There’s a noise down the corridor. It’s a sort of bounce-creak bounce-creak. It wakes Rory up.
Rory lifts Amy’s arm from around his waist, very carefully, and slips out of their new bed.
Amy sleeps more deeply than Rory does; she has never been woken in the middle of a stolen nap to check on a patient whose heart has decided to start beating irregularly.
All recent experiences aside, Rory still feels safe inside the TARDIS. Mostly, anyway. Or at least he’s not worried enough by the noise to wake her up. Amy had been holding onto him very tightly in her sleep. She’s nervous of him, in ways that were never true before. Which is why you should be careful what you wish for: hadn’t he always wanted her to stop taking him for granted? Now she pretends brash courage and waits until they’re in the darkness to grab onto Rory’s hand like he might fly away from her. He doesn’t like it.
There is a door further along the corridor that wasn’t there when they went to bed. Rory goes inside.
“So you do have a room,” Rory says.
The Doctor peers at him from the top of the set of bunk beds. “I have all the rooms,” he says peevishly. “It’s my box.” His box, that was a woman, just for a little while. He continues, “And anyway it’s not my room. It’s yours.”
Rory’s eyes have adjusted to the darkness now. It is their room, from before. It’s not quite right, in all of the details, but there are bunk beds, and that’s what is making the noise. The Doctor is lying on the top bunk and bouncing up and down.
Rory doesn’t know whether their bunk beds had creaked like that. When he and Amy had- well, when they had done anything, they mostly stayed on the bottom bunk. Or on the floor, or they sneaked through the TARDIS until they found a room with a likely looking settee or table. He’s not sure what they’re going to do now that they have a huge, comfortable, king-size bed. Rory supposes that Amy will think of something. She generally does.
Rory says, “So you made this room up again, then?”
“I told you,” the Doctor says. “Bunk beds are cool.”
Rory doesn’t point out that they normally work better with two people. The room’s not quite the same as before. The ceiling seems closer, curved low over the top bunk.
The Doctor isn’t normally one for tight corners; he likes cliff-sides and deep space and sprawling cities. Now he’s lying there in the little space between the top bunk bed and the TARDIS ceiling. He would bump his head if he sat up straight. But the Doctor doesn’t do that; he lifts one arm and ghosts it over the exposed beams of the ceiling.
Rory sits down on the bottom bunk. “Thank you for the new room,” he says. “We appreciate it.”
“Yes. Well. The TARDIS likes you, doesn’t she?”
Rory takes a moment to think – really think – about the implications of a rather psychic, briefly woman-shaped, incredibly powerful spaceship conceding that he and his wife needed a proper bed. “Oh,” he says.
“She’s not always completely following my instructions,” the Doctor admits. “Sometimes it’s a little bit like the other thing. You know, an argument. Only one that goes for hundreds of years and galaxies and time-periods and no one actually wins. Like that.”
Rory lies down flat on the bed and stares upwards. He taps the slats of the bed above him. “It sounds a bit like a marriage,” he says. “Or mine and Amy’s marriage, anyway.”
The Doctor huffs and sighs. “Humans. You have to turn everything that happens in the whole universe into something that makes sense to you.”
“Yes,” Rory agrees, choosing not to be insulted by the jibe. “It’s funny, the way we automatically try to make sense of something completely beyond our knowledge of the universe. It’d be much better if we just ignored it and didn’t bother helping at all.” He may not have succeeded in his attempts not to be insulted. Sarcasm comes pretty easily to him.
There is a silence and then: “Oh. This is you helping.”
Rory sighs. “This is me trying to help.”
“So the thing about Amy…”
“That was me trying to understand what it would be like to be in a relationship for seven hundred years without being able to-.”
The Doctor fills in, “Talk.”
“You can still talk,” Rory says. “Just because she can’t talk back doesn’t mean you should stop. We used to…”
“I was going to make a comparison. And then you were going to tell me it’s not the same thing.”
There’s an expectant silence from above his head.
Rory says, “We used to say- I used to work with coma patients. Their families would talk to them. We would too.”
“It’s not the same.”
“She’s not in a coma. She’s just not in a body. She hears me.” The Doctor laughs, suddenly and unexpectedly. “I’m about to make a comparison.”
“What?” Rory asks warily.
“Amy hears you all the time, wherever you are. Even when she can’t talk back. You said that.”
There is a noise in the doorway. “Of course I can,” Amy announces. “Which is why I didn’t panic, even though I woke up alone in my bed.” She glares at Rory, and he can see it even in the dark.
“I went for a walk,” Rory points out. “Inside the TARDIS. What did you think had happened?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Amy says. “Maybe you should try not dying for a week or two, and we could find out?”
She walks the whole way into the room. Amy spots the bunk beds and laughs. She climbs halfway up the ladder and threads her arm through the rungs. She swings off it, back and forth, looking perfectly content.
Rory still feels obliged to note, “I didn’t actually die this time. That was just House. And I didn’t die the last time either, really.”
“It’s at least five times now,” she says, ignoring him. “I can’t take my eyes off either of you for a moment.”
“What did I do?” the Doctor asks. He sits up and – as predicted – hits his head. “Ow.”
Rory climbs off the bed to check on the Doctor. He stands on the side of the bunk and pulls himself up by holding onto the edge of the top one. The Doctor blinks back at him. “Are you okay?” Rory asks.
“I hit my head.”
“Yes.” Rory tries to be patient. “And are you okay?” He touches the Doctor’s head and feels for bumps.
The Doctor goes cross-eyed trying to look at Rory’s hand on his head. “Yes, of course. What are you…?”
Amy snorts. “He’s asking are you okay?” She sniffs. “Boys.” She pats the Doctor’s ankle, and he doesn’t look perplexed by this show of physical reassurance. Maybe it’s an Amy thing.
The Doctor says, “Of course I’m okay, why wouldn’t I be okay?” His eyes are lit with that twitchy energy that means he’s hiding something. Then, Amy and Rory are hiding something too. For all that the Doctor’s longest relationship is with the TARDIS, for all that people like Amy and Rory come and go in his life, they are still going to watch him die. They have already.
Rory kept his faith in Amy for two thousand years without a word of encouragement and so, bad comparisons aside, he doesn’t actually say ‘the love of his life’ lightly. He doesn’t know what the Doctor is feeling, but he can imagine.
Rory examines the Doctor’s face and makes a quick decision. He pushes himself up and drops a brief kiss on the Doctor’s forehead. The same way the Doctor does with Amy, the way it’s not strange at all, because love is another big sad complicated word, and because the Doctor is not okay.
The Doctor is looking at Rory when he pulls away. “People keep kissing me,” he says, confused. “A lifetime of not being kissed, and now this.”
“Maybe you look like you need it,” Amy says. She smiles at Rory, and he knows he did the right thing. She turns back to the Doctor, “And why are you in our bedroom anyway?”
“I gave you a new bedroom,” the Doctor says. “You didn’t like this one.” He makes a face.
Amy smacks the side of the Doctor’s leg. “Stop playing oblivious. You know perfectly well what we didn’t like. Who gives a married couple bunk beds? Except an alien with a particularly strange sense of humour.”
“Bunk beds are-.”
“So help me, if you say ‘cool’ one more time,” Amy warns. “And that wasn’t my question. Why aren’t you in your own bedroom, if you have one? And if you don’t, why didn’t you make yourself a new one?”
Rory climbs back down into the bottom bunk. It’s been a long day, he’s tired, and this argument sounds like it could run for a while. He dozes lightly, while Amy and the Doctor bicker about bedrooms and Time Lords and pranks disguised as innocent confusion. And really talk about the places you feel safe, and the need for companionship, and the different ways of being in love.
He only wakes up properly when Amy gets into the bed beside him. She sprawls over the top of him, taking up all of the remaining space and then some, with her squirming and her outstretched arms. Rory thinks sometimes that he’ll never find out the depths of his love for her.
The Doctor appears, upside down, leaning over the side of the top bunk. “All right, Ponds?”
Amy hums into Rory’s neck. “Go to sleep, will you? We can talk in the morning.”
“This is why I like bunk beds,” the Doctor murmurs to himself.
He doesn’t elaborate, but Rory thinks he gets it. Rory says, “Good night, Doctor.”
The Doctor grins. “Good night, Ponds.” He lies back down with another bounce-creak but stops when Amy sleepily bangs her palm on the underside of the bed.
Rory listens to their breathing: Amy’s and the Doctor’s and his own. This is the part that matters – they’re alive now, and safe, and close enough together that no one has to worry. Rory lets himself drift to sleep.
The lights of the TARDIS dim to a very faint glow, all around them.