Author's note - Well, this is the last chapter. I hope you have enjoyed it (and assuming that you've managed to get here, I'm guessing that its held your interest long enough to reach chapter 5!) Again, thanks to thegreatsporkwielder for the marvellous beta work. And thank you to reviewers and silent readers and favourite markers alike. It's what makes fanfiction fun.
Hours passed, or maybe it was only minutes before the blackness faded again. He was warm and comfortable in a bed that smelled of fabric softener. Muffled voices were talking nearby, but they sounded calm now. Rory. His name was Rory. That was a start. He took a small breath, and that felt all right too. Good. He had a vague impression of being awake and listening to voices before, but this felt different. Better.
His name was Rory and he was in the TARDIS and he had been on a planet in the rain and...
He opened his eyes, then squeezed them shut again in shock. When he tried again, he did it slower, but the effect was the same. The Doctor's face was still so close that he could see the flecks of colour in his eyes.
Rory tried to get out of the way and nearly rolled off the bed. "Bloody hell," he swore.
Then, to make matters worse, Amy leaned in even closer. She was almost near enough to touch his nose. Her expression was serious and her eyes were red. Had she been crying?
"Hello?" he said. "Is there something wrong?"
"Good. Fine," the Doctor said. "Open your mouth."
Rory did as he was told. The Doctor stuck a thermometer under his tongue.
"Now close your eyes."
Rory did this too, a little more warily. The air suddenly smelt sweet and dusty. He was reminded of the babies who used to come to his mother's house when she was a childminder. He cracked open one eye. The air was full of a dusting of white powder. Through this he could see the Doctor emptying a small plastic pot over the bed.
Rory sneezed and spat out thermometer. The Doctor inspected it seriously as Amy craned her neck over his shoulder to look too. Then he smiled. "All good, Rory. Much better."
"What's better?" His voice was hoarse, but that was probably because of the talc flying around the air. He made to sit up, and was a little surprised that the Doctor offered him a hand. He was even more surprised, and a little embarrassed, that it was necessary. At least the Doctor's grip was firm as ever. "Are you all right? The Rixxi poisoned you and tied you up. And is your ankle better, Amy?"
"My ankle is fine, silly," she said, and showed off a neatly tied bandage.
If it were not for the fact that it was the Doctor, Rory might have thought he flushed with embarrassment. "Yes. Rory. It's fine now. The poison is all dealt with, and hopefully no residual effects."
"But you were really weird. I mean, weirder than usual."
"Fine now, thank you. A couple of little pills, some sleep and I'm as good as new. Although I'm not sure I'm going to be able to listen to 'Singing in the Rain' in quite the same way any more. Now you, Rory, that's a different matter."
"What do you mean?"
"Poison rain!" Amy said.
Amy punched his arm. "Rain. It's the wet stuff that falls from the sky."
"I told you it tasted funny," the Doctor said. "At least, I think I told you that. Some of it was a big muddled back there and I was finding thread of the conversation a little hard to follow. Anyway. Poison rain. A combination of very interesting chemicals that I will not bore you with. It must have formed years ago as a result of all the pollution from the Rixxi city. Never trust a Jetpack, I have decided. The stuff was obviously very bad for the Rixxi; probably wiped most of them out, and it also was very bad for humans and wouldn't be all that good for Time Lords either. Why do you think the Rixxi hid under that shelter and wouldn't follow us? They knew the rain would kill them."
Rory thought for a moment to let his brain catch up. "But you were in the rain as well. And you, Amy. Why aren't you covered in talc?"
"I was not in the rain," Amy said. "I stayed under that tree. I'd just straightened my hair, and I was not going to frizz it up without good reason." She said it flippantly, but there was a serious expression on her face that belied the lightness of the words.
"And the poison in the rain was counteracted by the Rixxi's drink. Foul, disgusting stuff that it was too, but very effective once it hits the bloodstream. The... well, psychological effects were probably just a side effect. I'm betting that they use the drink to neutralise the poison in the animals they eat. And if they use it chronically themselves, it would explain the lack of a coherent language. It turned me into a blithering idiot; who knows what it might do to a normal person."
"I dread to think. But couldn't I have had the drink version too? Instead of the talc?" Rory wiped it off his face so he could see again.
"You did," Amy said. "You were sleeping."
There was something about the look in her eyes that made him realise that he did not want to know what had happened when he had been 'sleeping'.
The Doctor slipped into lecture mode. "Talc is a naturally occurring mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate. I could tell you the chemical formula, but, quite frankly, who cares. It's the softest mineral that humanity is currently aware of, but far more interesting are its absorbent properties. Just the right thing to protect the body from the effects of a poisonous rain. And it is no good if you wipe it off." He puffed more powder at Rory.
"Why does it have to be Johnson's Baby Powder. I feel like I'm six years old surrounded by screaming toddlers."
"The TARDIS only has two kinds of talcum powder. Johnson's Baby Powder and something called 'Old Lady Christmas Present-talc.' I thought you would prefer this one," Amy said. She sprinkled more on his head.
"Yeah, this is better I suppose."
"Good," the Doctor said. "Now go and fetch a cup of tea, Amy."
"Yes. Cup of tea."
She looked ready to pout, then reconsidered and flounced off to the kitchen.
"What's wrong?" Rory said warily, for the Doctor's expression had become very serious. It looked like he was going to pronounce that Rory had a terminal disease or something equally awful.
"I just wanted to say... Look, Rory..." He paused and inspected his hands.
"I'm going to die, aren't I?"
"No, no. Nothing like that. Not that at all... I just wanted to say... what you did in the forest with the Rixxi and everything... it was brilliant. Plain brilliant. Fantastically brilliant. Sometimes I might forget to tell people, but not this time. You were brilliant. I could hug you if you weren't covered in talc, and it wasn't saving your life."
"And another thing. I wasn't myself back there. That stuff might have affected me more than I let on. So some stuff I said wasn't really what I think. Or at least not what I mean when I think it. You understand? Probably best if you just pretend that I didn't say it at all."
He looked so worried that Rory could only say slowly, "Okay."
"And you won't tell Amy? Well except from the general idea, of course."
"I was a bit busy. I wasn't really listening properly." Still, Rory wracked his memory for something embarrassing that the Doctor might have said and came up with nothing more than an interesting opinion of the Greeks.
"That's brilliant, Rory. Thank you. Brilliant."
"Right. Okay. You're welcome," Rory said awkwardly.
The Doctor obviously couldn't resist. He hugged Rory and beamed. Of course that necessitated more talcum powder until Rory sneezed again.
"Thank you. For all of it, the rescue and everything. Brilliant. Did I say that?"
"I think you did."
And when Amy came back, she carried three mugs of hot tea. They drank up until the Doctor told Rory he had to lie down before he fell over. He chased Amy back into the control room to leave him in peace.
The last thing Rory remembered before falling into a proper sleep was the Doctor patting him on the shoulder. "Thank you, brilliant, ordinary Rory Williams. Glad you came along."