Author's note: updated to put spacers between the different sections; it should make more sense now!
He finds her terrifying: she's mad, and impossible, and the worst times he's ever been in trouble have always been under her direction. He's lost countless hours of telly and one long weekend of tent camping with Jeff and his family because of her. Playing with Amelia Pond, his clothes have been ruined, his limbs have been bruised, and he's endured more lectures (from her as well as his parents) than he would ever experience on his own.
She finds him to be quite boring: he's quiet, and complacent, and when he does open his mouth it's usually to moan about her games and how it's going to get them in trouble. His eyes, hair, and skin are pale, almost sickly; his knees are knobby and his limbs gangly, and his wiry frame gives the impression that a strong breeze might snap him in two. Even though he's just a bit older than she is, he's such a baby, always afraid of everything. Playing with Rory Williams is so frustrating sometimes she could scream.
It's not as if they seek each other out; it's an understatement to suggest that neither is the other's first choice of playmate. But in a village as small as Leadworth, you have precious few options to consider. There's only so many children, and only so many places to play; kids of the same age just ended up thrown together, tolerating each other's company for the sake of making up the numbers for whatever game was on that day's agenda.
Too often, among Rory's crowd, that game was "The Raggedy Doctor": Amelia's game. It wasn't a bad game, really; Rory liked make-believe and running around the green pretending that his all-too-familiar neighbors were actually aliens in need of zapping with the special magic torch wand-thing Amelia had made herself out of a penlight and glitter. The problem, though, was that it was Amelia's game, Amelia's rules, and Amelia did not welcome outside input. "It's MY game, and if you don't want to PLAY IT RIGHT, then you can GO HOME!"
Amelia would really rather have chosen any other boy to play her precious Doctor, but then the other boys insisted dress-up was for girls and just weren't as compliant as Rory. She was stuck with him.
Amelia is twelve years old and her body has started to lengthen, losing some of its childhood roundness; she's nearly as tall as Rory is, now. They're still friends, tentatively; Rory is no less scared of her, but he's finally learning to hide it. At the moment, it's incredibly difficult.
They're sitting on the swings in the play park, just the two of them, waiting for Jeff to come back from his tea so they can ride their bikes into the village and check out the new comics that have come out. Rory is sitting quietly on one swing, idly dragging the toe of his ragged Converse through the dirt; Amelia is at the other end, two swings away. Amelia never does anything "idly".
She starts off slowly, pushing her feet off the ground to build momentum. As the rhythmic sway of the swing lengthens, she starts leaning back, stretching her long frame almost horizontal before pulling her body back inward. She's careful to keep her feet from dragging and slowing her down, but her hair she allows to sweep against the ground, stirring up dust and spraying out behind her as she leans back as far as she can to watch the solid earth rush toward her on the back swing.
At first, her movements are elegant, slow and steady; she looks like a dancer or a trapeze artist, gliding through the air with grace and purpose. For a while, it does really look as if she's flying. Then the swing is stretched to the limit of its thick, iron chains, and it seems she won't be able to go any higher. So now she pulls the chains harder, pushes her body forward with greater intensity; she swings so high, the chains go slack, and for one agonizing moment she's suspended in mid-air, weightless. The sensation lasts for only a second before she's falling again, and the chains catch her weight with a crash and a shudder.
The metal frame of the swing set is shaking and groaning with the force, and Rory hears Amelia's teeth clatter together as she mis-times her next fall. "Ow!" she yells, and then laughs uproariously, even though she can taste the copper tang of blood in her mouth. She leans back once more to sweep her too-long hair against the ground, closing her eyes this time and trying to predict the exact moment when she'll reach the bottom of the curve and start to fly back up again.
Rory watches her nervously. "Amelia!" he shouts, trying to sound authoritative and not scared; "Amelia, be careful, you're going to fall!"
She sits up then and looks at him, pouting, allowing gravity to pull the swing back into a regular rhythm. Just when Rory's about to breathe again, she looks ahead with a mischievous smirk; arms up, she reaches for the sky, letting go of the chains and flying toward the grass. She lands with a bump and a roll, coming to rest in a patch of clover, her arm flung over her face. She doesn't move, and Rory can feel his heart beat in his throat.
"Oh my God, Amelia!" he shouts, but when he reaches her, he can see that her shoulders are shaking with suppressed laughter. She moves her arm, and unleashes a fit of giggles.
"The look on your face!" she howls.
Rory doesn't speak to her for three days after that.
He's scuttling down the roof like a crab, scraping his hands against the shingles; he doesn't even notice that they're bleeding. When he catches the back pocket of his jeans on a loose nail, he wrenches himself free, not hearing the rip of fabric as his new trousers give way. There's no thought present in his mind but "please". Just over and over again, that one single word: "please!"
He's just turned fifteen, and he and Amelia (Amy, now) don't hesitate to call each other friends anymore. Neither can afford to be picky. It's no longer enough to be roughly the same age and to live within a reasonable proximity; friendship means something more now that they're older.
To Amy, friendship with Rory means that there is someone to listen to her impossible stories. He laughs at her stupid jokes that she pretends to make ironically. He plays the games her other friends insist they've now outgrown. He accepts her without question. Well, not entirely without question: he is always questioning her, still. "Isn't that dangerous?" "Don't you have a curfew?" "Are you sure that won't catch fire?" He fusses like an old woman, but then it's only fun to be outrageous and shocking if there's someone like Rory around to be duly outraged and shocked. She's come to rely on him.
For Rory, Amy represents fun, and adventure, and a carefree nonchalance he can't even begin to imitate. She reminds him of his sister, whom he hasn't seen since he was seven. He and Anna have the same mum, but different dads, so she couldn't stay with Rory and his dad when their mum left. And then his mum's drinking got worse, and his sister went to live with her dad's mum, and he didn't get to see her at all after that. She used to tell him stories and jokes and make him laugh when his parents were fighting. Even though he still felt trembly and nervous inside all the time, she could make him laugh and forget for just a little while.
Amy is able to do that, too: distract him from worrying and make him laugh when he wants to cry. Even when she's doing something stupid and dangerous and he just wants to shout at her, it's better to be fretting over Amy Pond's antics than the churning sea of nameless worries he's carried inside since childhood.
At least, it's usually better; he's not so sure now.
It was her idea to go up on the roof, of course. School had started up again, and autumn was in full swing, and they were out to enjoy one of the last few sunny days of the year before the weather went back to drab and dribbly. "Let's go up on the roof and sunbathe!" she'd suggested when they'd run out of things to do.
That was what he'd agreed to: lying motionless, in one place, soaking up the warmth of the sun. Lying still: nothing dangerous about that!
Of course, that hadn't been enough for Amy; she'd always been excited by heights, and she loved to pretend she was flying, or floating, or falling. They'd barely been up there ten minutes when she was standing near the edge, arms up, wind in her face, wishing she could take off like a kite.
Rory sat dead center, rubber soles of his shoes planted firmly against the grit-covered tiles of the roof. He gave her approximately 45 seconds of freedom before he began hounding her to leave the edge and come sit down beside him. He tried suggesting it casually first: "I thought you wanted to sunbathe?" When he got no response, he moved rapidly to threatening and begging: "Amy, you are going to fall! Amy, please come sit down…"
She turned to face him then, heels just inches from the edge of the roof. She rolled her eyes and smiled. "Hey, do you think I could do a back flip off the roof and land on my feet like Catwoman?" She crouched down then, arms out at her sides in a pantomime of a gymnast ready to dismount.
Rory's eyes widened to saucers. "Amy, don't…"
She remained in position for just a fraction of a second longer, face all seriousness, just long enough to make him wonder if she's actually crazy enough to do it. She caught his eyes, and smiled. Then she's standing up, laughing, ready to tease him for believing she'd actually jump.
But something goes wrong. One of the tiles is loose, and shifts under feet as she stands. She stumbles back, heel flush with the edge of the roof, arms moving in a windmill, grabbing at the air as she tries to regain her balance. The moment before she falls seems to stretch on forever, as if Amy is suspended not just in space, but in time as well.
And then everything speeds up again. Amy tries to fall forward onto the roof, but ends up falling sideways, her shoulder crashing down against the edge before the rest of her rolls down after it. She's there and then she's gone, and he's scrambling to the edge, begging, begging with just one word: "please!"
When he reaches the edge and looks down, he can see her lying on the grass; she isn't moving.
Before he can even think about what he's doing, he jumps down after her. He lands hard on his feet, feeling briefly a sharp pain in one ankle before the force of his fall has him rolling across the lawn. When he comes to a stop, he crawls to her side, now chanting out loud: "Oh please, oh please, oh please!"
He's desperate for her to be joking. He expects that any minute now, she's going to start laughing, and make fun of him for being scared. He'll walk away disgusted, and not speak to her for a few days, and then she'll show up on his porch with a bottle of root beer and a stack of horror movies, and everything will fall back into place like nothing ever happened at all. Only she still isn't moving, and not even Amy could take a joke this far.
Her face is pale beneath the spray of orange hair that's fallen across her face. Rory brushes it aside, and sees that her eyes are closed, her face deathly still. The panic is threatening to choke him as he thinks, "Oh please, let her be Ok! Don't leave this up to me! I warned her! It can't be up to me to save her now when I warned her all those times she was going to get hurt!" But no matter how much he pleads with himself, she's still not moving, and he's trying so hard to remember what he's supposed to do.
Breathing: is she breathing? He bends his cheek to hover over her mouth. At first, he can't feel anything over his own ragged breaths, but then it's there: a faint, cool puff of air against his sweat-drenched face. His heart leaps; looking closer, he can see that her chest is rising and falling slowly. She's breathing!
Next, he checks for a heartbeat. He's not quite sure where he's supposed to put his fingers, but after trying a few spots he can feel the slow steady rush of blood through her artery at the base of her neck. Thank God, she's alive! He sits back on his hands, laughing nervously through deep, rasping breaths and wincing at the sting of pain that runs up his side. "She's alive!" he chokes out, relief washing down over him like rain.
He's calmed down enough to think now, and he manages to hobble his way into her house to dial 999. When he rejoins her outside, she's stirring and groaning, tossing her head and trying to push herself up. "Shh, hey, no!" he says, putting his hands on her shoulders and gently pushing her back. "Lay still, Amy, there's an ambulance coming." When she hears his voice, she stops struggling and lies back. He takes off his flannel shirt and drapes it over her.
"My head," she groans, "hurts so much…"
"It ought to," he says, trying to sound light and funny, but the fear and anger creep in anyway.
She opens her eyes and looks right at him. "I'm sorry," she whispers.
They ride together in the ambulance to the hospital to get patched up. Amy has a concussion, a broken arm, and four cracked ribs. Rory's broken his ankle.
When she comes home the next day, he wants to ignore her, to give her the silent treatment until she's good and sorry; he wants to make her understand that she can't act reckless and stupid and scare him like that without consequences. But his stepmother has bought him flowers to take over and she insists on driving him there so he won't have to hobble down the lane on crutches. When they get there, she says she'll stay downstairs and chat to Amy's aunt while he goes up to say hello.
It takes him ages to get up the stairs with his crutches, so he's good and cross by the time he reaches her door. His plan is to go in, drop the wretched flowers in her lap, and sit there in silence until she breaks down and apologizes.
He raps twice with a crutch, and doesn't wait for an answer before he pushes the door open and limps into the room. Amy is in bed, looking small and fragile, and when she sees his cast and his crutches her eyes fill with tears and her lip starts to tremble.
The anger melts away like snow in June; he forgives her instantly. "Hey, are you Ok? Amy, it's all right now…" he soothes as the tears slip down her face. Awkwardly, he hands her the flowers, now battered and beaten from the journey up the stairs. "These are for you."
After Amy fell off the roof, Rory decided that he would become a nurse. He remembered feeling helpless and desperate and out of control as she lay there unconscious, and he vowed he would never go through that again. He briefly considered becoming a doctor, but then he'd never liked doctors (too condescending), and he remembered all the friendly, helpful nurses he'd met in the hospital, and how they made their patients laugh when they were in pain: like his sister did; like Amy did. That was the sort of person he wanted to be.
He was now in his second year of nursing school, and finding the profession suited him perfectly. He divided his life between studying, clinicals, and Amy, who was now his "sort-of" girlfriend; that was about as close to girlfriend as Amy got. Their "kinda" relationship began a couple years after the fall, but she'd confessed to him that that day was the day she started to see him differently. "What, all it took was a good whack on the head?" he joked.
"It was like a revelation!" she laughed. Then more seriously, "What did it for you?"
Rory frowned, thinking. "Well, you…you terrified me."
"What, that's it? You fell for me out of fear?"
Rory shook his head. "No, not like that; but it is true, you've always scared the wits out of me. When I was a kid, I hated it; or at least I thought I did. But I always came back for more. Eventually, I realized: I like that fear, because it means, well, you'll always push me to be something more…to do something more. That is, when you aren't pushing yourself off swings and roofs and God knows what…"
Amy swatted his arm, but she was smiling and her eyes were wet.
Awkwardly, he took her hand in his. She didn't usually tolerate emotional mushy-talk, so he had to grab this opportunity while he could. He took a deep breath. "I'd stagnate without you, Amy; I'd put down roots and slowly rot. As long as I'm chasing you, I'm chasing my dream."