Bright and early one Saturday morning, Rory was washing his breakfast dishes. Why grown-ups wanted to spend their days off sleeping, he never understood, but if that’s what they wanted, he’d leave them to it. He had more important things to worry about anyway. Amelia would be coming over soon, and she hated having to wait on him. (Unless she was hungry–then she’d join him for cereal.)
Amelia was his best friend in the whole wide world. She’d moved to Leadworth the year before with her aunt, and Rory had been the first person she’d met. Her aunt had forced her to go outside and get some fresh air and Rory had walked by her stoop and said hello. She’d glared at him and called him a stupid English boy. Taken aback, he’d said nothing, and she took it as an opportunity to moan at length about how she didn’t like it here and how much she missed Scotland.
“Wow, you’re from Scotland?” Rory had asked. “I’ve never been there before. Have you seen the Loch Ness Monster?”
With a glint in her eye, she began to tell him about how she had not only seen it, but had even ridden on it once as well. Rory suspected that she was making it all up, but he listened anyway. It was a very good story.
From there, she had invited him inside to see her album of photographs from Scotland, and eventually they were playing in the garden and nicking biscuits from the cupboard when her aunt went outside. Grown-ups were always remarking on how odd it was that the two of them should have become such close friends–Amelia was loud, adventurous and quite cheeky, while Rory was quiet, well-behaved and content to sit alone in his room with a book. Perhaps that was why he liked her so much: He would often read about adventures, but Amelia created them. She was exciting. And though her first words to him would not be the last time she called him names, he soon discovered that she meant it nicely. Which was a bit odd, but he didn’t mind.
Amelia had been talking all week about going to find the start of the stream that ran through Rory’s garden, and something to do with pirates and mermaids, so Rory thought it was strange that today she should be late. He went to the sitting room and started flipping through a book about pirates he’d gotten from the library, and when she hadn’t shown up by chapter three, he decided to go to her house. She could hardly have forgotten the adventure they’d had planned, but maybe she was sick or something.
At her door, Rory was greeted by Aunt Sharon who informed him that Amelia was in trouble and would not be coming out to play. He sighed and turned to go home. There was very little he’d ever really found boring before, but since he’d met Amelia he was never sure what to do with himself when she wasn’t around. The front door shut behind Aunt Sharon, and Rory flinched as something hard struck him on the side of the face. He looked up and saw Amelia in the window. She waved, pointed at the ground and disappeared. On the ground by his feet was a crumpled piece of paper secured to a sweet by a rubber band. In Amelia’s handwriting it read ‘Come back in an hour’.
An hour later he stood in the back garden of Amelia’s house. She appeared in her window and gestured him up to her room. Nervously, he snuck inside.
“Amelia,” he said, once he arrived. “Are you sure I’m supposed to be here?”
“ ‘Course you’re not,” she said. “But Aunt Sharon’s gone to the shop. We’ve got time.”
Just because there was no one to catch them didn’t mean they weren’t still breaking the rules, but Rory knew this wasn’t an argument he would win. “What did you get in trouble for?” he asked instead.
“I fell asleep in the garden,” Amelia said.
“What? Why would you do that?”
Instead of answering his question, Amelia pointed at her wall. “Look there,” she said.
It took Rory a minute to register what he was looking at. Or, rather, not looking at. “Hey, your crack’s been mended!” Oh, that crack. That crack had scared the willies out of Rory, though he’d never been able to say why. It was one of the few things he knew of that scared Amelia too. (The others were ghosts and turtles. He’d never understood her thing about turtles, but she said it was no different from him being scared of dogs, and he’d had nothing to say to that.) “Wait, what has that got to do with you sleeping in the garden?”
“Because of who mended it, stupid,” Amelia said. “He was a Doctor in a Police Box from outer space. He crashed in the back garden and he was kind of glowy and couldn’t walk straight, and he fixed the crack with a magic wand sort of thing.” She lowered her voice. “There were aliens in the crack,” she added.
Rory stared at her, transfixed. Amelia could tell amazing stories, but there was something different about this one. Something in her eyes…This story was real.
“He had to leave,” Amelia went on. “Because his ship was…phasing, or something like that, but he said he’d come back and take me with him to see aliens and stuff.” Her face fell a little here. “He said he’d only be five minutes. So I was waiting for him. But he didn’t come back, and I fell asleep. Then Aunt Sharon found me, and she was really cross.”
She looked sadly down at the ground, and Rory felt suddenly very…well, he wasn’t sure what that was that he felt, but he didn’t like it. Amelia should never be sad. “So, tell me more about this Doctor,” he said. She’d seemed quite happy when she was talking about him.
Her face lit up again, and she launched into a detailed account of the night before, including the swimming pool in the library (which Rory found just as odd as she had done), fish fingers and custard (ew!), and the giant eyeball behind the crack, looking for Prisoner Zero.
“I don’t understand why he didn’t come back,” Amelia said, looking upset again. “He promised he would.”
“I’m sure he’s got a good reason,” Rory assured her. “You said his ship was broken or something. Maybe he’s having trouble getting back?”
Amelia shrugged, but she seemed heartened by this prospect. “Yeah. Or maybe there were some other scary aliens that needed stopping. He’ll be back.”
Rory shifted uncomfortably on Amelia’s floor. He was glad she was happy again, but a rather troubling thought had just occurred to him.
“What’s wrong?” she asked him.
He shifted again. He didn’t really want to say it, because she would probably get cross with him, but… “Well, it’s just…I’m kind of glad he didn’t come back last night.”
“What?” she demanded. He was right. She was cross.
“It’s just, well, you would have been gone, and I wouldn’t have known where you went, and I…” I love you. Wait, what? Why would I say that? “…I would have missed you.”
Amelia’s face softened. “Oh. Well, that’s alright. When he does come back, I’ll just ask him if you can come too.”
Rory’s face brightened. “You’d let me come?”
“Why not?” she asked. “It’ll be fun.”
Rory was sitting on Amelia’s front step one autumn afternoon, wishing she would hurry up and get home. It was quite cold out here. Just as he was starting to wonder if maybe he had time to run home and fetch a jumper, Aunt Sharon’s car pulled up to the pavement and Amelia got out. She trudged up the walk and her aunt drove away again.
“H’lo, Rory,” she muttered, not stopping as she walked past him.
“Hi, Amelia,” he said, getting up and dusting himself off. “Are you okay?” he asked, following her inside.
“Fine,” she said dully, shutting the door behind them. She was often like this when she came back from seeing the psychiatrist. Well, either like this, or she was very cross. Sometimes she was both.
“Are you sure?” he asked. She didn’t seem fine. She looked like she wanted to cry.
Amelia stood there for a moment, staring at the wall and saying nothing. Suddenly she hurled her schoolbag down the entry way with a cry. The top was unbuttoned, and papers and books flew everywhere. She stepped towards the mess, picking up each book in turn and chucking it farther away. Right. So it was both today, then.
Rory stood well back until she was finished. Just because she wasn’t cross with him didn’t mean he wouldn’t get hit if he wasn’t careful. He’d learned that the hard way. A few minutes later she was stood in the sitting room, quiet again and surrounded by the debris from her bag.
“Did that help?” he asked a bit nervously.
She let out an angry sigh. “Not really,” she muttered, sitting down in the middle of the mess.
Tentatively, Rory picked his way into the room, careful not to tread on any of her things. He stood beside her for a moment, and when she said nothing, he sat down next to her.
“What happened?” he asked. He was never sure why she had to go and see these psychiatrist people. It was something to do with the Raggedy Doctor. Her aunt was worried, and they all seemed to be very determined to make Amelia say he wasn’t real. Rory wasn’t sure why that was so important.
“They’re all stupid,” Amelia said.
“This one thinks that the Doctor was real,” she started. (This was her second psychiatrist. The first one now refused to see her, as Amelia had bitten her. It had left a scar. She had gotten in a lot of trouble for that, but Rory thought the psychiatrist should have known better. It was never smart to make Amelia angry.) “But,” she went on. “He thinks that instead of being an alien with a time machine, he thinks he might have been one of those bad people you see on the telly who like to hurt kids.”
“Well, that’s silly,” Rory said. “If he had wanted to hurt you, why did he bother fixing your wall? He could have just grabbed you and thrown you in his time machine and run off.”
“That’s what I said,” Amelia agreed. Rory felt quite pleased that she appreciated his logic. “He didn’t think that was a good enough reason though.” She made a face. “He kept saying that I mustn’t be scared to tell him what happened and that nobody was going to hurt me.”
“Why would you be scared to tell him what happened?”
“I don’t know,” Amelia said, rolling her eyes. “And he said it right after I had just finished telling him what had happened. So I said he was stupid and should pay better attention, and he smiled and got very calm that way that grownups do when they think you’re the one being stupid.” She sighed. “I don’t like him at all.”
Rory got the feeling that this new psychiatrist might be getting bitten before too long.
Amelia was quiet for a while after that, just staring at the floor. After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, Rory got up and went to the kitchen. Whenever he was having a rough day, his dad would make him a snack. He thought that might cheer Amelia up. He couldn’t really cook anything–he was only nine, after all–but he could make toast, and tea, and he knew where Aunt Sharon kept the jam. He returned to the sitting room shortly, a plate of toast and strawberry jam in one hand, and the handles of two mugs in the other.
“Thanks,” Amelia said, smiling ever so slightly as he set the food down. For a few minutes they sat in companionable silence, crunching their toast.
When he was done, Rory looked back at Amelia. She was staring at the floor, her face screwed up in a way that told him she was trying very hard not to cry. He wasn’t sure what you were supposed to do when girls were crying, and patted her somewhat awkwardly on the shoulder.
“I’m not mad, you know,” she said quietly.
“I know,” Rory said.
“All the other kids think I’m mad,” she went on. “At school. They tease me when I have to leave early to go and see the psychiatrists. They make jokes about space aliens and call me Crazy Amelia.” Her voice was very soft now.
Rory knew all this, of course. Mostly, Amelia ignored the other kids, and occasionally she or Mels would thump one of them. He’d never seen her this upset about it before, though. He knew she didn’t like the psychiatrists, and she was usually upset when she came back from seeing them, but she’d always brushed away the taunting of their classmates. Had it been bothering her this whole time? She sniffled and rubbed away a lone tear that had started to trickle from the corner of her eye. Rory realized that whatever she may say or act like at school, it really did bother her, and he was somewhat surprised to discover that this made him really really want to hit someone.
“The grownups all think I’m mad too,” she added. “Aunt Sharon gets cross when I talk about the Raggedy Doctor and says I’m not allowed to any more. I heard her talking on the phone with one of her friends and she said ‘What am I going to do about Amelia?’ Like I was broken and needed mending or something,” she muttered, flicking at a crumb of toast.
“Then there’s the people they make me go and talk to,” she continued, while Rory was still thinking of what to say. “They ask me the same stupid questions over and over again, and they nod their heads like they believe me but then they go right on and say that I’m wrong. Why do they all think I’m wrong?” she asked, looking up at Rory for the first time.
Rory shrugged. “Maybe because they didn’t see the Raggedy Doctor?” he suggested.
“But why does that matter?” she pleaded. “I saw him! I know he was there! Why does nobody believe me?”
“I believe you,” Rory said.
She gave him an odd look. “You’re not just saying that ‘cause you’re afraid I’ll hit you, are you?”
Rory shook his head solemnly. “No. I’m saying it ‘cause I do.”
She looked at him for a long moment before suddenly throwing her arms around him, causing him to squeak in surprise. “Thanks, Rory,” she said sincerely.
Amelia had never hugged him before, but he realized he didn’t mind. Actually, he wanted to hug her back, but as she was pinning his arms to his sides, all he could manage was a weird sort of pat on the knee.
She pulled back and returned her gaze to the toast crumbs. “I just wish people would quit thinking I was mad,” she sighed. “I…I’m not really mad…am I?” She added this last very hesitantly.
“No,” Rory said, a little surprised she had asked. “You’re clever and fun, and a bit scary sometimes, but you’re not mad. And I should know, I mean I…” I love you. Wait, she’s a girl. Can I say that? “I’m your friend. Who else knows you as well as me?” Wow. That had been quite a speech. He suspected he wouldn’t have been bold enough to say all that had she not hugged him a moment ago.
Amelia considered his words for a moment, and to his relief, she started to smile. “Yeah. If anyone would know, you would. Thanks,” she finished, her confidence, it seemed, restored. “They keep saying the psychiatrists are supposed to make you feel better, but you’re loads better than any of that lot,” she said, bumping his arm with her own. Rory smiled shyly, a warm, glowy feeling settling in his stomach.
Amelia looked around the room and sighed. “You want to help me clean this up before Aunt Sharon gets home?”
Twelve had not been a good year for Rory. Apparently, all his friends had gotten together over the school holidays and decided to grow up. They were all taller. A fair number of them had some degree of depth to their voices. Jeff even had a handful of scraggly hairs that required shaving. Rory had not been invited. He’d always been rather small for his age, and he spent the first day back at school with his head tilted back and looking up at his classmates. (He was unaware of the fact that once his growth spurt finally hit he would shoot up like a tree, and would even surpass some of the same boys who towered over him now. And even if he had known, it’s doubtful it would have helped.)
For the most part, being knocked around the hallways and catching elbows and backpacks in the face was unpleasant, but unintentional. He was small and hard to see, and just the right height for swinging arms and bags. People didn’t mean it and he knew that, and he got quite good at ducking. Well, most of the time, people didn’t mean it…
The group of boys who had always been the menaces of the playground now had the size to be truly terrifying. And there was no need to pick at people their own size when Rory was right there–so small and so easy. They could even pick him up if they wanted to. (Which did happen, and never involved a comfortable landing.) This wasn’t necessarily new for Rory–this was what these boys did, but it had been easier to avoid them when they were all the same size. And of course, he’d had Amy and Mels around.
His two best friends had gone off and gotten taller without him as well, but that was different–they were girls. There was no competition there, and while Mels may have teased him, there was fondness there. Amy, somewhat oddly, he thought, didn’t tease him at all about being short, and in his mind, that made her even more wonderful than he already thought she was. And he really didn’t mind watching her get taller, anyway. He’d never really thought about her legs before, but suddenly they were there, and they were getting longer, and they were really very nice.
Again, however, everything seemed to be different this year. His only class with Amy was the last one of the day–at least it gave him something to look forward to–and there was a new weird sort of schedule they were trying out which meant he only had lunch at the same time as her on Thursdays. He had no classes or breaks with Mels at all. There were a few other kids he could call his friends, sure, but nothing like the two of them. He was lonely, and it was tough facing a gang of giant scary people alone.
The school year soon settled into routine: Walk to school with Amy; Grab a seat near the door in class; Duck, weave and dodge his ways through the halls; Morning break in the library if he could get there fast enough; Class; Hide; Lunch (he lived for Thursdays); Hide; Back to class; Relax in last period; Walk home with Amy and Mels. Repeat daily. That was a good day anyway. Bad days were the ones where he wasn’t fast enough and he got caught in the hallway, at break or at lunch. Shredded notes, stolen lunch and sore hands and knees or bum (depending how he landed when they knocked him down) were to be expected. He’d been stuffed in a locker a few times. Shoved in the P.E. swimming pool with all his school things on once. Things like that. For the most part, he took it in silence. If he told anyone with the power to stop it, vengeance would soon follow. The only person he really trusted enough to tell was Amy, but telling her seemed…Well, a girl being taller than him was one thing, but moaning to a girl about being bullied was another. So he just kept quiet and got faster.
Lately, he’d been able to avoid them most of the time. He’d gotten very quick, but the stress was starting to wear on him. And one Thursday on the way to meet Amy for lunch, they’d caught him. Not too bad this time, really–scuffed trouser knees and a stolen lunch. He sat outside at a table waiting for Amy, pulling out a book so he wouldn’t look silly sitting there alone with no food. Maybe this was why he was so small, he thought to himself. He wasn’t getting proper nutrition. He’d been really hungry today.
“Hey, Rory!” Amy said brightly. She plonked down in the seat across from him, clattering her lunch box on the table.
“Hi, Amy,” he said, shutting his book.
“Something wrong?” she asked him, beginning to lay out her lunch.
“No, I’m fine,” he said quickly. Maybe he should have smiled when he said hi.
“Where’s your lunch?” she asked, noticing the empty table in front of him.
He was all set to say he just wasn’t hungry today, but something snapped and it all came spilling out. He told her about the notes and the lunches and hiding in the library and even the swimming pool incident. The words tumbled out in a rush and when he was done his face felt very hot and he was biting his lip because he was not going to cry in front of Amy.
Amy was looking at him, her sandwich forgotten halfway to her mouth. “So that’s why you asked to borrow all my notes,” she said at last. “I knew you would never leave your bag out in the rain.”
Rory blinked. Really? She was focusing on the pool?
“And this has been going on all year?” she asked. He nodded glumly. She nodded sagely. “You know, I thought something was going on. You’ve been kind of weird this year.”
Amy shrugged. “Just quieter than you usually are. And kind of jumpy.” She put down her sandwich and stared him straight in the eye. “You really should have said something.”
Rory shifted in his seat. “I…didn’t want to bother anyone,” he said. That, and he hadn’t wanted her to know any of this in the first place. He was pretty sure he wasn’t going to cry now, but she must think he was such a loser.
She narrowed her eyes and let out an irritated puff of air. “I’m your friend, moron,” she said. “You’re supposed to bother me with things like this.” She promptly tore her sandwich in two, handed him half and slid her water bottle, grapes and crisps into the middle of the table where they could both reach them.
“Thanks,” he said, smiling gratefully before taking a bite of the sandwich. This was why Amy was brilliant. Not just because of the sandwich, but because she understood and she didn’t think any less of him after all. Before, he’d always thought he could tell her anything. Now he knew he could.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “This’ll all work out.”
He doubted that somewhat, but it was a nice sentiment.
After the last class that afternoon, he had gotten his things and gone to meet Amy at her locker. “Hang on a minute,” she told him, setting her bag on the floor and digging in it. “I can’t find my history book.” Rory waited while she sorted through her bag. She didn’t seem terribly worried about the book, if her repeated glances up into the hallway were any indication. Just as he was about to ask her what she was doing, she stood up quickly and straightened her hair. “Get back a bit,” she said quietly.
“Get over there,” she hissed, motioning toward the end of the lockers with her head.
Rory was confused, but he obeyed. Amy squared her shoulders back and looked across the hall. Rory’s heart sank as he followed her gaze. Dylan. One of the biggest guys in the school and the worst of Rory’s tormentors.
To his utter horror, Amy called his name, and when Dylan looked up she smiled at him. Not just smiled, but…smiled. The smile Rory knew she’d been practicing in the mirror at home when boys had started getting interesting. Her hands were on her hips in a pose that Rory had never seen that just made you want to look…They really were very nice legs, and she was using them on Dylan?! He knew a lot of the girls thought he was cute, but after everything he’d told her at lunch…Rory felt like he was going to be sick.
“Hey,” she said smoothly as Dylan approached. She swung out a hand to slam her locker shut behind her. It seemed unnecessarily loud, and several heads turned. Seriously, was the whole school watching?
Dylan smiled, and Amy’s arm swung forward from her locker, her fist connecting with his nose with a sickening crunch. He crumpled to the floor from the force of her blow and the hall went dead silent. Rory stared with wide eyes, his eyebrows shooting up into his hair.
Dylan clambered to his feet, blood streaming from his nose and glaring daggers at Amy. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he spat.
Amy grabbed his collar and pulled him forward. “Breaking your nose, what’s it look like I’m doing?” she hissed. He voice was dangerous and quiet, and Rory had to strain to hear what she was saying. “I want you to remember that a girl just knocked you down in front of half the school, because if you or your stupid little friends even think about touching Rory again, I will knock you down in front of the entire school and I will break more than your nose. Got it?”
Dylan hesitated, staring wide-eyed at Amy, and she reached up the hand that wasn’t holding his collar and thumped his broken nose. “I said, got it?”
“Ow! Ow! Yes, I’ve got it, I’m sorry!” Dylan moaned.
“Good,” Amy said, pushing him back towards his friends. “Oh, here’s my history book,” she said in her normal voice, picking up a book that had been sitting by her locker the entire time and completely ignoring the staring eyes that filled the hallway. “Come on, Rory, let’s go,” she said and breezed out the door.
Rory trailed out after her. “See?” she said with a smile. “I told you it would be alright.”
Rory shook his head and grinned. “Amy, that was amazing!” he said, still in awe. “That was…I…” Oh, Amy Pond, I love you. He blushed. “Thanks.”
She cocked an eyebrow and smiled. “Come on, let’s go to my house. I’m starving!”
Amy started going on dates when she was fourteen. She’d fought with Aunt Sharon for the privilege for some time, and Aunt Sharon had finally relented. (Originally, the rule had been no dates before sixteen.) Boys had been interesting now for quite some time and Amy had been picking up flirting tips from Mels–who’d been going out with boys since she was eleven, by the way–and after a couple years of practice, she was getting pretty good. The time when she was ‘Crazy Amelia’ was long since forgotten, because, well, there was no point denying it. She was hot.
By the time they all hit fifteen, Rory had yet to go on a date. He wasn’t sure if Amy and Mels had noticed, and was careful not to bring it up. It’s not like he wasn’t interested, he just…Well, there was only one person he was interested in, and she was busy running after everyone but him. That really hurt, and he tried telling himself that it shouldn’t. Especially as he’d never expressed his interest, so how was she to know? That didn’t really work, and for some reason that made it hurt a little bit more. (Sure he’d never said anything, but couldn’t she tell? Girls were supposed to be intuitive.) Sometimes, when the three of them were hanging out and Amy was talking about her latest date, he would catch Mels giving him this look. Like she knew. Like she knew and she was waiting to see if he would say anything. One of these days, he was going to work up the courage to do exactly that.
One Friday evening, they were all hanging out in Amy’s bedroom. Rory looked down at his watch. “Oh, it’s nearly seven. Are we here or at my house tonight?”
Amy had been going through her closet. She stopped and turned to look at him. “What are you talking about?”
Mels rolled her eyes. “Movie night? It’s Star Trek IV tonight, come on.”
Amy gave Mels a look. “Really?”
“Time travel and whales in space, it’s freaking awesome,” she replied, stone-faced. Despite being the ultimate rebel, wild child and anti-nerd, Mels had always been a big (though somewhat closeted) fan of science fiction. Rory had yet to work that one out.
“Can’t, sorry,” Amy said, turning back to her closet. “I’ve got a date tonight. You guys are welcome to watch the movie here though, if you want.”
“What? But it’s…You’re dropping out of movie night for a date?” Rory asked. His voice was still steady, that was good. One of his fists had clenched without his noticing, but that was in his jacket pocket, no one saw that.
Briefly, Mels gave him that look again (how did she know?!) before turning to Amy. “You are so lame,” she said.
“Oh, come on, guys, I’m sorry!” Amy said. She had pulled out of the wardrobe and was looking at the two of them…well, somewhat apologetically. “I forgot, really I did. We can do it tomorrow?” she finished hopefully, putting on her most adorable please-don’t-be-cross-with-me face.
“Yeah, fine, tomorrow, whatever,” Rory said, not sighing nearly as deeply as he wanted to.
Mels shrugged. “So what’re you wearing, then?”
Amy smiled, and pulled out some clothes. “Well, definitely this skirt, and I thought those brown shoes there, but I’m not sure which top to wear.” She held up two for comparison.
“Definitely the green one,” Rory said, then realized what he was doing and wished he could slap himself in the face.
“You think so?” Amy asked, holding it up to herself.
Yes. Oh, so very much yes. You’ll look beautiful in that. But you’d look beautiful in anything. Stop it! Stop it! Do NOT say that. “Yeah,” he said coolly. He gave what would hopefully pass for an unconcerned shrug. “It’s nice.”
She looked at herself in the mirror. “Yeah. Thanks.”
He tuned out then as Amy and Mels discussed hair and makeup. How much longer was he going to keep doing this to himself? It was bad enough that she was going on dates, but now he was helping her?! The conversation jerked back to the front of his mind as the subject of underwear suddenly came up and he momentarily forgot how to breathe, masked it with a coughing fit and rushed downstairs for a drink of water.
When he returned, Mels was giving him that look again, and it seemed there was some pity there too. Hair and makeup continued. “So,” Mels asked after a bit. “Who is he, anyway? You never said.”
Amy grinned excitedly. “Colin,” she said.
Mels raised an eyebrow. “Colin? Wow. Oh, he’s gorgeous.”
“I know!” Amy squeaked.
“I don’t think you should go out with him,” Rory said quietly. Did he actually just say that? That was bold.
The two girls turned to look at him, four eyebrows raised. Mels looked a little impressed. “Why not?” Amy asked, looking like a teacher who’d been asked a stupid question. “Have you seen him?”
“Yeah. I’ve seen him. Not really my type,” Rory snapped. Ooh, that was snarky. He was going all in tonight.
“Well, no reason he can’t be my type,” Amy said cheekily. “I’m going.”
“No, no you shouldn’t do that,” Rory said, holding up a finger for emphasis. “You shouldn’t go out with him because I…” I love you. Don’t go out with him when you could be out with me. He stopped with his mouth open, words refusing to come. Wherever that momentary courage had come from, it was gone. “I just don’t think he’s right for you,” he finished lamely.
“Why not?” Amy pressed.
“Well, you know the girls that go with Colin get a reputation,” Mels put in. She glanced at Rory. Her face gave away nothing, but she seemed to have made some sort of decision. She was on his side now.
“What?” Amy said.
“Yeah, not a good one either,” she went on.
“Well, it’s not like I’m going to do anything,” Amy insisted. “I have amazing self-control,” she declared. “And this is only a first date.”
Mels was already shaking her wild curls. “Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to do a thing. He’ll still tell everyone you did.”
Amy looked surprised, and turned to Rory as if waiting for him to prove Mels wrong. “He will,” Rory admitted. He made a face. “You should hear some of the things he says in the locker room,” he added apologetically, as if saying that much was bad enough. He really didn’t want to hear that sort of stuff about Amy, and it was true, Colin really would do that.
“But you were excited for me a minute ago,” Amy protested, turning back to Mels.
“Well, yeah, I mean, he is gorgeous, but he’s no good. If I won’t go out with him, you definitely shouldn’t,” Mels said. She looked over at Rory and back at Amy. “We’re just trying to look out for you.”
“Alright,” Amy said, after a long sigh. “I’ll phone him and tell him I’m not coming.” She stomped downstairs. Mels gave Rory an encouraging smile–seriously, what was happening in his world tonight?–and breezed downstairs to the sitting room. Rory shook his head and followed.
While Mels was busy setting up the VCR, Amy motioned to Rory to join her in the kitchen doorway. “Hey, so, I phoned Colin,” she said, toying with the hem of her jumper and not looking up at him. “And, he was really cross, and he said some stuff, and…I think you were right. I really dodged a bullet on that one.” She looked up and smiled. “Thanks,” she said, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before skipping into the sitting room and flopping down on the sofa next to Mels.
Had he not already been leaning on the doorframe, Rory definitely would have fallen over. As it was, he suddenly couldn’t remember how to breathe again, but in a completely different, absolutely wonderful way. He wasn’t sure how long he stood there or how he ended up on the sofa, and it took him a little while to realize there was a movie going on. He thought it might have had something to do with space.
Rory was almost seventeen the first time Amy took her shirt off in front of him. They were in Amy’s room, just chatting and having a nice quiet Saturday afternoon when the phone rang downstairs. Amy, still in her pyjamas and dressing gown, had gone down to get it, returning back upstairs a few minutes later in a huff.
“You think your dad will let you borrow his car?” she asked.
Amy shook her head. “Mels. That was her. She’s down at the police station again.”
Rory groaned. “Again? What did she do this time?”
“I don’t know,” Amy said. “There was a fight at a bar and I’m assuming she started it.”
“Of course she did,” Rory muttered.
“Anyway, she needs a lift back from the station. She’s not going to jail or anything, but they took her license away.”
She’d been removing her dressing gown as she spoke, and it was at this point that she pulled her pyjama top over her head. It took Rory a moment to register what was happening, and then his eyes nearly boggled out of his head. “Amy, what are you doing?!”
“Changing,” she said calmly. “I’m not going into town dressed like this.”
“But…but I’m in here,” he stammered.
“And, well it doesn’t…oh, and there go the trousers too, okay…” He swallowed hard and looked up at the ceiling. It was just her bra and knickers–he’d seen her in her bikini at the pool hundreds of times, how was this any different? Oh, but it was. It was so different, and his stomach did a flip as he thought about that bright blue bra with that little bit of lace against her pale skin and oh…No, he was looking at the ceiling, and why wasn’t there anything to look at on the ceiling?!
Amy rolled her eyes and smiled. “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to look,” she said, before turning to her wardrobe.
Oh, it wasn’t that at all. He bit his lip and concentrated very hard on a spot in the corner of the ceiling. He did like it. He liked it a lot. It just…well, it seemed inappropriate. There was a proper way to do these things, and this wasn’t it.
He chanced a look down and was relieved to see Amy had slipped into a pair of jeans and was in the process of buttoning up her shirt. She was shaking her head, an amused smile on her lips. “Sorry,” she said playfully. “Didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“No, no it wasn’t…” he stammered, trying and failing miserably to explain. She was so, so beautiful. He had just wanted to stare, to drink in every inch of her, but he didn’t have her permission. It just felt wrong to read something more into something so innocent, especially when she meant nothing by it. How to say that he had looked away because he respected her too much to take advantage of a moment like that? His teenage brain had neither the vocabulary nor the wherewithal to put all of that into words. Well, there were a few words that might have done it. “I just…” I love you. He sighed and shook his head. “You just surprised me, is all,” he finished, managing a small smile.
“I’ll make sure to warn you next time, shall I?” Amy said, patting him on the shoulder. She pulled him to his feet. “Come on. Let’s go and get our wayward friend. Honestly, the number of times we’ve had to bail her out of trouble, you’d think we were her parents or something.”
Rory had just hitched his bag up onto his shoulders when Amy’s words stopped him cold. “What, Rory?” she asked Mels, her voice confused and amused. “How have I got Rory?” Suddenly unable to move, Rory was stuck facing the hallway, blinking and gaping like a fish.
His mouth moved wordlessly for a moment before he was able to pull himself together and turn around. “Yeah, how–how’s she got me?” he asked, addressing Mels. There had been a little hitch there, but his voice was mostly calm, his tone suggesting he was just as confused by the thought as Amy. He’d gotten much better at this as the years went on.
“He’s not mine,” Amy continued.
“No.” He shot a quick look up at Amy before focusing his attention back on Mels. That was easier. “No, I’m not hers.”
Mels smiled slightly in disbelief. “Come on,” she said, sitting up on the bed. “Seriously, it’s got to be you two.” She looked back and forth between the two of them. Amy just stared, waiting to see what the point of all this was meant to be. Rory shifted his bag uncomfortably. Seriously, what in the world was Mels doing? Mels let out an irritated sigh and flopped back against Amy’s pillows. “Oh, cut to the song, it’s getting boring.”
“Nice thought, okay, but completely impossible,” Amy said, her attention still on Mels, who rolled her eyes.
Rory managed a look up at her then, the pain in his eyes burning through for just a second. There it was. She’d finally said what he’d always been afraid of, and it hurt a hell of a lot more than he’d ever thought it would. He swallowed down a painful lump in his throat. “Yeah. Im–impossible,” he agreed, his voice mostly steady as he looked back to Mels.
“I mean, I’d love to,” Amy said, taking a few steps over to Rory. “He’s gorgeous, he’s my favourite guy,” she added, patting him on the shoulder. Oh, the shoulder pat. That was just rubbing it in. He needed to finish this. He needed to end this conversation and get out. “He’s just, you know…”
“A friend,” Rory finished.
“Gay,” Amy said at the same time. They looked up sharply at one another, each surprised by the other’s answer.
“I’m not gay,” Rory protested, his eyebrows coming together in confusion.
“Yes, you are,” Amy said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“No.” He swallowed hard. “No, I’m not,” he said quickly. A horrible realization was niggling at the back of his brain, and he was trying very hard to ignore it. No. No, it couldn’t be that. Infuriatingly, Mels was grinning, just waiting to see what would happen.
“Of course you are, don’t be stupid,” Amy said, tossing her hair a little. “In the whole time I’ve known you, when’ve you shown the slightest interest in a girl?” She raised her eyebrows expectantly on the last word.
Mels was still smiling. “Penny in the air…” she said, far too gleefully for Rory’s liking.
“I mean, I’ve known you for what? Ten years?” Amy went on. Rory just stared, his mouth hanging open. She did. She actually thought… “I see you practically every day. Name one girl you’ve paid the slightest bit of attention to.” She stopped, her arms crossed, and waited for him to answer.
Rory’s mouth worked up and down uselessly as he stared at her in hurt disbelief. There were no words. There were absolutely no words left in his brain. He finally remembered how to close his mouth, and he snapped it shut, spun on his heel and ran down the stairs.
Behind him, he thought he could hear Mels giggling, and Amy was saying something but he couldn’t hear it over the sudden pounding in his head. She thought he was gay?! Of all the reasons he had ever come up with to tell himself why she wasn’t interested in him, that had never even thought of crossing his mind. He’d thought maybe he wasn’t cool enough, or good-looking enough; too quiet or too straight-laced but SHE THOUGHT HE WAS GAY?! The only girl he had ever paid attention to was her and she had not noticed a bit of it. His head was spinning and he wanted to laugh because it was so ridiculous and cry because it hurt so much and he just couldn’t stop running.
He wrenched the front door open and slammed it loudly behind him, pounding down the steps. The night air slapped him in the face, cooling the heat of his burning skin. He heard the door slam again behind him and Amy calling his name, but it didn’t register until he reached the end of the front walk. He threw open the gate and kept going.
“Rory?” Amy called from behind him. “Rory, wait!”
He wouldn’t wait. Didn’t want to stop. He didn’t think he could look at her right now because she was just going to look sorry for him and there would be awkward apologies and both of them saying things were fine when they weren’t.
He kept going, picking up speed, and he heard the slap of her shoes on the pavement, keeping up with him. Suddenly her hand was on his arm. “Rory, wait,” she began again, slightly out of breath.
“No!” he snapped, spinning around to face her and stopping so quickly that she collided with his chest. She took a step back. The look on her face changed, and Rory grimaced inwardly. Pity. Great. How pathetic must he look right now? “No, Amy, I…You thought I was gay?! Amy, how could you think that?”
“Rory, look, I–I’m sorry–” she began softly, but he cut her off.
Rory shook his head in disbelief. “All these years, I’ve–” His voice caught and he shook it away. No. If this had to happen, then it might as well all get out there. “I have been right here,” he went on. “Through everything, every time you needed me, every time anything happened, I was right here. You asked me what girl I had ever paid attention to, and it has always, always been you, and now I know you’ve never noticed any of it. It was bad enough thinking that maybe you had thought about it and I wasn’t good enough, but now I find out I never even made it as far as being considered?” He stopped, realizing that at some point he had started shouting, and drew in a calming breath. In all the years they had known each other, he had never once shouted at her. “You thought I was gay,” he said quietly, gesturing at her with one hand, begging to understand. “I can’t…I can’t even…” He shook his head again.
Amy reached out and grabbed his hand with both of hers, and for a long moment she didn’t say anything. “Rory,” she said hesitantly. “Can I…Can I explain?” He didn’t think it would help, but she seemed so unsure, something he’d never seen before, and it was that more than anything that made him nod.
“Whenever…Whenever someone’s been interested in me, I’ve always known. I’m kind of used to guys coming after me, and you…well, you never did and so I never thought you were interested. And, at some point or another, all the other boys did come after me, and since you didn’t, I thought…” She was starting to blush. “This isn’t coming out well at all,” she said, pulling her hands away from Rory’s and putting one over her eyes. “I sound really, really conceited right now, don’t I?”
“A bit,” Rory agreed, smiling slightly in spite of himself.
“Well, you’re catching me on the spur of the moment,” she said, a little defensively. “Okay.” She held up a finger. “Let me start again.” She drew in a deep breath and started over, twisting her fingers together as she spoke. “I did notice that you were there for me. Everything you’ve done for me, I am so grateful for, I just…Well, I never knew you wanted more than that. You never said and I…Well, I really wanted you to, and so I think I told myself you were gay because that hurt a lot less than thinking maybe you didn’t want me,” she finished awkwardly, biting her lip at the end and looking up at Rory tentatively.
Rory blinked, completely wrong-footed. “You…” Wait, what? It could never have really been that easy, could it? “You wanted me to ask you out?”
Amy nodded shyly. That was new. He’d never seen her be shy around the other boys.
“But if you wanted…Why did you keep going out with all those other guys?”
Amy twisted a strand of her hair uncomfortably. “Well, I thought you were gay, didn’t I? I figured if I couldn’t be with you, I’d have to find someone else.” She shrugged. “Not my best plan, as it didn’t seem to be working out very well.”
“Wait,” Rory said, holding up a hand. This was not where this disaster had seemed to be going when it started, and it was proving quite difficult to get his head around. “So, you wanted me to ask you out.” Amy nodded. He drew in a deep breath, gathering courage for his next question. “Do you still want me to?”
Amy gave him the look that he got quite a lot from her that told him he was being an idiot. “I meant it, what I said to Mels just now.”
“You said a lot of things to Mels just now,” Rory pointed out. Many of which had been very painful to hear.
She sighed and took a step closer. “I said that I’d love to, I thought you were gorgeous and you were my favourite guy,” she said softly.
She was so close he could feel her breath as she spoke, which made it very hard to think straight. She had meant that? He had thought she was just being nice (and maybe a little condescending). He was so used to nothing happening that he was having a hard time believing it was happening now. “So, wait, is this actually–”
“Oh, shut up,” she interrupted him with a smile, grabbing the back of his head and pulling him forward into a kiss.
It was not his most graceful moment. Unprepared, he just sort of stood there, his hands moving uselessly in the air, and he had no idea what was going on with his tongue.
Amy pulled away with an odd look on her face. He’d never kissed anyone before, but he knew that had not gone well. “I have to admit, I thought that would be different,” Amy said uncertainly.
“No,” Rory said, struggling to catch his breath. “No, I was…You surprised me. I was not ready for that,” he protested, holding up a finger for emphasis.
Amy smiled. “Think you can do better?”
“I…” He ran out of words again, and before he could think too hard about it and muck it all up, he pulled her forward and kissed her again. One hand was on her back while the other threaded up in her hair, and he kissed her with all the desire and desperation and adoration and everything else he’d been waiting to tell her since he was seven years old and hadn’t even known that was what he wanted to say.
When they finally ran out of air and he let her go, Amy took a step back, breathing hard. “Wow,” she said shakily. “Rory Williams, that was definitely worth the wait.”
Swallowing hard to catch his own breath, Rory couldn’t do anything but smile. It had finally happened. He had kissed Amy Pond. He had… He was with Amy Pond. He grinned even wider and Amy smiled right back and threw her arms around him. He returned the embrace, reveling in the feel of her in his arms, the smell of her hair and the beating of her heart against his chest. He had dreamed about this for years and it had all been absolute rubbish because this was SO much better. She looked up at him, so close her nose brushed his. “Oh, Amy, I love you,” he whispered, and she smiled the most beautiful smile he had ever seen and kissed him again.