Pairing/Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond, Rory Williams (Amy/Rory)
Rating/Category: PG-13, gen with het highlights
Spoilers: This is supposed to be set somewhere after "Amy's Choice" and before "Hungry Earth"/"Cold Blood," but there really aren't spoilers.
Summary: The Doctor isn't here yet. Bollocks.
Notes/Warnings: I've been wanting to write a story like this since very soon after I discovered Doctor Who, but none of the Doctor-companion combinations supported it. Until now. Beta'd by tree_and_leaf; thank you for the encouraging words and notes! Comments and critique welcome from everyone, as usual.
The Longest Road
Stab the shovel into the earth, into the stinky, slimy earth; heave the shovel up and over, launching the muck squarely into the cart that will carry it to the surface.
The worst thing about it, she thinks, is how quickly one loses track of time down here in the darkness and the pale blue lantern light. If anyone asked, she couldn't tell them how long she's been down this shift, much less how long it's been since they were taken. How long it's been since a certain someone made a promise that he hasn't kept yet.
In. And out. In. And out. She could assign a length of time to every shovelful, call it a second or something, and keep count. In. And out. She coughs, choking on the stupid smell, billowing up with every cut her spade makes. What's her brain on about now? She hasn't been able to keep a steady count for weeks. Can't even keep track of the sheep Rory tells her to count to get to sleep.
“Sheep? Why sheep? Why not--whales, or foxes, or pterodactyls?”
“So what? I'm going to count pterodactyls.”
In. And for a moment it's too much, the earth too heavy for her arms to lift, the memories too heavy to let her breathe.
Pain snaps across her shoulders, shocking her into a curse.
The chattery, chittery rattle directed at her from the spindly alien slave-driver is familiar. She's decided it means something like, “There is no time to lose! Keep working!” because that particular string of sound only comes out when someone's not digging fast enough.
There are times when she really misses mental translation circuits. This isn't one.
Perhaps you'd like to give it a go, you scaly, rotten bastard, she says, but only inside her head. That lesson took quite a lot of learning, but she's got it now. She can say whatever she wants about her skittering, glitter-eyed captors, as long as they can't hear her.
In. And out. In. And out.
Rory lectured her the first time she tried to mouth off to the insect-things. He didn't have any way to patch the burns from the whip, carved across her arms and shoulders. She'd have worried over how sick he looked about it, if she hadn't been so busy trying to stay conscious.
Amy blinks hard and digs deeper, and carefully does not think about the years she spent waiting for the Doctor, and whether it'll be that long this time.
There's never much to see down in the mines. She used to try. Used to listen at walls when she got a chance; used to squish the slimy earth between her fingers and try to identify the smell. She even touched her tongue to a stone down there, once. Couldn't stop being sick for hours. They put her in isolation all night; Rory thought she'd died down there.
The rooms she calls “the upstairs” are much more interesting. Processing, warehouse, sleeping and living quarters, all carefully organized. The walls smell, but kind of sharp and acidic instead of the rot from the mines. They curve in one piece with the floor, firm and giving a bit under one's feet, leaking pale fluid if scratched or cut. As if the rooms are literally “living” quarters, part of some giant plant.
Amy's shoulders are still stinging when they bring her up at the end of shift. Left with the others--odd-looking creatures, with tentacles or spines or long crests of stiff feathers, none of them able to speak her language--she crawls away to the quietest corner. Curls up with her back to the rest of them and lies as still as she can.
She likes this ship, or building, or whatever it is: the walls and floor move a little, all the time, as if it's breathing. In her overalls, huddled in a corner, timing her own breathing to the movement of the floor, she looks like part of it. They'll miss her, as they often do, when they come to collect the others.
It's not that useful, being overlooked. She's tried escaping more times than she can count. Even finding outside walls is almost impossible. No windows or doors or airlocks or anything, anywhere. She's still not sure what sort of planet they're on, or if they're even on a planet, mucky dirt notwithstanding.
Everything's gone quiet; the rest of them have been rounded up into their sleeping cells for the night. She can't quite bring herself to look around; it's too comfortable here on the warm, living floor. She's asleep when a gentle hand touches her shoulder. “Amy.”
“Rory.” His fingers comb through her hair, her poor short stubble, brushing down to her shoulders, where the driver struck her. “Ow.”
“You all right? Is it just the one burn?”
She reaches back, pulls his hand forward and kisses it. “I'm fine, okay. Are you? No problems getting through the walls tonight?”
“Yeah. No. Fine.” His long body, leaner than ever, ribs standing out all over, presses warmly against her back, his arm folded over her, his nose against her neck.
They stay there, cozy, together, for as long as they dare.
She's stopped dreaming, somewhere during these endless days and nights. Every morning is the same: waking from darkness in her green-lit cell, rousted out by creepy insect aliens with three-clawed hands and burnished rainbow scales.
Thinking, the Doctor isn't here yet. Bollocks.
Stumbling to the basins, some filled with alien porridge and others with water. Shoved aside as soon as she's had what they consider enough--or by her fellow prisoners, if they suspect she's going for more than her share.
Looking for Rory. Aside from sneaking through walls to meet each other, the only place she's seen him is at meals. Once in a while the work groups cross, and suddenly he's there. Not this morning, though, and Amy hopes he made it back to his own cell without punishment.
Being shoved into the corridor leading to the mines. It's a tight fit, annoying when the people in front of and behind you are covered in prickles. She waits impatiently for the upstairs guard to point his metal fan-thing at her, waits to feel the pinch that proves her little inhibitor earring is still functioning. At least it doesn't keep her from moving around; all it's meant to do is prevent prisoner violence. They'll check hers, hand her a shovel, and then it's down into the mines for another lovely shift.
Except . . . they skip her entirely, today, as she walks along behind some bedraggled feathery giant. Point the fan-thing at the one in front of her and the one behind her and not at her at all.
Puzzled, she reaches for her earring. It's no longer warm. She keeps her hand on it and hopes her fingers hide its non-functioning light, at least long enough to grab her shovel and shoot down the lift platform with the rest of her work group and driver.
She keeps her rhythm absolutely perfect, to avoid tipping anyone off. As long as she doesn't draw attention, she might have a chance. Just one more chance. If there was anything Mr. Perpetually Late had taught her before vanishing at the worst possible moment, it was that one more try usually did it.
Somewhere in mid-shift, the order to change positions is given, and everyone is prodded into another area.
The driver walks along the line, and stops near the back end. Within arms-length of Amy.
She doesn't even think. It's complete reflex, slamming the flat of her shovel into its pointy face, then turning again to run.
Her face slaps into the muck. Pain rips across her lower back. The hiss above her she's heard only twice before: each time she watched a furious driver tear a living slave into fish-finger-sized chunks with just its claws. She's not going to see Rory again, oh, damn. She cringes into the cold mud and holds her breath.
The hiss stops. There are other noises, all jumbled up, nothing that makes sense. She keeps her eyes shut. Lets the pain cushion her against whatever might be coming. Thinks only ow, ow, ow and then.
There's a hand on the back of her neck. Not a claw. A hand.
Perhaps she's dead already.
“Amy!” The voice sounds delighted. “Well done, amazing. I never thought you'd see me back there.” Both hands are on her, now, carefully patting her down. One slides under her cheek. Turns her face so it's not right in the mud. She blinks, and can see his face tilted nearly upside down, lit strangely by the cavern's blue light, every angle sharp with darkness. “There you are. Come on, let's get you up. Where's Rory?”
She can't speak. There are quite a few things she'd like to say, but none of them want to come out.
The Doctor rests his forehead against hers. “Amy. You're all right.”
“I'm not.” It barely sounds like her voice.
He grins at the sound. “Yes you are. Sitting up now.” He gets one hand under her arm and the other behind her shoulders and then she's sitting up, with his arms around her, and good thing too, because she's going to pass out right here on his scratchy tweed shoulder. “Amy. I need your help, all right? Don't do this now, it's not the time.”
Annoyingly, he's right. The dizziness is passing. Not that he has anything whatsoever to do with that. “You're one to talk,” she manages. “Mister Back-in-Five-Minutes.”
Silence. And he sounds almost like a different man when he says, “I know. I'm sorry. But this is really not the time. Where's Rory? Down here somewhere?”
“No, he's . . . they keep him upstairs. In the processing . . . place. It's locked.”
The Doctor lets out a sigh. “Amy?”
She lets her head roll back enough that she can look at him. “What?”
“You've just told me Rory's in the one place here that has really advanced security protocols. Not only that, but they're organic, which means no sonic screwdriver magic, this time. Any ideas about how to get to him? And can you get up? This is a very awkward place to hold a council of war.” He's already lifting her to her feet.
Amy has to scramble to find a balance. She ends with feet awkwardly spread, clinging to the Doctor's arm. “That. Hurt,” she informs him.
He grins even wider. “But you're up. I told you you were fine. Now: ideas?”
All she really wants to do is hold onto him and cry. Or maybe punch his smug alien face. Or kiss him.
That makes her think of Rory. Suddenly everything snaps into focus. Her back is killing her, but she knows what to do. “The walls. Nobody watches them. We can go through the walls.”
“All right, Pond, lead the way!” It's his rock-solid voice of confidence. The one that means he's either actually 12 moves ahead, or he's got no plan at all.
They're halfway to Rory before Amy decides that this probably isn't a dream. For one thing, she's never hurt like this in a dream before.
There are, of course, guards at the mine entrance and more patrolling the corridors upstairs. Between that and the pain that keeps stopping her in her tracks, they go slowly. The Doctor creeps forward, not speaking, guiding her with a hand under her arm and asking directions with a tilt of his head and an arch of his nonexistent eyebrows. Their feet make no noise on the soft, organic floor, and she catches the Doctor more than once trailing his fingers along the wall, studying it.
One foot in front of the other, Pond. Up. And down. Up. And down.
The feeding room is empty, and Amy heads for the furthest corner, the only place she's ever actually seen Rory open. She moves too fast. Has to put a hand against the smooth green to steady herself. “Here. We can get in here. I don't know how it works, though. I think this whole place fancies my boyfriend.” She lets the Doctor squeeze in next to her, tracing some line or crack that only he can see.
“Put your hand here.”
She's leaning against the wall, now, and has to shift position to let him tuck her hand into a curve where the wall dimples in on itself.
“Pull. Gently, now.” He folds a hand on top of hers and tugs.
A whole flap of thick plant rind curls back under her hand. She pulls a little harder and oh, ow. She has to stop, has to make sure she didn't just split her back wide open.
The Doctor nudges her aside and pulls the wall open the rest of the way. “In we go. Splendid. I must get Rory to tell me how he figured that out.”
It's more like a dream inside the walls: sturdy, warped pillars propping the droopy ceiling, the walls gleaming with liquid, shadows shot through with soft green light. Their feet squish along the floor. Amy's only been in here twice, both times with Rory, and the furious ache radiating down into her legs is making it hard to focus. She almost misses the pale X-shaped scar Rory cut into the flesh of the wall.
The Doctor reaches around her and presses against the scar. The wall peels away from his touch, outward.
Amy puts up her hand to stop him. Leans forward just enough to let her peer through the gap. Yep, there's the humans doing whatever it is their captors set them to—some kind of maintenance, Rory told her once. Moving things around, stirring great pits of thick fluid. And there's Rory, not far from the opening, crouched and doing something to the floor.
Amy waits until the alien driver moves a little further off. “Oi!” Nothing. “Oi, Rory!”
He looks up, straight at her, and his eyes go very wide. He turns carefully back to what he was doing, picks up his equipment, and casually starts to walk next to the wall, as if inspecting it. No one else in the room pays him any attention.
“What's going on?” The Doctor is fidgety, plucking at her sleeve as if he's ready to shove her out of the way so he can get a look. Too bad.
Rory draws level with them and doesn't glance up. “What?”
“The Doctor,” she breathes. Rory sucks in a startled breath.
He glances around the room. No one is looking; their driver is at the other end, nearly out of sight. Rory grabs the gap in the wall, pulls it wider and wider, until there's just enough room for him to squeeze in next to Amy.
No one makes a sound until the wall has sprung back into place, sealing them in, and it's clear no alarm has been raised. Then Rory folds his arms and stares at the Doctor. “Where'd you come from after all this time?”
“Nearby.” The Doctor is busy looking at the scar on the wall. “This is ingenious; how did you discover it?”
Rory shoots an incredulous glance at Amy, who shrugs, then sways and clutches his shoulder. “Ow, shouldn't've done that.”
“Are you all right? What did you do this time?” Rory asks. She barely feels his hands as he lowers her to the ground, helps her lie on her side, her cheek in the warm damp. Every change of position feels like another twist of the knife. He pats her down much as the Doctor did. “Amy? Talk to me, what did you do?”
“Hit one of 'em with my shovel,” she manages. She even gets it smug, which is what she feels, really, but also what she knows will help Rory calm down.
“Oh, Amy.” Rory pauses in the middle of his examination to kiss her cheek. “How are you not dead yet?”
“I had to,” she protests, but his hand touches her lower back and she has to bite her lip to stop herself screaming.
“Sorry,” Rory says under his breath. He turns to the Doctor. “Would you like to explain to me how you could let her walk in this condition?”
Amy blinks. They're going to fight over her now?
“She was all right to walk,” the Doctor says, calmly. “Weren't you, Amy? Rory, we don't have much time to get out of here. Eventually they'll notice that you're gone and that Amy beat up her guard.”
Rory doesn't move, just stays crouched next to her. “We're not going anywhere. She's got internal injuries, or didn't you notice? Without treatment, she could bleed out and die.”
Oh, for god's sake. She shoves Rory's hand away. “Hey! Boys! Don't I get a vote?”
Rory looks at her. Takes her wrist in his fingers--counting her pulse, she thinks. “We can't move you yet.”
She tries to stare him down. “I want out of here.”
His fingers close around her arm. “I don't want to hurt you.”
She gropes with her other hand, grabs his wrist as hard as she can. “I'm already hurt. Don't you want to get out?”
“It'll be all right.” That's the Doctor, a few feet away. “I have a plan!”
“Yeah, Rory,” she echoes, knowing he'll hate the reminder of the last time the Doctor said this. “He's got a plan.”
Rory, looming over her, doesn't move. “He never has a plan. He couldn't save us then, he can't save us now. How are we getting out, Doctor? Tell me that.”
The Doctor's voice is further away. “I'd have carried her if I could, Rory, but she's not that much smaller than I am, you know. Come on. This way. ”
Rory swears, using some words Amy's never heard from him before. It's impressive. Kind of hot, actually. She tries to tell him that, but he's picking her up in his arms and oh, that hurts more than walking did. “It's okay,” Rory says in her ear, as she feels him moving forward. “We'll be fine. You hang on, and I'll tell you when it's time to wake up, all right? I think the Doctor's full of crap, but he might get us out of here yet.”
She listens to the patter of his voice, and tries to hear where the Doctor might be, ahead of them.
They're arguing the next time she catches any words clearly.
“I'm not sure she can. Doctor.” She feels the heave of Rory's ribs against her side as he gasps for breath. Feels like he's just stopped walking. She opens her eyes, and the light is still green, but much paler and cooler. They're out of the walls, back in the upstairs corridors.
She thumps a hand against Rory's chest. “Put me down.”
He looks down at her, startled. “Amy, I don't--”
“Now.” She makes the word as firm as possible, to avoid thinking about what it's going to feel like when he actually does it.
Then the Doctor's standing right there, looking at her. “I think she can, Rory,” he says.
Rory tightens his grip. “Why shouldn't you go first? I can bring her after.”
The Doctor's looking at Rory, now. “You can only die once,” he says quietly. “I'd rather give you both a chance at surviving. Also, sonic.” He waves the screwdriver in the air.
“Okay. Okay, point taken. Okay.” Rory breathes out, like he's trying to psych himself up for something.
Amy would really like to help him, but it's all she can do to say, “Put me down.”
Rory crouches to set her feet on the smooth floor, then lifts her to stand straight. Holds her as everything crashes into black for a moment, then comes swimming back, complete with the bright pool of pain at the base of her spine.
There's a long-fingered hand patting her cheek. She blinks, and the Doctor is staring right into her face. He smiles. “Hello. Do you think you can walk a bit further? Or more likely, run?”
The words get lost in the dryness of her throat. She has to clear her voice before she can say, “Yes.” She's no idea how, but clearly that's the only option, so it must be possible.
“Splendid.” The Doctor takes a key from inside his jacket. Hands it to Rory. “Make sure it's open. And stay out of sight. They can't get in there, but you don't need make yourself a target.”
Across where? Across... Oh. They're at the entrance of the central processing room, right where it opens into a huge wide space. There's something blue across the room. The TARDIS.
It's the actual TARDIS.
She's not going to cry. She's not.
“What's wrong?” Stupid perceptive Rory.
She blinks hard. “Nothing. I can do this, let's go.”
The Doctor slides an arm around her back, taking most of her weight from Rory. “Let's not keep her waiting.”
“Sure.” Rory clears his throat, then presses a quick kiss to Amy's temple. “See you.” Then he ducks from under her arm, takes a deep breath, and breaks into a run.
It's a bit magnificent, his head down, long legs pumping. . . . Amy clutches the Doctor's arm. “The guards'll see him!”
“No, no.” The Doctor is smirking, very pleased with himself. “He's too fast for that, watch.”
She counts one, two, three alien guards, but as they turn, as one of them gives the shrill alarm, Rory jams the key at the TARDIS door and vanishes within.
“We're the ones who get to play at fox-and-hounds. Are you ready?” He doesn't wait for her nod, just pulls her arm across his shoulders. “Keep moving and let me worry about the rest of it.”
They're running, then. It's easier than she thought it would be, still just one foot in front of the other. Or it would be, if the aliens weren't shrieking and firing crackling blasts of energy past them. One craters the floor in front of them, and she stumbles. Tries to run faster. Last time these bolts flew past her, she didn't, she couldn't, and they got left behind, that can't happen again, it can't--
“Run.” The Doctor pulls her along. Lets go of her hand to hold up the sonic screwdriver. Whoever shot at them hisses, and there's a small explosion.
The blue door is right in front of them. The Doctor shoves her forward. “In, now!”
Another blast knocks her down. She rolls through the door into the TARDIS. Tries to push to her feet. “Doctor!”
He slides in, his body thumping limply against her. The door shuts with a slam.
Energy batters the outside of the TARDIS. Amy pushes up on her forearms; her back screams at her, and she can't move more than a few inches. The Doctor is sprawled on the deck next to her, facedown, not moving.
Rory drops to his knees next to them. “Are you all right? Is he all right?”
“I'm fine.” Amy reaches out to pat the Doctor, but her hand doesn't touch him before he rolls to his feet, swaying.
“Whoo! Close, that.” An explosion rocks the TARDIS, and the Doctor staggers for the console. “Sorry, old girl, we'll be out of here in a tick!” He starts throwing switches, turning dials. But he's not moving far, leaning on one hand to reach as far as he can with the other.
Amy can't take her eyes off the way he's moving. “Rory, that's blood, he's bleeding!”
Rory doesn't move, hands cupping her shoulders, taking her weight so she can stay partly upright. “So are you. I think I'll take care of that first.”
“Oh no you won't.” She shoves him away, careful to lower herself to the deck without wincing. “If we don't get out of here, it won't matter!”
“Rory, I could use a hand!” No pain in his voice, but he's not even trying to stretch to reach the controls anymore.
“Bit busy!” Rory calls back. He's not even looking.
Amy grabs his hand. “Rory Williams, get over there or I will bite you. Get over there and do something!”
Rory stares at her. Then he's up and across the room. “Make this quick. I've apparently got two patients now, and I can't focus if we're under attack.”
“Blue switches left, then toggle the little . . . accordion thing.”
Her head drops back onto the deck as the TARDIS engines start wheezing. Rory darts here and there, almost like a longer version of the Doctor; the Doctor's shouting instructions at the top of his voice, gleeful and wild but not moving an inch from his handholds.
Her boys. Both of them. All of them in the TARDIS.
And it's not a dream, the metal under her head, the wrenching pain in her back, the possible need to throw up. The darkness curling in at the edges of her vision.
The sudden quiet. No more guns or explosions or chittery alien noise.
The floor isn't warm or soft, but she thinks she could fall asleep faster here than anywhere.
She doesn't mean to start crying. Honestly. It isn't even the pain. It's just . . . it's just tears on her cheeks.
“If you're next to her, will both of you sit still? I swear, it's worse than working on the Pediatric ward.” There's a clatter, and then they're next to her in a heap, the Doctor closest.
“Amy. Oh, Amy.” She can't see them, but she feels the Doctor touching her hair, her face. It only makes her cry harder, to the point where she ought to be embarrassed. Screw it. He deserves having to see her cry.
Now Rory's scooted around behind her and is ripping open her coveralls to get at her back. “Doctor, you said there were medical facilities in the TARDIS, right? Where?” Low but urgent. His emergency voice. She really can't be bothered.
Neither can the Doctor, apparently. “Not just now, Rory. It can wait.”
“The bloody hell it can!” It's flattering, his protectiveness, wanting to fix her, but. . . .
“Shut up, Rory,” she sobs.
“It can wait a few minutes,” the Doctor says again. He takes her hand, then, and is completely silent.
Rory's swearing quietly again. “Amy, tell him to sod off and we'll get you patched up.”
She gasps in a breath, tries to get enough control to tell him why, to tell him-- “Wait. Just--wait.”
Dead quiet, then, for a long minute. Only the sobs she can't stop, only the breathing of the two men beside her. Then the Doctor says, “I'm sorry,” and it's so ridiculous she can't bear it.
Amy shoves up onto her elbow and glares at him. Sniffs at the snot that's running down her face. “You bastard! You left! You said you had a plan, you were working on a way out, and you left!”
He looks at her. That bloody calm alien face. “I did.”
“They hurt me and they locked me up and they hurt Rory! You should be ashamed of yourself, where were you, you promised!” She's crying again, and can't make the rest of the words come out.
The Doctor leans forward and puts an arm around her neck. “I was coming back for you. I'm sorry it took so long. I never wanted you to be hurt.” He cradles her head against his shoulder as if she were a little kid again. “I'm here now. We're all here.”
When she finally runs out of tears, Rory, whose long arms have been holding her all this time, asks, “Now can we move to the infirmary? I don't know what kind of blood volume Time Lords have, but you two are scaring the life out of me.”
The Doctor gives her his handkerchief. Rory picks her up off the floor, then glances down at the Doctor. “I can't carry both of you.”
“Certainly not.” The Doctor pulls himself up using Rory's coveralls and sways, balancing on his uninjured leg. “I will hop.”
Amy puts her head on Rory's shoulder and starts to giggle. She can feel him shaking, too, whether with laughter or something else. “Take care of me, Rory.”
He sighs into her hair, and yes, he is definitely laughing. “You wish is my command, lady. Which way is it, Doctor?”
The Doctor gets a better grip on Rory's shoulder, looking down at Amy. “Forward. It's always straight ahead.”