn't realize he was watching at the time, things he knew he was seeing but they were so quick, so fleeting, things he thought he saw and things he imagined he saw -- things he wants to see, things he only sees behind his eyelids.

Possibilities.

Different bodies, different needs. Different mindsets, different motivations.

Same desires.

Amy and Rory are asleep in their room, and he stares at his reflection in the console. Transparent. Warped.

He can see it, in his mind. The way they're curled around each other -- Amy's head on Rory's shoulder, his arm around her, their legs tangled together, limbs loose in easy sleep.

A soft kiss, rocking hips, hands sliding under cloth. Whispers he can't actually hear and gasps he knows he's inventing. Idle moments spin fantasies of eager fingers, teeth nipping at flesh and excited cries. Amy cries out and bucks, rolling through ecstasy that he can't tell from future, fantasy, or missed opportunity.

 


 

It should come as more of a surprise to Rory that the Doctor is spectacularly bad at taking care of himself.

Then again, when your first impression of someone is a second-hand account of them looking like they got pulled out of a trash compactor, and it takes over a decade for that view to be changed, it really shouldn't be so surprising.

"Right," Rory says, once he's sure the Doctor is conscious again. "Please tell me nothing's broken, because it's pitch black in here, and this time I know neither one of us has got a torch."

The Doctor's silent for an uncomfortable moment, and Rory would think he'd gone unconscious again if it wasn't for the slight sounds of him shifting about and the occasional uncomfortable hitch in his breathing.

"Everything seems to be in one piece," he says at last. There's some more shifting and gasping, and Rory might just call him a liar as he helps him sit up, especially since it ends up with the Doctor leaning against him heavily, like a sack of potatoes.

"It better be, because I don't need to remind you I don't know what all those pieces are, Mr. I-forgot-to-mention-I-have-two-hearts," he grumbles.

"So would you be able to do anything about it if there was something wrong?" the Doctor counters mildly.

Rory sullenly refuses to answer this.

"Where are we, exactly?"

"Not sure. Tunnel of some sort. I haven't exactly been able to investigate much," he replies. Alien physiology or not, he hadn't wanted to leave the Doctor alone. "Feels like the same composition as the rest of the ship, but that's all I can tell." They'd both been unconscious when dumped here, and Rory wishes he'd paid more attention when they were exploring earlier.

"But Amy got away."

He nods, even though the Doctor can't see it. "She should be on her way to the Prime now. She'll be able to stop the Assembly, but I don't know about finding us."

"Well, we'll just have to find ourselves then."

Fair enough. "Right. Let's try this way." He turns to crawl off to his right, and the Doctor slides away from him onto the floor.

"Er."

Again, he wishes desperately for any kind of light source as his hands fumble for the Doctor, coming into contact with a shoulder at last. "This doesn't feel like 'in one piece' to me."

"Sure it is, just... not all of me's working." The Doctor grunts, and shifts a little under Rory's hands.

"Oh. Right, lovely, glad you thought that worth sharing."

"I'd rather hoped that the paralyser effect would wear off by now."

"Well apparently it hasn't, and unless you want to wait here while I go off and --"

"My legs still work, I just can't... arm," the Doctor offers.

"Arm is not a verb unless your upper limbs have suddenly turned into weapons," Rory snipes.

Fortunately, the Doctor just laughs, a wide, bright sound, and turns his head to rest against Rory's arm. "I'll keep that in mind," he says.

So Rory ends up half dragging, half carrying the Doctor as they crawl along the tunnel. It's awkward, since with the Doctor draped across his back Rory has to crawl extra low or the Doctor's head whacks into the ceiling -- "Sorry. Again." -- and Rory is wearing the Doctor's suspenders so he can tuck the Doctor's arms against his chest and keep him from sliding away. It's awkward, and warm, and he's pretty sure his back is going to kill him tomorrow, if not his whole body, and the Doctor won't stop talking. At least he's letting Rory talk as well this time, bouncing ideas off of him, though most of Rory's contributions are just grunts or one-syllable agreements or disagreements. He doesn't have much breath here.

After what feels like forever, though it's actually probably no more than ten or fifteen minutes, they finally find something. Or rather, the Doctor does.

"Stop! Stopstopstop!" He kicks back with his feet like he's braking on a bike, jerking against Rory in a way that's really inappropriate.

"What? What?"

"Back up. There's a light." Slowly, Rory backs up, which is even more awkward than going forward. "Stop there." There's a pause and the Doctor rolls his hips in what's probably an attempt to turn himself over but is a bit friendlier than Rory'd generally prefer. "It's an access panel of some sort, open it up."

There's a careful shuffle of limbs as Rory twists around, detaching the Doctor as carefully as he can. He takes a moment to stretch before kneeling up and investigating the panel. There's a tiny green LED embedded into the ceiling, the only source of light, but not enough to spread anywhere, and he has to feel around with his fingers to find the edges of the panel, which comes loose with only a minimum of experimentation. He blinks as white light floods into the tunnel, disturbing his dark-accustomed vision.

"What is it?" he asks, looking at the jumble of wires and tubes. "It looks like a fuse box."

"It is a fuse box."

"Oh."

"It's a fuse box for a torpedo launcher."

"A what? Torpedo!?" Rory scrambles back.

"A torpedo launcher, not a torpedo itself. We must be in the ejection tubes."

"We've got to get out!"

"We're perfectly safe --"

"Yeah, until someone launches us into space!"

"Nobody's getting launched into space, Rory." The Doctor still doesn't have control over his arms, so instead of a comforting pat on the back Rory receives a non-comforting kick in the shins. "Come on. Torpedo chambers aren't that long, we must be almost at one end or the other."

"And what if it's the wrong end!"

"Then we'll go the other way. Here, put this cover back on."

"Shouldn't we break the fuses or something? Make it so they can't fire this tube with us still in it?"

"Don't be silly. Then it'll still be broken when we get out. And the Armada's still on its way. I'd prefer to keep the weapons systems undamaged, thank you."

"You'll change your mind when we're dead in space."

"Let's just keep moving, shall we?"

All he wants to do now is get out, so he wrestles the Doctor back onto his back again, trying to pick up the pace of his crawl.

The Doctor, on the other hand, is back to theorizing.

"Of course, how would we end up in the middle of the ejection tube, then, so there must be an environmental safety. Whoever put us here must know that. Though I suppose if --"

None of it's encouraging Rory to go any slower, and he's too relieved to feel anxious about which end they've ended up at when he finally fetches up almost head-first into a bulkhead wall.

"I'm glad you're here, Rory." The Doctor says into his shoulderblade.

Before he can ask him what exactly he means by that, Amy yanks open the door to the torpedo chamber, sending them both tumbling to the ground.

 


 

Though there's at least four medical professionals on Earth who will never believe her (and that's just to start), Amy has never once imagined anything like this in all the years she was waiting for the Doctor to show up again. The past year, maybe, but that's something different, and if the Doctor in her memory has more of Rory's mannerisms than he actually really does in reality, she can only blame her lack of reference material, can't she?

Rory's hands skate over her breasts, and as she arches her neck back, another hand combs through her hair, carding it out of the way, warm air ghosting across her neck. She moans a little at the Doctor's fleeting touch. He never speaks, and he never takes -- nothing for himself, it's always to steady her or Rory, balancing them, soothing them. Anything more than that, and he withdraws. But the look on his face as he watches her -- watches them -- is enthralled. He's soaking in the two of them, hunger in his eyes. Amy wants to drag him down with them, push his mouth between her legs, make him break past whatever's stopping him.

Like he can sense her thoughts, the Doctor backs off, but he's not gone far, the bed hasn't shifted. She doesn't give further thought to it though as Rory's hands slide down her sides, laying soft kisses along her stomach. She rocks harder against his erection, wanting more, harder, faster -- and Rory responds eagerly, guiding her hips as he ups his tempo until she's riding him furiously, breathless and just on the edge, wave after wave of lust pounding through her. She can't breathe properly, can't help the noises she makes, high-pitched gasps and little syllables of need. Her eyes snap open as she comes, everything blurry and over-bright.

When she can finally see straight again, the first thing her eyes manage to focus on is the Doctor, sprawled back against the wall and looking wrung out. His eyes are on Rory so he misses her studying him. All she can think is that he looks incongruously lonely.

 


 

Rory has never been so grateful for adrenaline in his life. After the stupid pollen nightmare...thing, they all spend the next several days increasingly cross and twitchy. Tea cups are beginning to pile up around the TARDIS console as if by magic, and Rory has started to contemplate eating sugar straight out of the bowl. He nearly breaks his neck tripping up the stairs from the console because he's so tired he can't see straight. He pushes Amy away and sits up awkwardly, rubbing the heels of his hands into his eye sockets.

"We're going to have to go to sleep some time."

The answering silence is a weary one.

The Doctor sighs and nods, giving the console a look of some suspicion. "We're going to have to dream, eventually." He taps listlessly at one of the levers. "Mind's not meant to go without it."

Amy nods. "Just -- do we have to -- here? Isn't there somewhere we could go, like a space hotel or something? Somewhere where there definitely, absolutely are no monsters."

"Like Switzerland," Rory says, nodding. He doesn't want to go back to Leadworth, wedding aside.

"No, Switzerland's got monsters." The Doctor shakes his head.

"I meant somewhere neutral," Rory says, trying to keep the snap out of his voice.

"Right," the Doctor replies sharply, spinning away to set the TARDIS whirring, lights flashing and column pumping. "Neutral I can do. Hotels, not sure about. Might be a bit of a camp out. How do we feel about a bit of the great outdoors?"

"As long as it doesn't try to eat us, great," Amy mutters.

The planet they step out onto is quiet, but not unnaturally so. Just the quiet that comes from nature, and no one around to disturb it. It's dim, probably just past sundown, the sky still purple in one direction that Rory mentally dubs east, then corrects himself and redubs it west. There's a scattering of trees here and there, not enough to properly call a forest, but old enough and random enough that they can only be natural, and somewhere off to the north is a shadowy line of something that might be mountains.

The stars in the sky above them are vast and dizzying. He recognizes none of them. "Where are we?" he asks, voice hushed.

"I don't know," the Doctor replies, equally quiet. "Well, I do know, coordinate-wise. But this place, this planet, is new. So new it doesn't have a name yet. In a couple millennia some species might evolve and give it a name, or the light from its sun will reach astronomers on another planet, and it'll get an indicator. But right now, this planet is still working on evolving bugs."

"And pollen?" Amy asks, looking at the soft grass beneath their feet with distrust.

"Absolutely nothing even remotely psychic, I promise. Come on, this planet's got sixteen hours of darkness, and I'd like to make the most of them." The Doctor picks up the carryall again, leading them out to some indistinguishable spot some meters away, the TARDIS still visible but removed for the moment.

Rory and Amy have never been camping further than the backyard, and it's been years since even that, but they're all so tired that it really doesn't matter at this point. There's blankets and pillows piled up like a nest, the TARDIS apparently fresh out of sleeping bags, and Rory really does feel all of nine again.

He's sitting on the ground pulling his shoes off when something hits him. "Wait, there's only one bed... thing. Are we all going to --" he waves his shoe at the nest.

The Doctor ducks his head away. "Sixteen hours, should be plenty of time for us to take turns. I can stay awake for a while longer, Time Lords don't need as much sleep as humans."

Rory hadn't even thought that far. He'd just been thinking about all of them being asleep at the same time. His mouth moves wordlessly, fighting against his brain.

"You're going to sit awake in the dark for eight hours?" Amy asks, disbelieving. "You haven't slept in days, just like us, I doubt Time Lords and humans are that different." She scowls at him. "You'll fall asleep after a couple hours, that's no good."

"Amy, I --" the Doctor sounds exasperated, his shoulders tense, eyes weary, and the single thought that flies through Rory's head is 'this bloke hates himself more than I do.'

"Just sleep with us." He blurts out, the immediately turns red. "I mean -- the bed. In the bed. Sleep. In the bed. With us." This is stupid, why did he say that? This is just asking for trouble. The Doctor still looks tired, but Amy has lit up like Rory's just said something particularly intelligent. "You're sleeping next to me, though," he adds narrowly, pointing a finger at the other man, who finally cracks a weary smile.

"Ooooh, Rory, there something you need to tell me?" Amy asks, though she already knows he's been with blokes, and anyway the Doctor is definitely not his type, not at all. But he just wants to be done arguing about it. Amy's picked him, she's not just pretending to make him feel better, and he's just so relieved that this isn't his last chance to see her that he doesn't care.

The bedding down is still awkward -- if sleepovers are really like this Rory's glad he missed out as a kid -- and there's still some tossing and turning before they all manage to find comfortable positions. Amy surprises Rory by curling up on her side facing him, instead of on her back like usual, which is the position the Doctor takes up on the opposite side of him, hands folded on his chest, looking a bit like a dead person. Rory turns in towards Amy, brushing a strand of hair out of her face. They're all still too tense to want to fall asleep, but none of them can really think of a safe topic of conversation. The last of the light has leached from the sky, and Rory can't even see Amy right in front of him. He closes his eyes and tries to just breathe.

Eventually, it must work, because he wakes up suddenly, without even realizing he'd been asleep. It's still dark, and the stars have moved, but he doesn't know enough about astronomy to be able to tell how far, or what that means. Amy has rolled away into her usual position, and Rory's on his back too. He can't make out the Doctor, it's still too dark to see, and he doesn't want to wake anyone up, but he can hear someone else breathing, and chooses to believe it's the Doctor.

It's nice. Everything's quiet, and he feels good, rested. He has no idea if he dreamed or not, if he did he doesn't remember it. He knows already that there won't be a lot of moments like this on the TARDIS, but it's a good one, and he sinks back into it, closing his eyes again.

 


 

Not everything in Amy's life revolves around the Doctor. By age eleven, she's mostly stopped talking about him, except to Rory, and sometimes Jeff. She's sick of the teasing, the patronizing, the pitying looks as Aunt Sharon drags her off to another cold office with the entirely wrong kind of Doctor. She reads The Little Prince in the blanket fort in Rory's bedroom, and realizes that it's not the adults' fault that they don't believe her about the Doctor. When they hear Doctor they think of cold offices and white coats, not honest faces and listening to hearts. She feels a little sorry for them.

Also she decides she wants to fly airplanes, or maybe be a space astronaut, even if that means she'll have to do A-levels after all.

By sixteen, Amy hasn't forgotten the Doctor -- that'll never happen -- but she's got more pressing matters to worry about, like the fact that Rory's looking at going to University, in London, and what's she going to do in this town without him?

"Why don't you come too?" Rory asks. "I mean, there's still time to sign up for A-levels, there's a late placement test in a couple weeks, if you study I know you can --"

"No," she says shortly.

"Amy, I know you don't want to stay here, you've said so," he wheedles. "Even if you don't want to go to University, and that's still two years away, mind, it's still getting out of bloody Leadworth."

She kisses him more to shut him up than anything else, and because she's angry -- at herself, for being stupid, and at the Doctor, for being stupid, and for making her feel stupid, and at Rory, for not mentioning the Doctor even though he knows. But mostly at herself.

But Rory's not stupid -- that would be why he was the one taking his A-levels -- and eventually he gets tired of Amy's recalcitrance. There's a little shoving (both of them), a lot of shouting (her, Rory, and Aunt Sharon), and maybe a bit of crying (entirely Rory), and it ends with Rory dating Jeff, of all people, for the last six months or so of Rory's A-levels. Amy's pretty sure most of their 'dates' consist of going to the pub and then making out in the back of Jeff's car, and Lucy says something about blowjobs that Amy refuses to listen to. She basically avoids him entirely, or as much as you can in tiny Leadworth, but she's learned to drive and Rory hasn't, so day jobs in nearby towns suddenly look quite inviting.

Still, she doesn't expect how quiet it is when he's actually gone, and she starts to feel a bit bad. So when Rory sends his first letter to her, in October, she actually reads it. In part because it's an actual letter, on paper, the only real mail she's ever gotten that hasn't been from a bank or a lawyer or a collector. And it's easier to read a letter than it is to talk in person. She doesn't write back as much as he writes to her -- less to say, really, and his letters slow in frequency as his coursework gets harder. He's dating a doctor -- student doctor, really -- named Owen, and that's the only thing he mentions aside from his courses, and the weather. Even though they're only two hours apart.

She never visits. Rory doesn't come back during breaks.

And then suddenly he's there, looking weary and grey, living in a rented room above the pub. She doesn't even know until she runs into him -- almost literally -- at the pub itself, on a busy Friday night, with the bar full and the tap almost out, and the rest of the stock's on the high shelf that Amy can't reach by herself. So she drags him back to the stock room and makes him fetch the keg for her, even though he nearly staggers with the weight of it. Serves him right.

"Explain," she demands sharply the moment everything calms down again.

Rory shrugs a little, listless. He looks skinnier, pale. "I'm starting practicals in a month, the hospital needs nurses." Simple as that.

She narrows her eyes. "London must need nurses too."

Rory snorts. "Sod London." He looks her in the eye. "At least no one here's a liar or a cheat."

They shag in Amy's bedroom, and Amy wonders why they never did it earlier. Probably because Aunt Sharon was still living in the house. Now it's just Amy. She thinks about asking Rory if he wants to move in -- there's plenty of empty room in the rattling old house -- but she can't quite make herself open her mouth to say that. Besides, Rory seems different now.

She misses the little boy she used to play with.

But she's still glad that Rory's back, even as they poke and prod at each other's new, sharper edges. They eat dinner together most Fridays when Rory's not on duty, and shag every night that he's not. It's unnervingly comfortable. It's nice.

She doesn't know what to do with nice.

 


 

Rory's always known that if the Doctor showed up again, Amy would leave with him. And not just in the last two years since he showed up, as real and unimaginary as everyone else. More or less. No, he'd known for years.

When he was little, he'd sometimes imagine that Amelia was like fairy folk -- they had those in Scotland -- and the Doctor had brought her here, and just left without her by mistake. That happened all the time and well, that's what Amy kept saying, that surely it was a mistake, and hadn't he said he'd be right back?

Then Rory got older and read about relativity and light-minutes, and psychology and emotional transference. And Amy kept telling stories and playing games, but those stories involved a lot more kissing now, and Amy was always still Amy, but Rory was always, always the Doctor.

"Why can't I be me for once?" he'd asked, wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve.

"Because you weren't there," Amy replied easily, letting go of his shoulders.

"Yeah, but that's just luck -- just coincidence! You could've not been there either, then it would just be Amelia Pond and the Mystery of the Disappearing Fish Custard!"

She'd smacked him for that one, and threatened not to let him play again, and Rory might say some stupid things sometimes but he wasn't that stupid, so he'd shut up because, well, he wasn't going to let someone else be the Doctor.

Once in a while after that Amy would let him pretend to come along, and they'd both imagine the Doctor, which was fine with Rory, even if it did mean less kissing.

So yeah, Rory knew he'd always been a stand-in. But he'd been a damn good stand-in, standing in there a lot longer than the real thing had ever been around for, and that had to be worth something.

The problem was, Rory had no idea how to ask.

 


 

This is probably the longest amount of time Rory has spent continually in Amy's company since the overnight trip in 6th form, and this has that beat by a mile in both duration and entertainment. Field trips to Uxbridge didn't lend themselves easily to excitement, even with Amy's imagination.

Their shared bedroom in the TARDIS has grown since Amy's come on board, she tells him. Now it's more like a suite hotel room, with a sitting room and a still rather alien-feeling bathroom attached, when before it had been sort of a single room. Rory hopes it doesn't mean that the ship thinks (and isn't that weird, to think of the ship as alive) that they're moving in permanently. He thinks idly of showing up to their wedding looking years older than they had the night before.

That's probably not a wise choice, he reflects as he settles into the bed. But he doesn't need to worry about it.

Amy collapses onto the bed next to him, sending the pillows sliding. She's just wrapped in a towel and her hair is still damp, water clinging to the ends in little droplets. "Tell me I don't still smell like dead fish," she demands.

"You don't," he reassures her, wrapping an arm around her waist and hiding his nose in her neck. "The greenish tinge has gone away, too."

"Mmm, that's good," she says, sliding over a little to straddle him properly. "I don't really look good in green." She reaches up to tuck her hair back behind her ear, towel coming loose as she does so. A slight tug sends it sliding the rest of the way as Rory strokes his hand down Amy's naked back.

Amy rolls her hips into him, pressing him down into the sheets. Rory's dressed for bed, just a boxer and a tee, so there's just that and a towel between them. Things are starting to heat up pretty quickly. But part of him can't get his mind off the fact that they're in a spaceship, a spaceship that's sort of alive, and he wonders how much the TARDIS says, how much the Doctor knows, as he closes his mouth over a nipple, fingers sliding between Amy's legs.

The thoughts don't stay in his head for long -- Amy drives him to distraction often enough with her clothes on -- but the thought of the Doctor seeing this, the two of them, it sends a staggering shock through him in a way he didn't think possible. It's gone before he can analyze it, but it still thrums in the back of his mind as Amy moves against him, this ambiguous sense of more, something bigger.

The next morning Amy smiles at the Doctor as they eat scrambled eggs in the kitchen, and the Doctor cracks a joke neither of the understand (though they laugh anyway) and claps Rory on the shoulder, and Rory can't tell if his hand lingers a moment too long or if it's only his imagination. But there's sunshine coming from somewhere, and a new planet to explore and sitting and thinking is, as always, for later.

 


 

"I told you I could do adventure without incident!" the Doctor exclaims, feeling more triumphant than perhaps he should. He flops down onto the waterbed that fills up half the cabin, and sends Amy and Rory and the pillows rolling, Rory into Amy and Amy into the pillows, then Rory back into the Doctor as the bed rocks and dips riotously.

Rory laughs and catches himself, braced with one hand against the Doctor's chest as Amy sits up, thrashing a little as she does so, giving Rory a smack for good measure. "Congratulations. I take it this is a first?" He laughs again, and the Doctor can feel his joy, seeping through his skin in waves where they touch.

"That's hardly true," he says with a pout. "Don't you trust me?"

"Of course we do, Doctor," Amy says absently, reaching past Rory to tousle the Doctor's hair.

"It can still be fun without being afraid I'm going to lose a limb," Rory states.

"But that doesn't make it bad if you do," the Doctor protests, holding his hands up quickly for a sudden inspection, in case either of them has suddenly gotten Ideas.

"How about we don't ruin a wonderful day by talking about detached limbs?" Amy suggests. She puts a hand over Rory's, where he's still lying sprawled against the Doctor, and leans over him to kiss the Doctor.

The world goes still for a moment, all his senses oversharpened as he tries to process. Soft lips against his, warmth at his side, four hearts beating an unsteady tattoo, and then -- the slightest shift of skin, and Rory threads his fingers through Amy's.

A hundred possibilities coalesce into one as he kisses her back. Amy is practically glowing as she smiles down at him, and of course there's just too much in him for one person, and it's all bursting to get out. He turns to Rory next to him, cupping his face carefully, searching the calm face for any sign of doubt before kissing him as well.

It can be hard to kiss two people at once when you've only got one head each, and soon the mutual back-and-forth kissing between the three of them has evolved into slow exploration as Amy undoes the buttons of the Doctor's shirt while Rory rucks up hers, hands cupping her breasts. Now that he's started he feels like he can't stop, touch-hungry and utterly in love with these two people.

"See, not so bad, is it?" Amy asks, triumphant. Her fingers comb through his hair.

"I never said it was bad," he says, but he doesn't want to think about what he had meant, so he kisses the curve of her hip instead.

 


 

He doesn't know where the pool came from, exactly. It's one of several new rooms the TARDIS has grown since its spontaneous... redecoration. It's not like the old one, it's the plaster-and-tile type of job one would expect to find at any public natatorium, blue tiles marking the water line, and lines of floats bobbling along on a string to mark off a handful of swimming lanes. It's the single most unfantastic room in the TARDIS, until you turn around and look at the ceiling.

The domed ceiling arcs up in great spirals of warm, pearlescent color, a bronzy pink that shines almost from within, and the rippling light reflected off the water traces the curves of each furrowed spiral like a lover's caress. It's like being inside a nautilus shell, spinning in mathematical perfection until the eye gets lost, and forgets that it is, in fact, a rectangular room.

The Doctor is floating in the cool water, contemplating patterns and rhythms and architecture and the Greeks and Egyptians, the silt of the Nile and the taste of incense, resin, and blood, when a murmur of voices winds its way in from one of the corridors. After a moment the gentle rocking of the water is jostled, becoming larger waves as Amy and Rory slip into the water at the other end of the pool. He rolls with the motion of the water, sliding off the life preserver to watch them. The ring catches him around the armpits and he rests his chin on his hands, folded over on the aged cork.

Rory and Amy haven't spotted him yet, though he's sure they're aware that he's here. They're standing waist-deep at the far end, by the steps where the water is shallow. Rory traces one hand over the skin of the water, sending ripples singing over the meniscus, while next to him Amy is staring, rapt, at the ceiling. He treads water lightly, even though the life preserver keeps him well afloat.

He should say something.

Amy's swimming style is mainly dog-paddle, her manner suggesting she was taught to swim and hated it immensely. Rory manages a passable breaststroke, his natural clumsiness less apparent in the water, something the Doctor can appreciate. Several regenerations of bodies not designed for swimming makes him appreciate his current lanky frame, even if it has its disadvantages elsewhere. The water clings to Rory's shoulders and face in small drops as he cuts through the water, rolling over his pale skin, clinging and sliding in starts and stops before he moves below the water's surface again. His hair is plastered to his face already, mouth open in a rounded 'o' as he breathes in times with his strokes.

The Doctor shifts his arms and slides out of the ring, pushing off against it, hoping to hit the bottom, though that's four meters down, so of course he doesn't. Everything is a cool blue, peaceful. The water stops up his ears.

But it doesn't stop up his head.

He waits a few minutes, trying to prove himself wrong, but of course he's wrong, and he has to give up. He surfaces with a splash, and if Amy and Rory hadn't noticed him before, they definitely do now.

"Doctor!" Amy calls, from slightly nearer than she had been. That's what he gets for hiding, though.

"Hello," he replies, swiping at his hair where it's fallen into his face. Utterly ridiculous. He practically needs clips for it.

"Nice suit you've got on there," she says, and he wonders how so much of him comes off to her as laughable.

"It's a good suit! I've had it for a long time," he protests.

She smirks. "I can tell. You know, I think you're wearing more than Rory and I combined."

"I'm quite sure that's true." He refuses to look further down than her shoulders, though he already knows what she's wearing, a burgundy one-piece with a surprisingly modest neckline, though it's made up for with by cut-outs around the waist, sleek ovals that display the curve of her hips. He licks the water from his lips.

Her smirk curls upwards into a grin. "Just checking that you knew what century it was."

He raises his eyebrows. "Oh dear me, I haven't ended up in the ladies' swimming pool again, have I?" he asks with mock dismay.

"Oi!" Rory can apparently hear them. They're assailed by a splash of water and Amy squeals loudly before retaliating. He starts out on Amy's side, of course, but eventually she and Rory gang up on him when they discover his superior lung capacity and total willingness to grab someone by the ankles and yank.

Later still, they're sitting on the edge of the pool, wrapped in towels provided by the TARDIS -- very large towels, he's relieved to note -- with their feet still dangling in the water. His fingers have long ago turned to wrinkled prunes, not that he minds so much, Amy and Rory on either side of him.

He thinks about correlation and causation and how sometimes it might be okay to have things.