It's not cheating. There's no infidelity. She hasn't betrayed her wedding vows. She's not even gone for more than five minutes at a time. It's not, it's not, it's not…
…it's so much worse than cheating.
The first trip, Amy laid awake in her room -- not the one with the bunk beds, the one she shared with Rory -- and whispered pleading words directly to the TARDIS with a picture of a madwoman in her mind's eye.
I can't be late. Not once. Not by a single minute. Not ever. I'm counting on you to get it right, sexy.
The violet lamps faded and flickered for the space of a heartbeat, and she's always been home on time.
Rory never questions -- but then, she never gives him anything to question. They made the decision together, after all. And if Amy wasn't as sure as she had sounded, the important thing was that he didn't know. He was finished -- but if she said she wasn't, he would keep going. For her. Even if he didn't want to.
She'd done enough of that to him in their years together.
And it isn't as though she's unhappy. No. At home, she's perfectly content. She loves Rory. She loves her life. She hasn't changed.
She hasn't changed.
Thing is, Rory's ready to stop, she told the Doctor on the day.
Ready to st-- oh. Oh.
Yeah. He's been promoted, and there's all this new responsibility…
Ah. Yes. Naturally. His expression had frozen, his eyes focused somewhere just beyond her. Yes, yes, it's about time, isn't it? Of course it is. Has been. Backed away. Faced the blue box where it sat endless and patient across the street. You have… important things… life things… And I, I should be--
No, wait, said Amy Williams.
(No! Wait! screamed Amelia Pond.)
He did. (For her. Only her. The Time Lord Who Waited.)
A thousand things and more exploded inside of her chest, choked her breath, stopped her single human heart, and I said Rory's ready, she blurted out. I'm not.
The kiss on her forehead felt like a brand.
They don't talk about it, but she knows the Doctor knows this is only between them. He's careful not to keep her out too long, like he's worried about breaking curfew; while one of their old trips could stretch for months, these little -- outings -- never last more than a day or two. Three at most. He chooses interesting but decidedly safe times and places, then shows her around just long enough to prove he can still impress her. (He can.)
Of course, they still do get into trouble. They are the Doctor and Amy Pond. But it's exhilarating trouble, wonderful trouble that leaves him whooping through the control room like a child on Christmas morning and her laughing uncontrollably from the sheer thrill of cheating death again and again and again only to still be full of maddening glorious life.
The adrenaline crash leaves her wracked with violent tremors; she drops her scarf and her shaking fingers can't pick it back up. The Doctor has her wrapped in a blanket and back in her lounge almost before her giggles stop.
She's dead asleep and the Doctor is gone when Rory gets home from his shift.
The magazine loves her new articles.
Your writing… I didn't want to say anything, but it had lost some of its spark, her editor tells her over the phone. But lately it's revitalized. Whatever you're doing, keep it up.
Amy promises she will.
We need to call and tell the Doctor, Rory says before bed. Give him some time to prepare. Otherwise one day he'll turn up and expect us to go off again, and when we say no he'll get that face. You know the one.
He glances at her sideways, then reaches over to squeeze her hand. It's not like we'll never see him again, Amy. There's always a place set for him -- and even if we told him to stay away, I don't think he could. Not from you. He kisses her fingers softly. Can't blame him.
Their lovemaking that night is so perfect, so exquisite, she cries in the dark.
She looks up and smiles when she's called Mrs. Williams.
She beams and bounces when she's called Amy Pond.
When Rory spoons against her back in bed she doesn't want to be anywhere else.
When the Doctor pulls her hand as they run she doesn't want to be anywhere else.
Amy plants a garden in the backyard and tells herself that if she can keep it alive, she'll stop.
Sometimes they don't travel. The blue box floats aimlessly through deep space, doors flung open, and they sit side by side with their feet dangling out into the abyss. (Amy's are always bare, so she doesn't risk losing a shoe.)
What do you do, when you're not with me? she asks one day, wiggling her toes, seeing starlight between them.
Oh, the usual. Travel. Meet people. Heroically save planets. That sort of thing.
Keeping busy, then. Can't miss me too much.
He stills at her side, and doesn't speak for long minutes. Of course I do, he says finally, softly. Amelia Pond. But I can't come back too often, you know. You've only got so many days and breaths. I have to -- to ration them. His sigh has physical weight. You're so spectacularly human, Amy, and I have to be so careful not to use you up. But I miss you.
She leans sideways into him, her cheek to his tweed jacket, and wonders how many times he's replaced it in the last centuries. How long between each visit?
Fourteen years. His fingers thread through hers. Call it penance.
Rory mentions adoption, hesitantly feeling around the edges for her opinion. It's still a sensitive subject, this thing that came so close to ending their marriage; they have Melody (who pops in every once in awhile without warning or explanation then flits off again, a bit like an unruly teen), but there's a room on the third floor painted in soft yellow that holds boxes of magazines and old electronics.
I just felt… maybe it's something to consider. Now that life is steadier. But if you don't want to, that's all right, it will always be all right. I'll be just as happy if it's only us, Amy. You're all I need.
She promises to think on it.
The TARDIS med bay can fix almost anything: gashes, bruises, broken bones. But there's nothing it can do after the carnivorous oaks of New Earth 4.2 grab her hair and the Doctor has to saw it off with a piece of broken glass to get her free.
Amy stares at her reflection. Uneven red strands just barely brush her shoulders. I can't go home until it grows back, she says.
No, of course not. A pause. You didn't have to get caught, Amy.
She glances at him in the mirror. You didn't have to cut so short, Doctor.
You're quiet, Rory says over dinner. Everything all right?
Amy looks at her husband -- looks long at him, at his stupid face, the one he doesn't know she hasn't seen in five months, the one that has brought her more and given her more than she can ever express -- and smiles. I'm fine. I just… love you, that's all.
Okay. Is there a body buried in the basement I should know about?
She suspects that would probably be better.
Brian knows. She can tell from the way he looks at her. The fact that he keeps her secret makes her feel worse than anything else.
After the Salem incident the Doctor is angrier than she has seen him in a decade. It brings to mind that first trip long ago, the starship and the whale and the look of fury in the Time Lord's face as he lambasted her for her humanity.
What would I have told Rory? What would you have had me say, Amelia? That while he thought his wife was watching telly she was hanging from a tree four hundred years in his past? What if the village had buried you there? Would you want me to bring him to visit your grave?
Hands white knuckled around the console's railing, she wonders if this is what a heart attack feels like. I'm not sorry.
No, naturally you're not! You're Amy bloody Pond! You follow me when I tell you to stay put and you open your mouth when I tell you to be quiet and you never listen, not ever, and no no no don't you dare try to hug me right now!
She does, of course, forearms crossing at the small of his back, and he gasps for air against her shoulder. I'm taking you home, he says when he can speak. I'm taking you home for good. You're done.
The roast she left in the slow cooker is still frozen in the center.
The blue box appears thirty seconds after her next message.
How long did you last?
Fourteen years and two days.
It's you they're waiting for. Amy's men. Amy's choice.