Disclaimer: I do not own Amy, Rory, or Catcher in the Rye. Or Dora the Explorer.
When Amelia Pond is eight and a half years old, the Williams family moves into the house down the way. Which would be interesting in and of itself; the last time anything remotely exciting had happened on the street, it was because Mrs. Langley'd had a stroke, and the ambulance came. (Aunt Sharon made Amelia visit her after. She brought along one of her dolls, because her Doctor was probably better than the ones at hospital, but no one had seemed all that impressed.) But it's even more interesting because they have a son her age, and if she can get to him before anyone else does, then maybe he'll be her friend. Before he can be warned off, told how strange she is.
He surprises her by already being on her porch when she opens the door. He meets her halfway, and she likes that about him immediately.
"My name's Rory," he mumbles, staring at his shoes and looking up at her through his fringe. "What's yours?"
And it suddenly occurs to her that this shy, awkward boy doesn't know her. He doesn't know what the other children say, or about her weekly visits with Dr. Fitzroy, or that Amelia Pond didn't always believe that a mad man with a blue box would come and take her away someday.
"I'm Amy," she decides. "Want to play a game?"
For her ninth birthday, he gets her a picture book about the Roman legion.
For his tenth, she gets him a blue tie with swirls on it.
By the time they hit puberty, she no longer makes him play Raggedy Doctor with her every afternoon. (Sometimes, he almost misses it. When he's Rory, she treats him like everyone else. But when he was the Doctor, she looked at him like… like… well. It doesn't matter now.) She dreams less and teases more; her hair and legs get longer and her temper and skirts get shorter. He tracks the changes in her carefully, not wanting to miss a single detail.
There is a special place in her heart for broken people who make beautiful things—Schumann and Van Gogh, Elliott Smith and Sylvia Plath. In fourth form, they read The Catcher in the Rye, and it doesn't surprise him at all when she falls in love with Holden Caulfield. (Personally, he thinks Holden's a bit of a prat, but he keeps his thoughts to himself. And maybe he's just bitter because the only character he identified with in the whole novel was the dead brother.)
After school he walks her home, and on their way through the town square she declares that the pathetic little marsh in the center of the green should be renamed the duck pond.
"We've never had any ducks," he reminds her as gently as he can.
"And sometimes doctors live in police boxes that are time machines," she replies breezily, "so what's your point?"
That Christmas, she buys him a red hunting cap.
Fourteen months, two therapists and a panicked call from her aunt later and he's bursting through the doors of the emergency room, more scared than he's even been in his life. She's a different creature entirely when wearing a paper hospital gown—doll-like in her pale fragility. The fluorescent lighting robs her hair of its fire and her eyes of their life, and for a moment he thinks he's gone into the wrong room. This glossed, numb girl couldn't possibly be Amy Pond.
"Rory?" she rasps. The stomach pump is still in the room, rolled into a corner; he does his best to pretend it's not there.
Refocusing, he grabs her hand. "I'm here," he chokes. "Hi."
"Hi," she says, and gives his fingers a weak squeeze. For a long moment, neither of them talk. She swallows thickly, then ventures, "…are you mad at me?"
It's all he can do not to break down and cry; he crushes a kiss into her forehead. "Of course I'm not mad," he lies. "How could I be mad? I just wish… I don't understand. What were you thinking?"
"I don't know," she evades, and he gives her a harsh look.
"You don't get to do that," he says, barely recognizing the sound of his own voice. "You don't get to swallow a month's worth of pills and then say you don't know."
"Allow yourself to consider the possibility—for just a few seconds—that I might understand what you're going through. Whatever it is, I can handle it. I can help you. But you've got to let me try. Please. Amy. Why'd you do it?"
Her mouth contorts and she blinks furiously, looking anywhere but at him. "I just wanted to forget," she whimpers. He knows better than to ask forget what?
That night, he starts looking at medical schools.
She spends the last few months of Year 11 wondering just when he'll get the courage to ask her to the Leaver's Ball. They aren't dating, in the strictest sense, and she'd never let anyone call her his girlfriend, but… honestly. Who else would she go with? She shouldn't have to tell him these things. It's obvious.
Finally, she just starts badgering him about color schemes—because she has to pick a dress that won't clash with her hair, and he has to pick a tie that won't clash with her dress. When she explains this to him, he looks at her like she's speaking Swahili.
"Hasn't… I thought Jeff or someone would've asked you."
"Of course he did. Lots of blokes did."
"Then why aren't you…?"
She rolls her eyes. "Well, I had to tell them I was going with you, didn't I?"
"Oh," he hums, then processes what she said. His eyes light up. "Oh!"
"Daft boy," she teases fondly, and kisses him.
The prom itself is a bit of a bust, truth be told—he ends up getting drunk off spiked punch and throws up all over her on the dance floor. But when the chaperones kick him out she walks out with him, and stays up 'til dawn in his loo: rubbing his shoulders and holding his head, making him laugh by plotting increasingly ridiculous revenge scenarios on his saboteurs.
The details are fuzzy, but he remembers it as one of the best nights of his life.
He's well and truly against her being a kissogram, when she first tells him about it.
And it's not even the part where she'd be kissing other people that puts him off—not that he's enthusiastic about that aspect of the job, by any means—but rather the persistent voice in the back of his head that's reluctant for her make a living by pretending to be someone she's not. He knows she'd be furious to think he's psychoanalyzing her again; his jealousy is an easy fiction to hide behind. But his concern about her new career eats away at him, as all the forbidden subjects between them are wont to do. She's lived her whole life as if her actions had no consequences—being paid to actually, actively ignore them hardly seems healthy to him.
But then he sees her first outfit, and he forgets to be cross.
"What do you think?" she asks, twirling for him, her stubbornly Scottish vowels turning the sentence into a song.
He doesn't really know what to think, is the problem. She looks like she knocked out a cub scout and stole his outfit—khaki daisy dukes with useless pockets and a button-up blouse, much the same. "Who are you supposed to be," he asks, the corners of his mouth twitching, "a slutty Dora the Explorer?"
"I'm a big game hunter," she hisses through clenched teeth. Her safari helmet starts listing to one side; she fixes it in dismay.
"Oh, is that what your clients call it now?" he jokes, eyebrows and pitch both raising in barely-contained mirth. "Not compensating at all, then."
"Shut up; I'm leaving."
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" he calls after her retreating back.
She flips him off.
(He doesn't worry, after that. Because no matter what disguise she puts on, she's always Amy underneath.)
She's still in her uniform when he finds her—sitting forlornly in her back garden, staring into space. It's poetic, in a miserable way: how close they can come and still fall short of him. A fake policewoman to go with a fake police box, and a nurse not good enough to be a Doctor. Still playing at who they want to be, after all these years.
"He left," she says, voice hollow and eyes wide. She doesn't turn around; for a second, Rory wonders if she even knows he's there. "I can't believe he left." (The 'me' and the 'again' meant to go at the end of that sentence are left unsaid, but he hears them anyway.) Her emptiness breaks his heart, and he wishes he were the kind of man who could make it better with a word. He's never known what to say to her when she's like this.
"Let's get you inside; it's freezing," he finally mumbles, draping his hoodie across her shoulders.
The engagement was actually her idea, though no one believes him when he says that. It happens on a perfectly ordinary night in the middle of September, when he comes home from the hospital bone-tired to find her dressed as a tarty bunny and sitting on his kitchen counter. No, honestly: all fishnets and cleavage, floppy ears and a puffy little tail, nursing a cuppa. It would be surreal if it weren't so perfectly Amy Pond.
He can't help it; he laughs.
"What?" she asks, eyes glinting in either mischief or a warning—it's impossible to tell, with her.
"Nothing. You. It's… nice coming home to you." He settles into the spot she makes for him, his face at the crook of her neck and her legs wrapping around his waist. (They've always fit, him and Amy.)
"Nice, am I?" she asks, breath hot against his ear. He can feel her smirk. "Get yourself out of those scrubs and you'll see how nice I can be."
He doesn't even open his eyes. "Thought you liked it when I smelled like disinfectant and old people?" he asks her clavicle.
She laughs and shoves at his shoulder. "I'll make you a deal," she offers, sliding off the counter to stand flush against him, bare feet balancing on the tips of his trainers. "You change… and I won't."
He squirms uncomfortably. "Oh?"
"And you know what they say about bunnies," she continues, running her hands across his chest, voice low.
"Not just that," she corrects, and her knee starts running up the inside of his thigh. "They keep going and going and going…"
"That's enough of that," he chokes, stepping out of reach. Gently, he removes the rabbit ears from her head—turns it into a caress, his fingers running through her hair. "Just Amy tonight, I think."
Her mouth opens and he covers it with his own before she can say what he knows she was going to—"You say that every night," with a disappointed pout.
She takes him to bed and he drifts off in her arms, waking a few hours later when she punches him in the shoulder—thrashing about in her sleep, face stained with silent tears.
"Amy!" he hisses, shaking her. "Amy, you're dreaming. Wake up."
She gasps into consciousness with a start, and he holds her tight to him; lets her hear his heartbeat, feel him against her. These nightmares happen rarely, but that they happen at all is enough—her alone, left behind, with those she loves most walking away and abandoning her. They never discuss her night terrors outside of the bedroom, but she's at her most honest like this: naked in the dark. As if he can't see her. (He always could.)
"I'm here," he murmurs into her hair, pressing a kiss into the top of her head. "Shhh. I'm right here. I'm not going to leave you."
"People always say that."
And he's stuck, now, because the only good response to that line has been taken already—by an impossible man in a blue box who was rubbish at keeping his promises. "I know," he finally says, because there's nothing else. "But I won't, Amy. You know I won't."
"Do you promise?"
"…they're just words," she whispers, unsatisfied.
He shifts underneath her, changing their positions so that he can look her in the eye. "What do I have to do to make you believe me?"
Her response is immediate; she doesn't even bat an eyelash. "Would you marry me?" she asks. Like a challenge. As if he'd say no; as if the idea of committing to her would scare him off.
Rory Williams is not that sort of man.
"I would," he insists, hoping he sounds as earnest as he feels. "I absolutely would. Do you… do you want to?"
She settles back down against him, and is silent for so long he thinks she's fallen asleep again. But as the first rays of sunlight creep in beneath the crack in his shade, he hears her mumble, "Yes."
(Several years from now—or several thousand years in the past, depending on how you count it—he remembers this. Angrier with the Doctor than ever, and in his silliest costume yet, he keeps his promise.)
It's a beautiful dress—hugs her curves brilliantly, with just enough lace to be tasteful. She picked it out herself, despite all of Aunt Sharon's requests to "help," and as she stares at herself in the mirror, she thinks she probably ought to be feeling proud of herself at the moment. Excited. Nervous. Pretty.
She just feels vaguely nauseated.
This is what I'll be wearing when I marry Rory, she thinks, and the idea is so huge—so monumental and foreign and strange—that she can't get past it. She tries to imagine a life with him; a house with a picket fence, her with a proper job, him finally becoming a doctor. It seems like an impossible fantasy. She can't cast her mind past the right now—the nurse and the kissogram, trading vows and I dos after an endless march down the aisle.
Who do they think they're fooling?
"Amy, you home?" he calls from the front hall, and she jumps. She hadn't even heard the door open.
"In here," she shouts back, unable to break eye contact with the stranger in the mirror.
"I picked up a few things from the store," he says, the sound of his voice closer by the second, "and I was thinking that maybe tonight we could—oh my god!"
"Your dress!" he yelps, slapping his hands over his eyes. "Why didn't you tell me you were wearing the dress? I'm not supposed to see you in that; it's bad luck!"
She does her best not to laugh at him, but a few stray chuckles escape. "Rory," she admonishes with a smile, uncovering his eyes by taking his hands in hers, "that's just an old wives tale. And anyway, I don't believe in luck."
"You don't believe in anything," he agrees off-handedly, and she doesn't let how deep it cuts show on her face.
"So," she sing-songs, twirling out of his embrace to show off the dress, "what do you think?"
He reaches out and catches her easily—making her stand still, keeping her grounded. (Just as he's always done. Always will do, she realizes.) "You are," he says, cupping her face in his hands so he can look her in the eye, "so beautiful."
And hard as it is to picture her future with Rory… it's absolutely impossible to imagine living without him.