Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who
A/N: This is the sequel to Fare. It was written almost a year ago, and contains spoilers up to 5x08; it also vaguely foreshadows the rest of S5.
The small dining room wasn't exactly small, unless you compared it to, say, the dining room in the Palace of Versailles. It was perfectly round. It also heavily resembled a restaurant, with round tables, chequered tablecloths, stiff-backed chairs and breadbaskets devoid of bread. Rory sat at the table in the very middle of the room – it was the centre of attention, the other hundred tables fanning out from it in an approximation of a wave-motion. (The Doctor had insisted that, seen from the ceiling, the tables formed his favourite fractal.) If the floor hadn't been smoky glass and the domed wall and ceiling hadn't been dotted with lights pulsating in orange and blue, Rory might actually have been able to pretend he was somewhere else.
He had changed into a simple black long-sleeved tee he'd retrieved from the wardrobe the day before and kept in his room (he didn't quite trust the ship to let him find the wardrobe again). He didn't change out of his jeans, as he refused to give this dinner more attention than what was absolutely necessary (except for the part directly relating to Amy). The shirt he really wanted to wear – his stagnight shirt, his own shirt – was perhaps not really appropriate for a date with a fiancée. Besides, it would need to be laundered at least a handful times before he'd even touch it again.
It was incredibly weird, this. He should have been married days ago, should have been on his honeymoon, but instead… he was here.
The two places at the tiny table were set with the porcelain plates, the red glasses, and the rustic silverware (the spoon to the left side of the plate and the knife and fork to the right, because he had no idea how to set a plate with three equally huge utensils). (As Rory had set the table, the Doctor had bustled in with a great green tureen in one hand and a jug of water in the other. He had plonked both down rather carelessly and then smoothed out the tablecloth and straightened the two candles. Rory had made some ham-fisted comment about the Doctor not needing to make an effort for him and Amy, which had made the Doctor a bit cross –)
Long story short, the Doctor had stridden off to get Amy, and now Rory waited for them, nervously fingering the tablecloth.
He was getting hungry, though the content of the tureen couldn't have been less inviting. What he had seen of the food hadn't been impressive, and not even a suggestion of scent could apparently penetrate the tureen lid; Rory had started to wonder whether the Doctor had remembered to put the food in there at all. Although, he thought, that might be for the best…
He could have lifted the lid and checked, of course, but he just wasn't that curious.
The folding screen that served as a door shifted. The Doctor, back in his elbow patch-jacket, escorted Amy inside. It was really a quite obnoxious entrance: she had his arm and leaned a bit on him, and they walked in step and it looked classy. The walk from the screen to the table seemed to last forever to Rory; apparently the slight weaving of the tables hampered them to such a degree that they were forced to walk incredibly slowly. And really, did they have to murmur and laugh like that as they approached? Rory pursed his lips, rose, and pulled out Amy's chair.
She wore a very lovely deep-blue dress, short as usual, along with a pair of tights with some swirly pattern – she was shoeless, and her hair splayed across her shoulders. Rory's heart ached; he had to stop himself from clutching at his chest (he did that a lot, he found, and it was quite embarrassing). He returned to his seat, as he wouldn't be surprised if the Doctor simply stole it if he was not physically in it. He waved a bit and smiled as Amy and the Doctor finally arrived at the table.
Amy disengaged her arm from the Doctor's and sank down on the pulled-out chair. She smiled brilliantly at Rory. "Ready for our date?" she asked, raised a brow and moved her shoulders exaggeratedly in a mock-flirtatious way.
"Oh, I'm so ready," answered Rory, perhaps a bit too jovially. He might also have punched the air. "And you obviously are!" Privately, he gave a little sigh of relief. This was their date now, and the Doctor could just keep to the kitchen.
The problem was that the Doctor didn't seem to be in much of a hurry to leave. He pulled out the sonic screwdriver, leaned over the tureen and lit the candles (somehow). The lights in the ceiling dimmed.
Amy rolled her eyes and whacked him on the arm. "Show-off."
The Doctor merely smiled, pocketing the sonic. "Right," he said. "You've got food, water, red-and-white tablecloth, spoon, knife and fork –" he pointed at Rory, an ingenious smile on his face –"and candles! This is a perfect date."
"Depends on the food, though, doesn't it?" said Amy, a gleam in her eye.
The Doctor faltered. "Really? I always heard it was the company – Oh, right!" He clasped his hands and smiled to himself, apparently realising she was teasing him. Then his face changed and he became serious, "Do you want me to stay? I can sit over there, if you have any questions about the food…"
Rory glared at him.
The Doctor narrowed his eyes and said, "I should leave, shouldn't I? Just…" He trailed off, regarding the tureen intently. He leaned close to it and lifted the lid slightly; a puff of steam escaped. He laid the lid down again, apparently satisfied. "You enjoy your food, now," he said, and ambled away.
"There's no bread in the breadbasket!" Amy shouted after him. "Bring us bread!"
The Doctor slipped out of the room without making any sign he'd heard her.
Rory felt a little nervous, and, really, could anyone blame him? His fiancée might or might not have changed her mind, he was having dinner consisting of a meal The Other Man had cooked, on board a spaceship slash time machine… surely it wasn't in any way odd that he'd feel more comfortable at the pub back home than in this odd, pulsating, dimensionally transcendental thing? Amy looked comfortable, though; she could fit in anywhere.
Sure, travelling through time and space was remarkable, it was fantastic, it was brilliant, and he should be incredibly lucky he got to do it. It wasn't worth losing Amy over, though. If to death or the Doctor…
Amy grabbed the jug and poured them both water. The flutes filled with an almost musical sound. She took a careful sip. "I'm just making sure it is water – this one time he'd put some time machine oil that looked exactly like water in a glass, and… I was sick for hours."
The candlelight brought out various highlights in her hair, made her eyes glitter.
"You look lovely," Rory said.
Amy smiled – she might even have blushed a little, but it was hard to tell in the poor lighting. "You know how hard it is to dress when the wardrobe has an opinion? It was like she wanted to keep me there as long as possible." She unfolded a napkin (they were in the bread basket) and draped it across her lap. "I suspect the Doctor set the kitchen on fire and the TARDIS tried to cover for him."
Rory cleared his throat. He definitely blushed. Whatever for? He should tell her the entire kitchen had gone up in flames and that the Doctor had popped by McDonald's… but he didn't. Instead, he changed the subject. "Should we…?" he gestured to the tureen.
"Well, obviously!" She grinned expectantly. "It's what we're here for..."
Rory removed the lid. The subtraction of the ugly pot had made wonders for the food; it looked like a pretty decent stew now. It was brownish and lumpy, which was a good start. It smelled good, too, in an unusual way. Like when he and Amy, back in Leadworth, had brought different food home from the pub and the scents of two meals had mixed in the house for the rest of the night… It smelled like that, like two meals in one, like something impossible.
There were no serving utensils ( Naturally! he thought), so he used his spoon to scoop some food onto both their plates; he only spilled a little, and next to his plate and not Amy's.
"It smells nice!" Amy looked impressed. "Honestly, I thought he'd chuck us a fork each and leave us with the pot. This is so…"
So romantic, Rory thought. Far too romantic for an alien who otherwise didn't seem to grasp the simplest human custom.
Amy stared at the helping on her plate. She actually looked nervous. "Here goes…"
Rory sniffed, just a bit. "Where's your faith in the Doctor?"
"I've total faith in him! It's his taste buds I doubt. I've told you he spat out half the contents of my fridge. That first time… when I was seven."
"Oh, right." They had re-enacted that once, to his parents' horror…
Amy chose between the utensils, but finally decided on the fork. "What do you think it'll taste like?"
"Mild. Like a mild stew. A mild, alien-tasting stew." Well, wasn't that a rubbish answer.
"Wouldn't it be great if it tasted like chicken?" In one swift motion, Amy plunged the fork into the food and then popped it into her mouth.
Rory grabbed his own fork and did the same; best get it over with quickly.
It really was very, very mild. It tasted like… like… like nothing he could compare it to.
Certainly not chicken.
It tasted like nothing, period.
It was just something in his mouth. Just a warm, succulent lump, that… failed to make its presence known.
The smell of it ought to make him taste something, but no…
How could it smell good and taste like nothing?
And the consistency of it! It caused a full-scale war inside his head. It was just mushy enough for him to want to swallow it at once, and also just textured enough to make him want to chew. He could see lumps in the food on the plate, but they simply disintegrated in his mouth.
He compromised by chewing a few times and then swallowing with a big gulp of water. Sure, it went down. Was it gourmet food? Definitely not.
Then he looked at Amy. She was frowning. She dug her fork into the stew a second time, raised it to mouth-level and then simply stared at it.
If only it had tasted like chicken."I kind of like it," he blurted out, for reasons that completely overshot his conscious mind.
Amy looked up at him, resigned. "It's all right. He's great at, like, everything else."
"Yeah, he's amazing…" Rory really wanted to change the subject. He chose the one closest to his interests. "So… the Doctor said you wanted to talk to me."
Amy looked blank. "Right. Yeah."
"So – About what?"
A few long seconds passed, during which Amy put down her fork and remodelled her expression into a less blank one. "I'm glad you're here."
This pleased his aching heart, though he would have liked a bit more emotion from her. He wasn't sure she was entirely sincere, either. "Was it your idea? Inviting me?"
Amy took a breath and picked up the fork again, pushed her food around. She closed her eyes, then opened them with a start a mere moment later. She looked annoyed (and Rory was certain this expression was sincere). "It's a bit complicated-"
A timid knock cut her off.
Rory clenched his teeth and stared darkly at the folding screen. Please, he thought, don't let him stride in with a violin, lute, accordion, or in any other way re-enact a Disney flick.
to be contined.