"Where Two Paths Cross"

Written for LiveJournal community "she_is_to_me" challenge 02

Amy Pond has grown up twice. She spent one childhood as an orphan, an only child left to the care of a well-meaning but ultimately inadequate aunt. The other she spent as the youngest daughter of Augustus and Tabetha Pond, a set of caring and eccentric parents, who ran a lively household brimming with love for their three ginger girls. One childhood was lonely and silent; the other was crowded and noisome. They can't both have happened, and yet each is as real as the other for her.

Her mind holds two versions of every memory: her first day of school; her favorite summer holiday; getting the chicken pox. Some of the memories are so different from each other that it seems impossible they could have happened to the same person. Some of her memories, no matter how the details change from one version to the other, always end the same way.

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One: "Just follow the other children," her aunt had advised before leaving Amelia to walk to her first day of school on her own, "how hard can that be?" If only she knew.

Of course, that was always the problem: she never knew. Or she never seemed to remember. Frankly, Amelia didn't believe her Aunt Sharon had ever been a child at all; if she had, she would have remembered how cruel children could be, especially to someone who's ginger and Scottish and brand new to a little English village where most of the children have known each other since infancy. If she could remember what it was like, she would have taken care to introduce her niece to some of the children on their street, and found a nice, quiet girl Amelia could sit with at lunch.

Instead she shoved her out the door, complaining she was late for work, and pointed her niece off in the direction of some bigger kids who were walking in a loud, tightly-packed bunch. "Off you go!" she called. "Just introduce yourself! Tell them you're new and I'm sure they'll be happy to show you the way."

She'd barely got the words, "Hi, I'm Amelia Pond" out of her mouth before they'd proclaimed her a ginger freak and said she'd better stop following them if she knew what was good for her. Then they were off running between two houses, jumping a fence and disappearing through a row of hedges.

Amelia had no idea how to get to school on her own, and there was not another child to be seen on the quiet, dusty lane. She started trudging forward, thinking she would have to stumble on someone eventually; after all, the village was tiny. She'd been walking less than five minutes when the sheer, monumental unfairness of the situation slapped her in the face. She'd been left to fend for herself on her very first day of school in a new town! If this were a fairytale, she'd have been eaten by a wolf by now! That would make her aunt sorry.

"Of course, there are no wolfs in Leadworth!" she thought bitterly, sitting down on a bench outside a little blue and white cottage surrounded by a wrought iron fence. "Can't even have any decent wolfs, stupid Leadworth!" She was ready to hunker down and enjoy a nice, long sulk when the sound of rusty hinges creaking open made her jump.

A boy about her own age stepped through the gate, and then jumped in turn as he saw a strange girl he hadn't expected sitting in front of his garden.

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The Other: "Anna! Wait for me!" Amelia called, still kneeling on the pavement to collect the spilled contents of her lunch. Her mum had packed it special for her first day of school, with two desserts so she could share with any new friends she might make. Not that she was looking forward to making new friends; English friends were rubbish! Especially the two boring, silly, giggling ones Anna was so keen to run after right now.

Her big sister turned back to her from the top of the lane, pausing as her new friends rounded the corner without any indication of slowing down to wait. "Come ON, Amelia! Quit being such a baby!"

Amelia's cheeks flushed with anger. She hated it when people called her a baby! "AN-NA-BELLE!" she yelled, before clamping her mouth shut. Oops!

Too late: she'd heard. Ever since she was ten years old, the eldest Pond sister had decided that Annabelle was far too cute and frilly for a girl of double digits, and had insisted that everyone call her by the much cooler, more grown up name of Anna. (Well, everyone except her father; he'd purposefully chosen fanciful names for his three little princesses, and none of them wanted to break his heart by declaring them silly.) She was determined to leave Annabelle back in Scotland, and that everyone in Leadworth should know her only as Anna; she'd even convinced her mother to put "Anna Pond" on the school register so it was official.

Of course Amelia would have to go and ruin it! Anna's back stiffened and her fists clenched at her sides. Their mother had made her promise to walk her baby sister to school. Addy had been allowed to go on ahead with a friend she'd made and the friend's big brother, but since Anna was the oldest, she'd been saddled with Amelia. Amelia, who had thrown a fit about wanting to wear her bright red wellies to school, even though the weather was 70 degrees and dry as a bone, making Anna late to join the new friends who had agreed to meet her at the corner and walk with her to school. Now they were worried about missing the bell on the first day, and stupid, baby Amelia had to go and drop her lunchbox when they didn't have time to wait for her.

It wasn't fair! Because Anna was the oldest, she was always getting stuck looking after the younger two. Well, not today! She had new friends and a new identity in a new town. If her little sister was going to try and spoil things for her, then she could just find her own way to school! Without a word, Anna turned on her heels and took after the new friends she hoped had been safely out of earshot when her hated name had been so ruthlessly shouted after her.

Amelia watched her go. She picked her fallen apple up from the ground with a sigh; the drop had left it battered, a dark bruise like a black eye marring the face her mother had carved on it. She finished putting what was left of her lunch back in the box, and sat down on a nearby bench in front of an iron fence. At the sound of creaking hinges, she looked up to see a boy with his hand on the gate.

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Both: He was a couple of inches taller than she was, and thin like a pipe cleaner. He had big, light-colored eyes and sandy blonde hair that was neatly combed in a side parting. His clothes were neatly pressed for the first day of school, and everything about him was clean and tidy, except for his knees, which were scratched and scabbed-over. He stared at her for a long while before remembering the manners his mum had carefully drilled into him. "Hello," he said cautiously, "I'm Rory Williams. What's your name?"

"Amelia Pond," she answered miserably.

"Um, are you going to school?"

"No!" She glared at him.

He was a bit taken aback by this; what kind of kid didn't go to school on the first day? "Oh, um, why not?"

She gave him a withering look of disdain. "Because I don't know the way!" she said, as if it were obvious.

Rory brightened; this he could remedy. "Oh, well you can walk with me then! I know the way and I'm allowed to walk all by myself," he answered proudly.

Amelia considered his offer, sizing him up in the process. She may not have been incredibly popular at her old school back in Scotland, but she did know a thing or two about the social politics of grammar school, and it occurred to her that being associated with the wrong friends was a straight path to Loserville. Even at seven years old, this kid was clearly a bit of a geek.

Still, beggars couldn't be choosers, and she did need someone to show her the way to school. "All right, let's go," she relented.

He beamed at her, and before she could protest, he picked up her school bag along with his own and began leading the way. For a while, they made the seven-year-old equivalent of small talk: where was she from? What cartoons did she watch? Did she have a dog, because he had a dog, and his name's Bravo and he's brilliant!

And then out of nowhere: "Do you have a boyfriend?"

"What? No!" Amelia was taken aback. "That's gross!"

Rory thought about this for a while. "We can get married when we're older."

Amelia thought her eyes might pop out of her head. She began walking faster, making sure to keep just a couple of steps ahead of him the rest of the way to school.

From there, her first week got better and worse: better, because her sister felt so guilty for abandoning her that she was extra nice to her at home and walked her to school every day for the rest of the week. Worse because making friends was just as hard as she'd thought it would be, and other than Rory, who hung about her like the Plague, none of the other kids really talked to her much.

And then on Friday it was time to read their first writing assignments out to the class. Rory volunteered to go first.

Rory Williams was the sort of child that made every adult melt at his sweet, good-hearted nature, and cringe with sympathetic embarrassment at his appalling lack of social savvy. Like a golden retriever puppy, he romped through life expecting to find love and acceptance from everyone he met. At playtime, he picked bouquets of flowers for the teacher; he offered to play the daddy when the girls played house; he said, "I love you" to the class rabbit Mr. Whiskers. For the time being, he was able to skate by largely unscathed by any bullying, but if he didn't develop a hard candy shell to surround his soft, gooey center, in a few years he was going to be gobbled alive by his tougher peers.

"A Story of Love," he announced, standing up to face the class, "by Rory Williams. Once a boy was looking for a girl-friend. Then when he saw a girl-friend he wanted to marry her. He even took her to school but she didn't say anything. He thought maybe she was still thinking about it so he would wait for her to think of her answer even though he wanted her to say yes. The End." Before he sat down again, he shot Amelia a big, oblivious grin.

Amelia covered her face and wished she could sink into the floor.

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One: At seven years old, Amelia knew how to use the cooker and the microwave. By ten, she could operate the washing machine, the tumble dryer, and the dishwasher. Now, at thirteen, Amy (as she now liked to be called) could be completely self-sufficient for an entire weekend while her aunt took one of her "girls' holidays" to the seaside, or to London, or to Blackpool to gamble. She liked having the house to herself, even if she did feel compelled to hang around Rory's and angle for an invitation to dinner now and again.

By this time Amy had become quite used to spending time alone; either her aunt was at work, or she was out at one of her singles' events, or she was on one of her domestic streaks and trying too hard to "mother" her and Amy felt compelled to hide out somewhere else. The only time she was assured of (forced into) spending time with her aunt was twice a month when she insisted Amy see a psychiatrist to discuss her "issues" with her "persistent delusions" about "childhood wish fulfillment". How galling! Amy knew they were calling her crazy, even if they were dressing it up in flowery, official-sounding language. And why didn't they just ask her about her parents if they wanted to know if she was still sad about them instead of pretending to talk about something else? And why did they keep insisting they were her "friend" when they were clearly boring, stuffy adults in uncomfortable clothes trying to trick her into saying what they wanted to hear?

The first two psychiatrists she bit out of genuine frustration: why did they keep saying he wasn't real when he clearly was? Could her imagination knock down a sturdy wooden shed and devour an entire week's worth of groceries? The last psychiatrist she bit purely as a means to an end: she wanted that next Thursday afternoon free to go see a movie with her friends, and her aunt wasn't going to let her out of her appointment.

Other than those long and dreadful afternoons, Amy divided her time between the few, loyal friends she deemed worthy of her time, and the pet projects she slavishly devoted her care and attention to. (To the detriment of her schoolwork, her aunt would have pointed out.) She had boxes full of stories she'd written, pictures she'd drawn, and puppets she'd built. She'd produced several issues of her own comic book and was just beginning to discover some interesting applications for Papier-mâché.

Among other things, Amy was known for her imagination; people called her "creative". It was the only label she'd ever been given that she was proud to wear. She was tired of being the slightly strange Scottish girl, the poor orphaned child every adult pitied; she was tired of being the "crazy one", the only child in Leadworth who could even pronounce the word 'psychiatrist'. If she was ever going to be anything other than "poor, mad Amy Pond", she thought "creative artist" was a good place to start.

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The Other: Carving out a niche in Amelia's loud, eccentric family was not the easiest thing to do. It seemed like her two older sisters were born knowing who they were and whom they wanted to be, and they slid into their roles like keys fitting into a lock. They took up so much space, Amelia wondered if they'd left any territory she could claim as her own.

Anna, her oldest sister, was the goody-two-shoes. She was smart, and responsible, and accomplished: a prefect at school, a star on the tennis team, captain of the debate team, and five As on her A-levels. She kept her room clean and helped with the washing-up and she actually made her little sisters clean their teeth for real when their parents went out and left her in charge. All of the adults in the village trusted her, and she was always earning extra money babysitting and pet sitting and running errands for the elderly ladies in the village. She did get into arguments with their mum sometimes, mostly when she wanted to go out and they wanted her to stay in and watch her younger sisters, but that little blemish didn't do much to tarnish the shine of her perfection.

Addy, the middle sister, was the performer. She had the nicest singing voice in the village, and sang in the church choir and in the special all grown-ups caroling choir that formed around the holidays. She had performed in the Leadworth Amateur Dramatics Society ever since she was seven and they needed a little girl for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Now at 15 she was the star of all the school plays. She always got away with being naughty because she was funny and knew how to talk to adults and make them laugh. Her antics sometimes drove their parents to exhaustion, but their pride in her was evident nonetheless.

Sometimes Amy (that was what she was called now, having kept up the Pond tradition of rejecting her given name sometime after her tenth birthday) was so annoyed with her perfect sisters, she would write letters to Santa wishing to be an only child. "Who needs ADE-LAIDE and AN-NA-BELLE?" she would scream when she was particularly cross, throwing out their names like a taunt.

Of course, she also loved them in equal measure to her hate. When Anna wasn't busy playing the Martyr and bemoaning her unfair burden of responsibility in the household, she was actually a really great big sister. She did a better job of explaining Amy's maths homework to her than their parents did, and she was twice as patient. She let Amy borrow her things sometimes, and she braided her hair, and made breakfast for her on Sunday mornings when their mum was having a lie-in. Amy didn't want to admit how much she'd miss Anna when she went off to university in the fall.

As for her other sister, Amy had never met anyone as funny as Addy. She could imitate all of the teachers at school, and made up hilarious skits about the maths teacher running off with the protractors he was always so keen on. When they were kids, she was the best at make-believe games, and if Amy could get her to play "Amelia and the Doctor" with her and Rory, she always came up with the best adventures. Even though she claimed to be excited to have her own room once Anna left for Uni, Amy knew she would miss Addy's company. She'd especially miss those times when they had just gone to bed, and the room was all still and quiet and Amy was moments away from falling asleep; and then, from the next bed over, Addy would make a tremendous farting noise into her hand and the girls would be up giggling into their pillows for another half an hour.

Whether she was loving her sisters or hating them, she was always left with the same dilemma of where she fit in beside them. As a tall, gangly, gawky thirteen year old, with stringy hair and no figure to speak of, she couldn't help but admire her pretty, confidant, grown-up-looking sisters. They knew who they were, and seemed so sure of themselves; Amy wanted to feel the same way.

So to that end, she'd decided on her new identity: she was an artist. It seemed like it should be a natural fit. After all, she'd spent her childhood drawing and painting and writing and making puppets and props and playscapes. She covered her side of the bedroom walls with pictures clipped from magazines and collages of her favorite things. She did interesting things with nail polish and had already ruined several textbooks by covering them with pen and ink sketches of a man with a police box.

Of course, none of it was the sort of sophisticated artwork that would get her noticed and set her apart; however, she had an idea about that, too.

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Both: Working with the spray paint was a lot harder than Amy had thought it was going to be. She'd seen a documentary on urban artists and they had made it seem so simple. It showed the artists creating vast murals of bright, swirling images full of vivid color and bold graphics with smooth, fluid strokes that practically glided out of the can. Just a few quick squirts produced a cute little icon of a smiley face; a few hours was all it took to create a giant, coiling snake that seemed to choke an entire building. Amy was riveted.

Immediately, she thought of the old house down Potters' Lane. It used to belong to an elderly couple that had died a couple years ago, passing within months of each other. They'd left it to their children, who were well grown-up with families of their own and important jobs in London. So their kids sold the house to someone else, who'd sold it to someone else, who'd decided to tear it down and build something more modern. If they were going to bulldoze it anyway, Amy figured, no one would mind if she used it to practice her new artistic technique first.

So she'd bought a couple cans of paint, claiming it was for some DIY project at home, and stashed them in her bag. There weren't many houses down Potters' Lane, and the house she was headed to was 'round a bend in the road and out of view of the rest, so Amy wasn't too worried about being seen. That part of her plan, getting her supplies and getting set up, was the only part that was going well.

The spray paint was not cooperating as it should. Instead of sleek, elegant lines it came out in fat, globby bursts. When she held the can away from the wall, it made wide faint streaks, and when she brought it closer trying to make the colors darker the paint ran down in ugly drips. After a few disheartening attempts, she stood and stared at her disappointing efforts. Dejected, she picked up the can for one last go.

"I was here."

The voice behind her made her jump. She spun round to see a familiar figure lurking in the doorway.

"I was here," Rory repeated, "yes, that's very original. You should copyright that."

"What, were you following me?" Amy demanded angrily.

"Following you? No, you see, I also had the idea of vandalizing private property for kicks," he answered dryly. "Isn't that a coincidence?"

That hard shell that Rory had lacked as a seven year old was in full effect at thirteen. After his mum left and his dad remarried and the other boys realized that his sensitive nature made him an easy target, he'd learned to maintain a prickly exterior and keep his soft, sweet inner self locked away, only to surface when he knew it was safe.

"Of course I was following you," he emphasized unnecessarily. "What are you doing?"

Now it was Amy's turn to be sarcastic. "They've hired me to redecorate. I'm thinking ultra-modern. What about you?"

"I think the black spray paint clashes with the floral wallpaper." Suddenly, he was serious: "No, but really, what are you doing here? This is something you could actually get arrested for."

Amy's eyes widened; she hadn't really thought about that. She'd been sure they wouldn't mind her here, seeing as they were only going to knock it down. She sank down onto the floor in front of her latest "installation" in defeat. "This just isn't going to work, is it?"

Rory looked ahead at the paint-scribbled wall, trying to see what Amy was seeing. "Uh, what isn't?" When she didn't answer right away he sat himself down beside her.

"I thought," Amy began slowly; "I thought I wanted to be an artist. But I don't know that I am an artist! I know that I like what I do…my stories and pictures and stuff, but I just don't think it's art, not in a way that anybody else would care about. But the thing is, I don't want to make the kind of art that anybody else would care about!"

Still staring straight ahead at the wall, Rory took a moment to think. He was never quite sure how to talk to Amy when she was like this, never really sure what she was expecting from him. She was clearly waiting for him to speak, so he had to try something. "So who says you have to be an artist?"

Amy sighed; so that was the wrong thing to say, then.

"Nobody says I have to be an artist! But I do have to be something, and I just don't know what else I would be."

Still confused, Rory soldiered on. "I'm pretty sure it's not required to choose a career at thirteen."

"I'm not talking about a career!" Amy's voice was taking on that high, screechy quality that made the hairs on the back of Rory's neck stand up. "I'm talking about me, about who I am. I'm talking about…I don't know. I just want…"

Rory was not at all sure what she wanted, but he thought he was getting closer to understanding what she meant. They were getting older, and labels were starting to stick, and they were starting to mean something; at least to the people who applied them, anyway. Rory used to be just another boy on the playground, just as good as any other boy if you needed someone to play football, or house, or the Mad Doctor. Now he wasn't sure where he stood, or how he measured up.

Amy was sitting on her heels, hugging her knees and staring at the words she'd scrawled across the wall. Quietly, Rory got up and took a Sharpie marker out of his pocket. Underneath Amy's message he wrote: "I was too".

When he sat back down next to Amy, she put her head on his shoulder. The broken windows let the cold air in, and when Amy started shivering he put his arm around her.

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One: "Well Amy, if you're not going to go to University, you're going to have to get a job."

Amy's aunt would learn to regret those words.

Of course she'd had jobs before: waiting tables, scooping ice cream, and ringing up groceries, to name a few; but none of them had stuck. Either Amy got bored with the job and quit, or she had a row with one of the customers or her boss or another employee, and she got fired. A year after she'd finished school Amy had exhausted just about every employment opportunity within the very limited range of Leadworth's public transportation system. Or at least she thought she had, until she discovered one she'd never considered before at a party in London.

The party had been for the college boyfriend of one Amy's old school chums. He was turning 21, and her mate Ashley and her boyfriend Eric's friends had rented out a pub and filled it with just about every person any of them had ever met. Amy had dragged Rory along for company.

The evening was fun enough, with pints and pizza, darts and billiards, and a bit of boozy dancing in the empty spaces between the tables. Despite her irritation at being repeatedly asked what university she went to, and Rory's attempts to drown his shyness in a gallon of Guinness, the evening was going pretty well. Then the real entertainment showed up.

At ten o'clock a girl just a few years older than Amy walked into the pub, and all action stopped as every eye swiveled in her direction; Eric's friends seemed to have been expecting her. She wore a very short tweed skirt over black stockings with a seam up the back and a tight white blouse unbuttoned to reveal more cleavage than Amy had ever seen on all of her teachers put together. Delicate, wire-rimmed spectacles perched on the end of her nose, and her dark hair was piled up in a messy bun with a pencil stuck through it.

She introduced herself as "Miss Goodbody" and announced she was there to help Eric study for his exams. "First," she purred, "we'll start with your biology lesson." Then she grabbed him by the collar and pulled him in for a hard, wet snog.

Amy was riveted. Rory nearly choked on his pint. "Oh my God, is she a stripper?" he hissed between swallows.

As it turns out, she was not a stripper; or if she was, Eric's friends had not paid for that particular service, as she kept her clothes on for the entire hour she attended the party. She spent the time circling the room, flirting with the guests, and initiating drinking games that got people to admit embarrassing and/or sexy secrets about themselves. Amy nearly laughed herself hoarse when "Miss Goodbody" tried to flirt with Rory and he stumbled and stammered as if he'd never learned to speak. (And then she almost swallowed her own tongue when the sexy schoolmistress left him with a parting kiss on the cheek.)

Amy followed the woman and cornered her by the bar. For five minutes, she interrogated her: what was it exactly that she did? How did she get into it? Did she have a boss? Did they supply the outfits? How much money did she make?

She found out that "Miss Goodbody" was really Karen, and that she called herself a Kiss-o-gram. She made her living by "livening up parties", kissing blokes and the occasional girlfriend and flirting with the guests. She did work for a service, but she was also able to book her own gigs on the side. She bought her own outfits. And yes, she did make quite good money.

Finally, the woman shoved a phone number at Amy in order to get away from her, and Amy carried it back over to the table where Rory was waiting in triumph.

"My aunt wants me to get a job? Well, have I got a job for her!"

Rory just stared at her. "Oh, no…"

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The Other: University held absolutely no appeal for Amy. She never liked studying, because it meant you had to learn about what someone else wanted you to learn when they wanted you to learn it, when she preferred to research only what interested her, and when she was in the mood for it. "And what am I supposed to do there when I have no idea what I want to do?" had been the argument she gave her parents. They agreed that she could postpone school, but in the meantime, she had to be doing something.

Well, she had found something to do, and she was rather good at it, even if she said so herself.

She'd first heard of a Kiss-o-gram when visiting a friend at university, and she took to the idea immediately. Instead of choosing just one thing she wanted to be, she could be all sorts of people and personalities. This was playing pretend without a script, which was what Amy was best at: that, and being daring and gutsy and outrageous, which also happened to be part of the job.

The first person Amy told about her new career was her sister Addy. She was the natural choice, being closest to Amy in age, and of a near-unshockable disposition. After she finished laughing herself silly, Addy burst out with, "I can't believe my baby sister is going to be a stripper!"

Amy turned red in the face. She knew her sister was only trying to provoke a reaction, but that wasn't going to stop Amy from giving her one.

"Not a stripper!" she hissed in a whisper, "a Kiss-o-gram!" She was huddled in the corner of her bedroom in a little nest of pillows, her cell phone clamped to her ear. Addy was in London, attending the fancy performing arts college she'd gotten into. Amy felt the loss of her middle sister much keener than that of her sister Anna, who was now starting law school.

When Addy finally stopped laughing, her voice turned serious. "Have you told Mum and Dad yet?"

Amy sighed. "What do you think?"

"How about Anna?"

"Are you kidding me? She's worse than Mum! Anyway, Ads, I gotta go; I have a gig."

This provoked a new fit of giggles erupting from her earpiece. "Catch ya later, Pretty Woman!"

Amy hung up on her.

As it turns out, telling her parents was much easier than telling her oldest sister. Anna gave her a lecture about "dishonoring the suffragettes", but once her mum was assured that yes, she would remain clothed, and no, she wasn't doing anything illegal, she just accepted Amy's new choice of employment with a shrug and a sigh; after all, she'd raised three grown girls, and knew a thing or two about which battles were worth fighting. As for Amy's dad, well, Amy just left out the whole kissing part. As far as he was concerned, she was a character one could hire out for parties, like a children's birthday clown, only with handcuffs and high heels.

Now the only person she had to tell was Rory…

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Both: Rory's decision to become a nurse came as a huge shock, until Amy actually sat down and thought about it, and realized the job was exactly perfect for him and he would actually be really good at it. He liked science, and taking care of people, and he didn't have the ego to mind not being a doctor. (She also wondered if all their childhood games hadn't put him off the title altogether.) In the end, the only truly shocking part was that he chose to go to school all the way in Bristol, more than an hour away!

Of course it wasn't really that far, and he would be able to come home every weekend without much of a problem, but the distance seemed impossible when she was used to seeing him everyday and she didn't have a car. After a year, though, she'd gotten used to it. And anyway, now she had a job to keep her busy.

Amy could tell that Rory was uneasy with her new career from the start, but he didn't say anything at first. He figured it was Amy, whose attention span was short and whose enthusiasm waxed and waned with the phases of the moon; in a month or two she'd move on and never look back. When she was still at it six months later, he thought that maybe he should say something.

What exactly he should say, he wasn't sure; it wasn't as if he had any claim on her. He could say that he was speaking as a friend, but then they would both know that was a lie. Amy and Rory's relationship had always been more complicated than that. He was her first kiss, all those years ago in that abandoned house she'd graffitied. They'd even lost their virginity to each other when they were fifteen and having one of the sleepovers they'd grown too old for. But of all the things Rory had ever been to Amy, he'd never been her boyfriend. He existed for her in a murky gray limbo that was at once much more and much less than that title would ever imply.

In time, he got over it; if he could learn to live without being her boyfriend, he could learn to live with her ridiculous job. His lingering irritation only came out in the occasional passive-aggressive comment or abrupt subject change when she was regaling him with her latest tale of drunken debauchery.

They were sitting under a tree in the village green, and Amy was telling him just such a tale; she didn't seem to notice that he was trying to study, or remember that she had promised that she wouldn't bother him if he agreed to accompany her to the green so she could enjoy the spate of nice weather they'd been having.

"And so then the guy said, 'If I can down all three of these pints in under a minute you have to give me another kiss,' and he was so drunk already I didn't think he'd be able to do it, but he did, and so I…"

"Let me guess!" Rory interrupted, slamming his book shut. "You snogged him in front of all his drunken mates? Am I right? Do I win?"

Amy shot him a wounded look. "What's wrong with you?"

Rory sighed; he hadn't meant to hurt her feelings. "Nothing! Nothing, I'm sorry; it's just that I need to study. Exams are coming up, and I'm really stressed out…"

She gave him a soft smile and stroked his knee with a smooth, manicured hand. "You know what? You need a break! We could go back to yours, and…" She let one finger start to wander up his inner thigh.

Rory stiffened at the new direction her conversation had taken. So it was going to be this again, was it? Mr. Available, around whenever Amy needed a warm body in her bed. She wouldn't even bother to ask if he was still seeing Rebecca (he wasn't, thank you very much), she would just assume that he would jump at the chance to be with her. To be fair, history suggested he would.

"No thanks," he mumbled, trying to keep the bitterness from creeping into his voice.

Amy eyed him suspiciously. "Why, what's wrong?"

"I told you: I need to study."

Amy scrutinized his down-turned head with practiced eyes. "No…there's something wrong. What is it? Are you mad at me?"

"I'm not mad at you."

"Is it my job again? I know you hate it…"

"It's not your job!" he could hear how loud his voice was becoming; he was angry, and it was getting to the point where it was stupid to deny it. "Ok, yeah, it's your job, Ok? Can I study now?"

Amy frowned and grabbed his book away from him. "No! Rory, you're my best friend…"

"Amy!" he nearly shouted, cutting her off; then more quietly: "Amy, I am more than your best friend, and you know it."

She stopped, mouth open, words caught in her throat; finally, she released the breath she'd been holding in a rush of air. "Yeah; yeah, I know," she admitted.

Rory looked up at her sad green eyes, and then down at the grass beneath them. "I don't understand how you can kiss and flirt with and snog strangers in pubs, but I can't so much as hold your hand in public."

"Rory," she tried, "Rory, that's just my job; those guys don't mean anything…"

"Oh, I mean something then, huh? Lucky me! I mean so much to you that you're ashamed to kiss me in public!"

"Rory, no!" Her eyes were shining with tears, and her heart beat with what she could only call fear; she was losing him. "Rory, I am not ashamed of you! Never!"

"Right," he said, but he wouldn't look at her.

Amy moved so she was kneeling right in front of him. She put a hand alongside his face and forced his eyes to meet hers. She didn't know exactly what Rory meant to her; his life was so tangled up in hers, she couldn't find the beginning or the end of her feelings for him. She didn't know if she loved him as a brother, or a friend, or a lover, but she did know that she loved him, and she couldn't let him think she was ashamed of him, and that he didn't mean more to her than any man ever had. "Rory," she tried one last time, "Rory, I am never, NEVER ashamed of you."

And then she kissed him. In public, in the middle of the green, in front of old Mr. Crandall who was out walking his dog, and in front of a group of schoolchildren who were playing tag. And she kept on kissing him, climbing into his lap and putting her arms around his neck as he wrapped his around her waist.

Rory didn't know exactly what Amy was promising, but he was beyond caring at that moment. It just felt so good to have her in his arms, and to know that afterwards he could hold her hand as they walked home, without her worrying that someone would see. He tried not to admit to himself that that was the best part: that everyone was going to see. Why was it so important for other to witness what Rory was sure had always been inevitable: that he'd fallen in love with Amy Pond?

p

Mrs. Poggett was on her way home from the post office when she ran into Mr. Crandall. "Well just look over there!" he called, pointing to the tree under which Amy was cradled in Rory's lap, snogging him senseless.

Instead of being scandalized, she smiled; "Aw, bless! I tell you, it's about time; those two were always meant for each other."