The Doctor looked profoundly blank. "Pudding?"
"You know… dessert."
"How would you feel about me saying no?"
"What? You can cook this delicious dish but you can't do pudding?" She snatched the napkin draped across her lap and carefully wiped the corners of her mouth.
"How about a plate of jammie dodgers? Or jelly babies? I found another crate."
"How about…chocolate soufflé?"
The Doctor's eyes widened in a subtly panicked way. "How about Rory makes the pudding?"
"Me?" spluttered Rory. "How does that make sense?"
Amy smirked, and glanced at both of them in turn. "Let's compromise. Rory can decide the pudding… and the Doctor makes it. Or gets it. Or brings us to it." She smiled at the Doctor, then turned to Rory and raised her eyebrows in an encouraging way.
Rory really wanted to come up with something witty, and, if possible, something that wouldn't make the Doctor look at him with those wide, panic-y eyes. But he couldn't really remember any desserts at all, except… "Sponge cake?" He composed himself and tried a more certain voice. "I really want sponge cake."
Amy rolled her eyes.
The Doctor looked vaguely relieved. "At least it wasn't meringue," he mumbled, and walked away. The distance between the table and the screen seemed to have shrunk, or maybe he just moved really fast (Amy did look likely to shout out additional instructions).
She didn't call out to the Doctor, though; instead, she levelled a look at Rory. "You should have said, like, pavlova with crème brulée topping, filled with marshmallows and sweets from ten different planets."
"Why would I say that?"
"Then he would've been cross and probably taken us to the biggest pastry shop in the universe to avoid having to make it himself."
"But I don't want to go to the biggest pastry shop in the universe. I like it here… sitting here."
"We could've gone in a couple of hours. Time machine…"
They finished their meals — the dish was remarkably different once his taste buds had got used to the 'secret ingredient', whatever that could be. It was so different, in a good way. There was just one thing off; the ingredients or the spices or the chemical reactions or whatever it was made him a bit thirsty. He finished his glass of water and poured himself another. "Amy, I really think we should talk…"
Amy pursed her lips. "Yeah, sure, we will. Quit hogging the water."
He passed the jug to her. "It's just…" He needed another sip of water before he said what he wanted — no, had to — say. Only he had apparently finished it all again. "Could you hand me the jug?"
When he had finished another glass, he tried to say it. "I have to tell-"
"Yeah, yeah," Amy cut him off. "Water, now. Water!"
He pushed the jug over to her. "Amy, this thing with the Doctor…"
"We're out of water." Amy hefted the empty jug, looking a bit forlorn. "I want more."
Rory suddenly realised he did, too. He rose and took the jug from Amy. "I'll go. I know the way to the kitchen." (Though he couldn't actually remember seeing a tap there.)
The usual stretch of glass floor later, Rory pushed the screen aside. And practically jumped out of his skin. (He only held onto the handle of the jug because his fingers convulsed around it).
The Doctor stood juston the other side of the screen. Just stood there, his arms behind his back. "Rory!" he said. "You should be in there."
"You scared me half to death! What are you doing?"
The Doctor looked at him for a moment, then: "I'm repairing the antechamber. And making a sponge cake." He whipped out the sonic screwdriver and pushed a button; it made a little sound and a little light in the general direction of the opposite wall.
Rory would have laughed had his indignation not made him quite choked up. "You're eavesdropping!" was all he could manage.
"Yes, you are!"
"I think I know what I'm doing."
Rory paused, trying to come up with a sequence of words that would not make the Doctor behave like a four-year-old, but he didn't have time before the Doctor pushed his face very close to his and said, "The question is — what are you doing?"
Rory raised the jug to eye-level. "We're out of water."
The Doctor snatched the jug from him so quickly Rory didn't even notice it was gone until he saw it in the other man's hands.
"You're out of water…" The Doctor held the jug in both hands and peered into it, but what was so very interesting about an empty jug was beyond Rory. Well, if the Doctor wanted to stare at the few drops left in there, he was welcome to.
"Why are you out of water?" the Doctor asked.
"Because we finished what you gave us?"
"That was two point two three litres."
Rory shrugged. His throat was becoming a bit dry. "The food made us thirsty."
"It made you thirsty!" The Doctor repeated incredulously, as if that was incredibly rare.
"It's food. Spicy… You know, 'food and drink', they go together?"
"Oh, no, no, no… Did you fight over the jug?"
Rory shrugged. "It was more of a… stiff competition."
"The crushed mynth must have been converted to its potent form in your — let's be honest — less than complex systems. I didn't think about that possibility, sorry. Well, that's not really true." He looked sheepish. "I did think about it, and then I forgot… I had too much fun cooking."
"Don't worry, I'll just mix something in with the pudding. You'll be right as rain again. Although, obviously, replace that with a simile not involving liquid."
"What, Doctor? What are you talking about?"
"Activation. Potentiation, really. It probably won't be worse than your average sleeping pill."
It was probably the word 'sleep' that caused it; Rory gave a little yawn.
The Doctor's palm was pressed flat to his forehead in an instant. "Ooh, you can't wait for pudding," the Doctor stated. "I'll have to put something in the water." He hefted the jug in his left hand and looped his right arm through Rory's left. "To the kitchen!"
"That was just a normal yawn…"
"Rory Williams… Kitchen. Now." The door leading to the corridor swung open by itself.
They headed out into the corridor, (somewhat awkwardly, since the Doctor kept insisting Rory should go first and Rory kept insisting he wasn't tired at all he just wanted to sit down for a moment, and then there was the detail of them being joined at the elbows).
They finally stumbled out, though, Rory first. The corridor seemed a brighter orange than ever, Rory thought. Like midday sunlight, only… decidedly more orange. "It's not really baby food, is it?" asked Rory. "That stew you gave us?"
"Of course it is."
"But it was spicy! It had texture! Some… a little."
"You adapt it to the age. When kids hit 20 they suddenly want to chew. And taste."
Rory liked to think he would have responded to that had he not been so fascinated by just how much work it was to lift one's feet and walk.
And here was the kitchen already, just as crowded and dirty as it had been (… a while ago?), though the mess running down the counter seemed to have stopped moving and congealed instead, and the Doctor's arm was no longer pressed against his and life was a little wobbly because his feet felt weird. There was no obvious sign of a sponge cake being in the making, though granted it was hard to tell in the mess and Rory's vision was a little blurry, too.
The Doctor must have found a tap or a hose or something capable of leading or storing water somewherein there, because he placed the jug, now full, on top of an upturned bowl on top of a stack of plates on top of the kitchen island. "Right, here we go! Be prepared to ignore the taste, though."
"Why? What're you gonna put in there." Rory's tongue felt a little uncooperative, and about as moist as sandpaper.
The Doctor gave a small smile that was entirely un-reassuring. He shoved a hand into a pocket, withdrew a bright blue breath mint, and dropped it into the jug. It sunk slowly, and Rory watched its downward progress with burning eyes and burning throat. The Doctor produced a pair of tongs, carefully inserted them into the jug, and then stirred vigorously until he had sloshed himself and half the island with water. The many protests the glass jug made to such a treatment hurt Rory's head.
The Doctor, pleased when the breath mint had finally dissolved, picked up the jug and thrust it into Rory's sluggish hands. "Drink! Though not more than one point four decilitres."
Rory stared at the slightly rippling surface of the water. He might have imagined it, but it appeared slightly blue. He wanted to drink it so badly, though something felt odd. "Can't I have a glass?"
"Amy's going to drink from this…"
"Oh, please! You've exchanged saliva before. Do you have a cold or something?"
"No… Hold on, is that why you could use her fork?"
The Doctor's brows rose and his jaw set and he looked likely to explode or jump up and down or something. "Drink!" he shouted. "You're thirsty!"
That was the last drop. Rory suddenly realised that he was enormously thirsty, really. He raised the (somewhat slippery) jug and took a couple of deep gulps from just next to the spout, and the water was cold and wet and the best drink he'd ever had ever.
And all too soon the Doctor manoeuvred the jug away from his lips and his hands. "Rory… How do you feel now?"
Rory had to think about that for a moment. He also had to wipe his mouth and his chin and a spot on his neck dry. "It's stopped smelling like smoke in here!"
The Doctor frowned. "Right, it's worked. You're fine, back to normal."
"I am?" Rory did feel refreshed now, and his extremities actually felt like they belonged to him again, but otherwise, he felt no difference.
"You are. Otherwise you would have been asleep by now." The Doctor gave a self-content smile. Rory had such an urge to point out that all he did was drop a mint into some water, but felt he should be grateful he was not asleep. Even though, if you looked to the technicalities, it was the Doctor's fault from the start.
Then something else occurred to Rory. "Amy could taste the food before I could… Shouldn't it affect her quic-"
He never got to finish that question; the Doctor thrust the jug into his hands again, and then they were running up the corridor.
The door into the antechamber was ajar when they arrived; they hurried inside and the Doctor shoved the screen aside highly ungracefully (it made a horrible screech). They peeked into the dining room, and Rory felt a paradoxical urge to be quiet in case Amy was actually asleep.
Amy was slouched very low in her seat. She looked up at the noise, though, and shouted, "One of you bring me a drink, now!"
Rory moved forward with the jug, but the Doctor caught him by the elbow and yanked him back into the antechamber.
"She'll be fine for another few minutes," the Doctor said, and looked a little bit impressed. "Rory, I meant to say this earlier… Tell her to trust me. One day she might really have to trust me. Tell her I'll fix everything. It's not always big space fish or really old queens or Churchill nicking keys."
"Right, okay, I'll… try. And…" Rory cradled the jug. "Could you not interrupt us anymore?"
The Doctor searched his face with dark eyes. "Only to bring the pudding"
"Good. I'm going to go in now," he said. Amy was shouting something about water.
"I'll bring the pudding."
Rory had made it exactly halfway to the table when he heard steps behind him. He stopped and half-turned, and there was the Doctor, carrying a plate covered with an upturned bowl. "Here it is!"
"That was really quick…" said Rory, rather baffled. The Doctor gave him a huge smile as he squeezed past, trailing a delicious scent of cake behind him.
Amy looked decidedly anxious, gripping the armrests of her seat. "Water, water, now! What took you so long? I thought I'd go look for you, but then I decided it would be best if I just… stayed… here…" She yawned hugely.
The Doctor placed the plate on the table, then turned and motioned to Rory to hurry it up. Rory did, all but jogging the last few metres, though it was not very easy with a heavy jug of water, and also there were chairs everywhere.
Amy fought her way to a more upright position. "The pudding!" She raised her drowsy eyes to the Doctor, and there was still a bit of a spark in them. "You didn't pop out and buy it? Like… at the biggest pastry… shop… in the universe?"
"I found flour and sugar in the kitchen — in another kitchen, if you must know. In pretty tins I bought at a flea market in the 1960s, if I remember correctly. They say 'flour' and 'sugar', it's very simple."
"And the eggs?"
"In the refrigerator. Next to the milk you're always taking the last of."
Amy regarded him with a look that was half-knowing, half-asleep. "You've got a chicken somewhere, haven't you?"
"You should have some water. Some nice, cold, perfectly-normal-tasting-and-looking water." He poured it out with a daring tip of the jug, stopping only at the last possible moment. The surface tension was the only thing keeping the water from spilling over.
Amy stared at her glass, quite transfixed. As she tried to work out how to lift it without spilling, the Doctor turned to Rory and blinked. He whispered, "She's dealing with it much better than you."
Amy had finally settled for not lifting the glass at all, apparently; she simply leaned forward and slurped. Once the water level was at a manageable level, she grabbed the brittle red flute aggressively and drank deeply from it — until the Doctor casually reached out, snatched it from her, and dumped the remaining water over his shoulder.
"Doctor!" she shouted. "Stop doing that! I had to replace a bit of floor in my room."
"Hello, Pond!" He placed the empty flute in front of her again.
Amy looked at him shrewdly. "Later, you are so explaining why you just did that. Right now, there's this sponge cake to think of."
"I shall remove myself," the Doctor said, with a pointed glare at Rory. "Again. And have some of that cake before you have more of the water, all right."
Rory rubbed an eye and sank down in his seat, staring at the few morsels of stew left on his plate. If he'd ever make sense of this date, he'd be lucky.
"So, let's have pudding." Amy removed the upturned bowl — and there was indeed a sponge cake under there. It smelled so good, was of a perfect golden colour, and had risen extremely well. (It also came without dessert plates and utensils, but that was only to be expected.)
Amy broke off a piece of it and popped it into her mouth. She chewed it exactly once, and then forcefully spat it out onto the remains of her stew.
"Amy!" Rory exclaimed, at the same time worried and indignant.
She looked up at him and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "Five quid says the missing salt's in the sugar tin."