Author's Note: This story is part of my continuing exploration of how Rory Williams went from disliking the Doctor in "Amy's Choice" to telling the people in "The Hungry Earth" that he'd trust him with his life. It is a follow-up to an earlier story, "Sleepwalking," which has also been published here. It isn't essential to have read that story before tackling this one but a few things, especially in this first chapter, will make more sense if you have.
One of the first things Rory had come to enjoy about life in the TARDIS was breakfast. Amy was slow to get moving in the mornings which meant he usually wound up alone in the kitchen with the Doctor. He'd been apprehensive his first few weeks, but the Doctor was quiet in the mornings. He'd let Rory settle at the knotty-pine table with a mug of tea or coffee while he prepared the meal, humming softly as he worked. Rory would watch and by the time Amy joined them, the caffeine would have cleared his head and the Doctor would have the meal nearly ready. In the cozy kitchen (which looked like it had been lifted straight out of his gran's house) with a nearly bottomless mug of tea or coffee and one of the Doctor's delicious omelets, Rory came as close to comfortable as he thought he'd ever be on the TARDIS.
The morning routine had changed briefly after the Doctor's sleepwalking, but once they'd left the medical bay they'd returned to the old pattern. Rory was grateful now for Amy's habit of wallowing in bed; having a few minutes alone with the Doctor each morning let him discreetly (he hoped) monitor the Time Lord. It had been a week since they'd returned to their rooms and so far everything seemed to be fine. The Doctor appeared cheerful and well-rested each morning.
There was just one thing which kept things from being entirely normal. It had now been over a fortnight since they'd stopped the TARDIS anywhere. The Doctor had settled them in the vortex before his final sleepwalk and they hadn't emerged since. He seemed content to spend a good portion of each day tinkering in the console room, leaving Amy and Rory to occupy themselves. They'd spent the past several days exploring the endless corridors of the ship, but they were both growing restless. Rory found the vastness of the TARDIS both unnerving and depressing. He felt as if he were trapped on a ghost ship, trying to find some trace of her crew. He did his best to hide his discomfort, but the same couldn't be said for Amy. Her restlessness was rapidly moving into impatience and Rory wasn't sure how much longer she would stay quiet.
When Amy entered the kitchen that morning, Rory could see her patience had run out. She settled in a chair at the table, her foot tapping the floor lightly as the Doctor served up their breakfast. She eyed the plate full of thin pancakes, which were wrapped around a pudding mixture which included pineapple, banana, mandarin oranges, and coconut, and arched a brow.
"These look… interesting," she said.
"They're crepes," the Doctor explained, passing a plate to Rory. "Tropical crepes."
"They smell fantastic," Rory said quickly, shooting Amy a warning look. She made a face at him before reaching for her fork. For a few minutes everyone was quiet as they ate. Rory was just starting to relax when Amy set aside her fork.
"That was delicious," she announced. "You know what would be even better though? Visiting someplace tropical."
"That can be nice," the Doctor replied, "so long as you've got the right bug spray, of course. Have I ever told you about the mosquitoes on Mynark? Well, I call them mosquitoes but they're not really – nothing like them, apart from the biting and the blood…"
"Doctor." Amy softened her curt tone with a smile.
"You… you want to go somewhere tropical."
"Yes," Amy said.
"If you're feeling up for it," Rory added.
"Of course I'm feeling up for it," the Doctor scoffed. "In fact, I know just the place. The people are peaceful, the views are spectacular, and there are caves which glow in the dark!"
"Great," Amy said, beaming. The Doctor got to his feet and she followed suit. Rory stood as well, reaching out to catch her wrist.
"We'll take care of the dishes, Doctor," he said.
"Right," the Doctor replied. "If you stop at the wardrobe on your way to the console room, you should find everything you'll need." He clapped Rory on the shoulder once before leaving the kitchen. Amy waited until he'd vanished from the doorway before turning to Rory.
"What?" she asked. "You said he was sleeping again. He seems fine."
"He does seem fine," Rory answered, gathering their plates and carrying them to the sink. "I just… I don't want to rush him."
"He can't hide in the TARDIS forever," Amy retorted. "It'll be good for him to get out."
"I know. I just… I don't want to push him into anything."
"We didn't push. We just… nudged." She came to lean against the counter as Rory loaded the dishwasher.
"It's not like we're going somewhere dangerous," Amy pressed. "He said the people were peaceful."
"Then what are you worrying about?"
"I… I don't know," Rory admitted. Amy smiled at him and he sighed, turning back to the dishes and trying to push down his anxiety.
Once the kitchen was cleaned, Rory let Amy drag him down the corridor to the wardrobe. He followed her inside, wondering what they'd find this time. The room seemed to change each time they visited it, and today was no exception. The long hallway of clothing was still there, but a rack had been moved to block the route. There were privacy screens at either side of it to allow them to change. Amy started thumbing through the clothing on the rack, her brows drawing together in a frown.
"There's a lot of… khaki here," she muttered, lifting a wide-brimmed hat with a frown. "Where are the bathing suits?"
"Maybe it's not that sort of tropical," Rory suggested, biting back a smirk. Amy frowned for a second before shaking her head and smiling.
"Of course," she said. "Right. We'll get him out of here for a while, enjoy a bit of fresh air, and maybe tomorrow or the next day we can find some sand and palm trees." She reached out to finger a pale green blouse while Rory collected some clothing for himself. Within a few minutes they were ready. Amy had chosen khaki shorts and a green short-sleeved blouse, paired with brown hiking boots and a wide-brimmed tan hat. Rory had selected cargo pants and a khaki shirt. Amy passed him a pith helmet and pronounced them ready.
The Doctor was waiting by the center console when they emerged from the corridor. His face lit up when he saw them and Rory reached a nervous hand up to touch the brim of his hat. Amy laughed and turned a little pirouette at the top of the stairs.
"Ta-da," she cried. "Jungle-explorer Pond is ready to go." She bounded down the steps, one hand holding her hat in place. Rory followed her more slowly, feeling increasingly foolish.
"Almost," the Doctor replied, turning to get something from the console. He turned back, holding two test-tube-shaped vials full of blue liquid. "You need to drink this first." He held out the vials; Amy and Rory stared at them suspiciously.
"What is it?" Amy asked, wrinkling her nose. Rory got a whiff of the liquid, which smelled like a cross between licorice and garlic, and nearly gagged at the thought of consuming it.
"Preventative medicine," the Doctor replied. When they continued to look dubious he sighed and thrust the vials into their hands. "It'll protect you from all potential tropical dangers – impure waters, insect bites, poison ivy, snakes. C'mon now, glug glug." Amy glanced at Rory who sighed and held his nose before downing the thick fluid. She followed suit, coughing a little.
"There's poison ivy on other planets?" she asked, returning the empty vial to the Doctor.
"Of course," he answered.
"Are you telling me poison ivy is… alien?" Rory asked, passing over his empty vial. The Doctor just smiled as he turned away, slipping the tubes into a bin on the side of the TARDIS console.
"Now," he said, rubbing his hands together as he turned back around. "The two of you look ready. Shall we see what's out there?" He waved toward the doors and Amy started forward, her face alight with eagerness. Rory glanced at the Doctor, who nodded for him to go ahead.
The first thing Rory noticed as he stepped out the TARDIS doors was the smell. The scent of flowers was heavy around them. He was relieved to find there was a steady breeze, which kept the warm, moist air from becoming oppressive. Amy quickly tucked her hair up under her hat but Rory felt comfortable in his mesh pith helmet.
The TARDIS was in a small clearing, surrounded by trees and lush foliage on three sides. Rory could just glimpse a path leading away from one side of the clearing. Birds were chattering in the trees overhead, apparently undisturbed by their arrival. The Doctor locked the TARDIS door before turning to survey their surroundings. Amy snorted when she caught sight of the pith helmet he'd donned.
"Problem, Pond?" he asked, arching a brow at her. She shook her head, smirking.
"Pith helmets are cool," the Doctor said, turning to Rory for support.
"Uh, sure," Rory stammered. "Of course they are."
"Should have picked one out for yourself, Pond," the Doctor continued, clearly buoyed by Rory's agreement. "Now, let's try this way, shall we?" He started toward the trail. Amy shook her head at Rory, who shrugged before falling into step behind the Doctor. He allowed himself a small grin once he knew his face was out of Amy's line of sight.
The walk was peaceful. The breeze remained steady, carrying the floral scent and keeping Rory cool. The Doctor set a comfortable pace, happily prattling away as he explained what they were passing. Rory listened attentively, finding their surroundings fascinating. The plant-life was interesting – he couldn't help but wonder what medicinal properties it might have – and from time to time he caught glimpses of colorful birds in the trees. After about an hour he was even able to stop worrying about something or someone jumping out from behind a tree to attack them. He was feeling relaxed and happy by the time the village came into view.