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The rough gravel of the lakeside digs into his knees hard enough to break the skin. He can feel his bare back burning and peeling under the strength of the summer sun, and his head spins from lack of oxygen.
None of it matters.
The only thing that matters—the only thing—is that he continues to breathe twice into Amy's mouth for every fifteen times he compresses her chest. Back and forth, over and over. Fifteen chest compressions, followed by two breaths, followed by another fifteen chest compressions
Until… well, until. Never stopping, no matter how tired he gets, because you don't give up until relieved by a qualified medical professional. That's the rule. (Only he knows a qualified medical professional isn't coming. Not any time soon, anyway. Maybe not at all.)
"Rory?" ventures a timid, murky voice from over his shoulder. Jeff, his brain tells him. He sounds like he's a thousand miles away. "Rory, I don't know what to do."
Ever since she was a little girl, Amy Pond has loved to swim.
Or, well, to be more accurate: Amy Pond loves to pretend she's drowning.
There's just something a little bit magical about being underwater… the feeling of being weightless; how her hair fans out around her like a flaming halo. Aunt Sharon'd signed her up for swim lessons, but they never took—little Amelia was far too busy floating in the throes of her own imagination to learn a proper breast stroke. While the other kids literally swum laps around her, she'd sink to the bottom and watch, mesmerized, as dappled sunlight flickered and shone on the surface. One summer, she stayed down so long that a lifeguard got worried and jumped in after her.
After that, she never really stopped.
She doesn't do it often, but every once in a while she'll stay submerged longer than she should—just to see what will happen. It can get a bit embarrassing, but… she likes to know they're watching her. (And considering her reputation, "girl who seeks attention by drowning herself" is downright normal.)
It's something of a bad habit.
"Those'll kill you, you know," says Amy, snatching the cigarette from Rory's mouth and tossing it out the car window.
"Oi!" protests Jeff from driver's seat, trying to glare at them through the rearview, "Littering!"
"Amy—" Rory starts weakly, but shuts his mouth at her look.
"You should know better. Haven't they gotten to that bit at nursing school yet?"
"No; we're still on the part where I'm an adult and I can make my own decisions," he grumbles. She swats him on the arm, and he sighs. "C'mon, Amy. I don't want to have this fight with you today."
"And I don't want you to drop dead from lung cancer before you hit thirty, you big numpty," she retorts.
"Seconded," chimes Jeff. "Now let's move on."
Once Jeff's attention is back on the road, Amy shifts closer to Rory in the backseat and slips her hand into his. "You spend so much time looking after other people," she murmurs in the quiet, vulnerable voice she rarely lets people hear. "You've got to let someone else look after you every once in a while."
"Yeah, well…" he trails off.
She rolls her eyes. "Honestly," she scoffs, "what would you do without me?"
"Rory? Rory, I don't know what to do."
"I—told—you," Rory huffs, never once letting up on his CPR, "call—9—9—9."
"My mobile doesn't have service out here—"
"Then DRIVE TO WHERE YOU DO," Rory explodes, whipping around to glare. Expression quickly falling back to alarm, he leans over Amy again. One-and-two-and-three-
From somewhere behind him, he hears the crunch of Jeff running back to where they parked; the slam of the car door, the roar of the engine, and then, mercifully, the rapidly-fading sound of wheels.
Her lips are so cold.
Come on, he thinks desperately, not sure if he's begging or praying or both. Come on, please. I'll do anything.
How long has it been since they pulled her out of the water?
Please. Please. I'll never let her out of my sight again. I'll trade places with her I'll please. I will spend the rest of my life saving people if you save her now—
Amy convulses beneath him, coughing violently, and he barks out a single, sob-choked laugh. Cradling her face in his hands as she hacks and rasps her way back to consciousness, he squeezes his eyes shut and leans his forehead against hers, taking deep, slow breaths. After a few panicked wheezes, he can feel her try to calm down—to match him for every inhale and exhale.
For a moment, all they do is breathe together.
"Rory—" she gasps, and he shushes her.
"Don't try and talk yet," he murmurs, eyes still closed. "Deep breaths. Come on."
"What did I just say?" he laughs, voice warbling on the edge of hysteria. He slides his hands below her chin; savors the thud of her pulse against his fingertips.
"Towel…?" she hiccups, and his ears go red.
"Right. Yeah. Let's get you covered—hold on, I'll be right—stay where you are," he stutters, getting up to fetch her tote bag.
"Where, exactly, do you expect me to go?" she pants, and he rolls his eyes. Only Amy Pond would place sarcasm higher than oxygen intake on her list of priorities. He grabs the fluffiest, largest towel he can find and wraps her up in it, grateful for the shivering life in her limbs.
They both jump at the squeal of tires, and Jeff exits his jeep mid-sentence. "—finally got through; an ambulance is on its—oh."
"That's all I get? Oh?" Amy asks, with her usual teasing lilt, and the boys boggle at her quick recovery.
Jeff opens and closes his mouth several times before he can speak. "But—you're okay?"
"Fine? Fuck, Amy," Jeff squeaks, "you could have died."
She tries to laugh, but it comes out as a series of water-logged coughs. "It'll take more than a little lake water to off me," she sputters, then frowns, smacking her lips. "Why does my mouth taste like smoke?"
Eventually, the ambulance does come. Jeff drives home on the stipulation that Amy texts him later, but Rory refuses to leave her side—riding with her back into town as the paramedics check her over; keeping her company through a battery of needless tests and distracting her as best he can. Hours later, she kicks her legs idly against the examination table as they wait for someone to tell them she's been released.
"Amelia Pond?" asks one of the interchangeable emergency room doctors hesitantly, pulling back the curtain.
"It's Amy," she corrects dully.
"Oh! Sorry. We apologize for all the delay; we're almost through. But, ah… we've had a look into your file, and you should know that we've contacted Dr. Webber about what's happened."
Amy's face stays neutral, but Rory knows her better than that. A glance at her hands confirms his suspicions: her knuckles have gone white from the sheer force of her grip on the table.
"And?" she asks, focusing very intently on a small crack in the paint.
"He wants you to come in for a psych eval by the end of the week; you're to call him tomorrow morning to schedule an appointment. But other than that, you've a clean bill of health. You're free to go."
The doctor exits with another swish of the curtain, and then there's silence.
"I'll take you home," Rory says softly.
The walk back to her house is quiet, but not uncomfortable or awkward; their pinkies brush up against each other every now and again. Rory watches her out of the corner of his eye—notes the furrow in her brow; the languid, dreamy quality of her blinks; the increasing stumble in her gait—and decides to perform his own kind of examination.
"You must be tired," he comments, testing her.
She stares straight ahead. "I'm fine."
"Do you want to stay at my place tonight?" he asks, then balks when he realizes what that sounds like. "It's just that it's closer, and you wouldn't have to deal with your aunt…"
Her phone is at her ear before he can even finish his sentence. "Aunt Sharon? I—yes, I know what time it is. No, I'm not—listen, I'm spending the night at Jane's house. … No, I haven't been drinking. …Yes, tomorrow. Bye."
"You could've just told her the truth," he mumbles as she hangs up.
She laughs unpleasantly. "What truth? Hi Aunt Sharon, I'm crashing at Rory's because I almost drowned today and spent the afternoon at hospital? Yeah, that will go over well."
"That's not the point! You just—eventually, she's gonna figure out that there's no such person as Jane."
"How? Who's gonna tell her; you? It's been two years."
"That doesn't mean it's okay. You can't just keep lying all the time, Amy. You have to deal with reality at some point, instead of just living in this—this fantasy world, where your actions never have consequences and you have this whole population of… of…"
"Imaginary friends?" she finishes coldly.
He freezes. "That's not what I meant."
"Yeah? Well then, what did you mean?"
"It's… it's just that…" he braces himself, then blurts it out as quickly as he can. "She's gonna wonder where you are when you have to see Dr. Webber later this week."
Amy stiffens. "Too bad, because it's none of her business. Or yours. So just drop it."
"I said shut up."
For a few minutes, there is nothing but the sound of their footsteps.
"…sorry," he says as they approach his porch, wanting to reach détente before they get inside.
She bumps her shoulder against his. "S'okay," she shrugs, looking everywhere but at him.
When they reach his room she makes a beeline for his bed, flopping gawkily onto the mattress with a kind of unspoken authority—as if it's her room they're staying in, and he's the guest. He busies himself at his chest of drawers, looking for something appropriate for her to sleep in.
"About earlier," he starts, staring resolutely at his unsorted t-shirts.
The bedsprings creak as she stands up again. "Don't worry about it. People fight."
"No, not that," he clarifies, turning around. "Earlier."
She blinks, and then looks away. "There's nothing to talk about. I'm fine."
"—although," she says, stepping closer to him with a gleam in her eye, "if I'd known you were that desperate to kiss me and touch my chest, I would have done something about it ages ago."
"Wha—I wasn't trying to—" he splutters, but then her lids flutter shut and she leans in close to him, and he forgets how to talk.
It's nothing big—a soft, sweet brush of lips against his own, and then she's gone again—but he feels it all the way down to his toes.
"Thank you," she murmurs softly against his mouth, and it's all he can do to stare down at her, wide-eyed, and nod. Her eyes search his face, trying to interpret his speechlessness. "Rory?"
"I—y-you—you're welcome," he chokes out. He tries to clench his hands into fists, but finds them hampered by the bundle of clothing in his arms. Coming back to himself, he brushes his fingers against the hem of her summer dress. "Arms up," he orders, and in one swift motion divests her of the garment, leaving her standing awkwardly in the center of his room wearing nothing but her black bikini.
It's been a good two or three years since he's seen Amy Pond awkwardly do anything, and for a moment he's struck dumb at the sight of her so defenseless.
"Amelia…" he breathes, and she snatches the pajamas from his hands and bolts from the room before he can say anything else.
Scrubbing tiredly at his face, he collapses into his chair and scoots it closer to his desk. He knows he has a half-full pack of cigarettes in one of the drawers; once Amy's asleep he can nip out and just—
She closes the door behind her, startling him out of his thoughts. He spins in place, trying not to look guilty. For a moment, he could swear he'd seen Amy nuzzling at the shoulder of the shirt he lent her, smelling it—but then she crosses to the bed, looking casual, and he dismisses the idea.
"Aren't you coming?" she asks, slipping down beneath his covers, and he swallows. He'd been planning to just crash on the couch, but if she didn't mind…
"I have a few things I need to do, first—don't let me keep you up. I can move downstairs, if the light bothers you…?"
"No!" she says quickly, sitting upright, then clears her throat. "I mean… I don't mind. You should stay."
Looking uneasy, she settles back down again. "Good night."
His voice comes out scratchy and rough. "Sweet… sweet dreams."
He flips halfheartedly through a book for a bit, trying to seem busy, but he can tell she's still awake.
"Rory?" she ventures quietly after a moment.
He crosses the room in three long strides and perches himself on the edge of the bed, level with her waist. "What is it?"
"I just wanted to point out that you did a bit of somewhat impressive life-saving today."
With effort, he tames his large grin into a small smile. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," she affirms around a long yawn. "Have you considered becoming a nurse?"
"Oh, you know. Maybe once or twice."
She stretches and then curls up into herself, and he tries to ignore the play of her muscles against his thigh.
"What would I do without you?" she slurs sleepily as she snuggles down into his pillows, looking up at him with fond, half-lidded eyes.
Die, apparently, he thinks, before shoving the thought away. He brushes her hair from her forehead and presses a firm kiss against her temple. "You'll never have to find out," he promises instead.
"Mmmm," she mumbles, eyes drifting shut, "good." Within seconds, her breathing slows and she drops off completely. Once he's sure she's truly asleep, he digs out the cigarettes from his desk and sneaks downstairs.
He tosses them—all of them—in the trash compactor.