by Raven [Reviews - 9]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • General

Amy is in the bath, warbling happily — among its many modern conveniences, the TARDIS bathroom features both a tub you can do lengths in and meticulously comprehensive soundproofing — and Rory is, a little to his own surprise, in the wardrobe. It's understandable, though, he thinks. He wore the centurion's outfit for two thousand years, and then a morning suit for a lot longer than a morning, and there's got to be something here, among the fur bikinis, feather boas, rubber catsuits and Technicolor dreamcoats, that he can wear.

Rory takes a Bermuda shirt off a hanger. "Hi!" says the Doctor from underneath it.

"Jesus, Doctor." Rory takes a very deep breath and a very big step backwards. "You nearly gave me a heart attack."

"Sorry," says the Doctor, but he doesn't sound sorry; in fact, he sounds distracted. As though he were doing something incredibly important in his own wardrobe under a pineapple-print shirt, and Rory has taken him rudely away from it.

"I'll leave you alone," Rory mutters to himself, and goes on riffling along the racks. Silence from beneath the pineapples for a moment, and then the Doctor sticks his head out and says, "Rory. What do you want?"

"Just... something to wear," Rory says helplessly. "Trousers. A t-shirt. Something."

The Doctor gets up, drifts to the edge of the room to rummage in a cupboard, and in a surprisingly short time, hands Rory a pair of jeans, a belt, a plain black t-shirt and a pair of boots, all polished and pressed and in his size. "If you want to get changed, don't mind me," he says, waving a vague hand. "I'll just stare at the floor for a bit, it's very interesting."

"I don't mind," Rory says, because he really doesn't — he used to change into scrubs in front of an entire hospital and into plate-metal armour in front of an entire Roman legion — and when he's dressed, the Doctor is looking at him expectantly.

"What?" he asks, guardedly.

"Anything else you want?" the Doctor says. Before Rory can say anything, he sighs. "Amy's... she's marvellous, isn't she? She loves art, she loves carnivals, she loves baths. She's wonderful, but she's not you, Rory. What do you want?"

"Er," Rory says, because he hates this sort of thing — he hated careers questionnaires at school, he hates online quizzes and "what personality type are you" and all that stuff - and the Doctor suddenly grabs his hand and starts walking.

"I don't know you yet," he's saying, half to himself, as Rory struggles to keep up, "but I wonder... I wonder."

They walk around the spiral staircase, out of the wardrobe, along a corridor, up some more stairs, round three left turns, across a small bridge that seems to cross nothing at all, under a large window apparently open to space, down another staircase and stop at a small, wooden door.

It takes two minutes' ferreting around in his pocket, but eventually the Doctor finds a key for it, and jangles it around in the lock for a while. When the door shrieks open, Rory steps inside first.

It's a garden. It's more than that; it's open to the elements, somewhere, somehow, and there's a blue sky above and sun on his face, and wind, gentle and cool, whipping through his hair. And there's fresh, springy turf, and beds laid out, some with flowers growing, and some with vegetables. He recognises dahlias, peonies, masses of fragrant sweetpeas, and recognises other flowers as alien: strange blue spiky things, poppies in a shade they never grow in on Earth, an odd variegated creeper with the light parts in lilac rather than yellow. It's all there, patterns of growth and promise.

He's started to think about what needs watering, what needs pruning, how to get rid of that ugly ageing shrub and what he would put in its place, before he remembers where he is and who he's with. The Doctor is sitting cross-legged on the grass, and a few feet behind him is the door, standing all by itself like a monument in the landscape.

"How did you know?" Rory asks quietly, going to sit beside him.

"I didn't," the Doctor tells him. "I didn't. I just thought... you might like gardens. I don't know you yet, Rory, but I thought that you like to look after things. And people. It's something about who you are."

Rory smiles and doesn't say anything for a moment; he's enjoying the breeze. "Is it real?" he asks after a while. "All of this?

"Real?" The Doctor shrugs. "There's real, and there's real. If you plant a seed in the ground here, it'll grow. If you leave your tools out, they'll rust."

"Good enough for me." Rory leans back onto the soft ground and sighs.

"I've never been any good at it, you know," the Doctor goes on, conversationally. "Looking after things, or people, or anything, really. I'm very good at saving them from mortal peril. After that, not so good."

"Maybe you should try getting a pet," Rory says. "Other than'" — and then he stops, because he's realised what he's about to say.

The Doctor peers at him. "Other than you and Amy, you mean? You're not the first to accuse me of that, and you won't be the last."

"Other people have travelled with you, too," Rory says curiously. "Haven't they? I saw the clothes in the wardrobe... what happened to them?"

"Mostly, they moved on," the Doctor says. "They travelled with me for a time, and then they went on to other things, things worthy of them. I like people, I like humans in particular, but people, and I like asking them to travel the universe with me. Is that a very terrible thing?"

"No," Rory says, surprised. "No. My grandmother in Leadworth has this cat, it's old and mangy and it keeps getting its leg stuck in barbed wire and running up huge vet bills. She says she keeps it because it's another heartbeat in the house."

The Doctor smiles. "You're a kind man, Rory."

"Well," Rory says, grinning, "then maybe you do know me a little better already."

The Doctor claps him on the back. "Do you suppose Amy's out of the bath yet?"

"Yeah," Rory says. "If the universe needs saving, she can do it. Have you got a trowel anywhere? And some shears?"

"In the kitchen," the Doctor says, getting up and heading to the door. "Come with me, I'll show you."

As they leave, the Doctor reaches into his pocket and tosses Rory the key. "Look after it," he says.

"Better than you," Rory tells him, grinning, and they head back together.