"Rory dear, what are you doing?"
Little Rory Williams, age eight, was jamming a pencil to the wall behind him. In the doorframe to the kitchen was etched a record of the boy's height, from the time he could stand to his current year. Every birthday he was measured, and every span of 365 days (sometimes 366), there was a growth spurt.
"I'm checking to see if I've gotten bigger," he replied to his mother, unaware he had missed the frame and hit the wallpaper instead.
"Why's that?" she asked, deciding to play along to his desires and taking the pencil from his hands, lining his head up with the wood and marking it.
"That new girl, Amelia, she says I'm short!"
Rory leapt off the frame and looked at his new height, just a few slivers higher than his birthday measurement. His mother looked at him and sighed at his frown.
"You're a growing boy, Rory," she said, stroking his hair. "And she's a growing girl. You're all going to be about the same for now, but in a few years, you'll grow tall – probably taller than Dad!"
His eyes widened. His father seemed like a tall man, always able to get things off the highest shelves in the kitchen (the ones he had to climb on the counters to get to). "Really?" he asked earnestly, his fingers tying together.
"Really," his mother replied with a smile. "Now just be nice to Amelia. She doesn't have many friends. And I'm very proud of you for playing with her."
He nodded, though a bit solemnly. "I know…"
"Good. Now wash up, we're eating soon."
Nodding, Rory took off for the bathroom, taking one last glance at the height chart. He was going to be taller than Dad someday. And someday, Amelia would be shorter than him. That's the way it worked, he assured himself. Girls were smaller, boys were bigger. Girls were weak and needed protecting, boys were strong and did the fighting.
That's what he would do. Grow up to be big and strong. And tall. And protect a girl.
It hits again when they are twelve and walking home from school. It didn't bother Rory that he was still shorter than Amelia – in fact, a lot shorter now. The difference between the two had grown exponentially ever since the puberty phase had begun. She shot up a good number of inches, he crawling along, never dwarfed by her but certainly not on her level.
It's okay, though. They had been taught that boys started later than girls. Soon, he would be taller than her.
In the meantime, Rory contended with the awkward feelings he had started having towards his best friend. Their days of playing Raggedy Doctor were behind them, though Amelia kept on making up new stories and adventures that she would jot down or doodle. But despite not being used for play, the two continued to hang around each other – doing homework, watching TV, riding bikes around town. Simple things that kept them together and felt strange to do with others.
Rory had seen enough movies and shows to know what a pretty lady looked like, but none of them from screen or magazines seemed to make him stir the way his best friend did. Oh…how awkward that was, getting a slight jolt when she would grab his hand, or blushing whenever she would get close to him, for whatever reason.
It wasn't anything major, just a slight tickling in his stomach and in his blood. Just enough to make him aware that there were differences between boys and girls besides cooties.
"Hey," Rory said suddenly, stopping and looking up to a formation of ducks flying down. "Look…"
Amelia took notice, their eyes in unison as they watched the birds land near the town's main common area. Rory paused, trying to think not like himself, trying to think like his best friend, and came up with an idea of what they could do.
"Let's go mess with the ducks," he said, to which Amelia whipped her head around to look at him and grinned widely.
"Excellent idea," she chirped, grabbing his wrist and leading the pair off to the lawn.
His fourteenth birthday was a good one. Rory found it hard not to smirk as his mother made another line on the doorframe. She smiled, now directly at his eyes rather than looking down, and set off to put the finishing touches on his birthday cake.
He turned around and looked at the mark, giddy at the enormous leap between last year and now. Surely at this rate, he wouldn't just be as tall as Dad, but surpass him. And surely, at this rate, he would be one of the tallest in his class.
The use of the gender-neutral "one" stuck a thorn in his side. Right as he did a quick mental sweep of his classmates, Amelia came from around the corner, wiping her hands on her jeans.
"Did the mark again?" she asked, her tone hiding amusement. Rory scrunched his upper lip to his nose, fighting off embarrassment.
"Mum likes to do it," he replied, hiding the trembling in his voice that came about whenever he was fibbing. "And I just do what makes her happy."
Amelia giggled, patting him on the head. He frowned, but not because of the action – it was because, for whatever reason, she was still taller than him, holding rank by a solid two inches. Most of the other girls had ceased growing, but she was still shooting up and holding her own against the boys, many of whom she towered over.
It was ridiculous. Rory followed Amelia when his mother announced it was time to eat, sullenly looking up at the back of her head. Was he really doomed to be shorter than her? Some protector he would be.
He often tried to reason with himself. Height was nothing to be jealous over, least not jealous to the point of unreason. Amelia had a short dad but a tall mum – that played a factor. Rory's parents were the opposite, more in tune to the typical order of things. Be patient he would soothe. You'll be like Dad soon.
Still, being used as Amelia's armrest was getting to be a bit tiresome.
Uh…just a bit. It hurt his pride, but certainly didn't hurt his feelings.
"I still can't believe you passed."
Amy smirked as she walked towards an awaiting Rory, prodding his chest with the plastic card in her hand. "Ohhh yeah."
He sighed, looking down at the drivers license being pushed into his t-shirt. The trap was set, and he took the bait, snapping it away from her fingers.
"It's 'cause you wore a skirt," he muttered…though he honestly couldn't complain. Well, he could complain about the cheating aspect, but not the merits of the clothing.
"I always wear skirts," Amy replied with a giggle, poking his nose. "And anyhow, what does that matter? I passed. A year late, but who's counting?"
"Uhh…" Rory was about to raise his hand, but instead decided better. Since he had been the one to get his license at the proper age, at seventeen, he had been responsible for driving the two of them around. Now nineteen, Amy eighteen, he was immensely relieved of her license obtainment.
He looked up and gave a quick smile, handing the card back. "Well – congratulations. You wanna go eat?"
Her face lit up. "Oi, yes, starving!" She grabbed his arm and turned him around, marching out of the DLVA building and trying to remember where Rory had parked.
Hands wound together, Rory mentally sighed, taking note at the girl on his right. Every feature of hers lined up with his, and there was no looking down or up to get the proper bearings.
The first time he realized this, he almost wanted to shout betrayal at his DNA. He was supposed to be taller, because that's how it worked. And like he had grown up telling himself, girls were small and weak, boys were big and strong.
Thing is, it didn't turn out that way – and he should've known better. That mantra was broken the very first time he had ever played with Amelia Pond, who was just a little taller than him but was definitely not a damsel. If anything, he – no, nevermind. No point in admitting that.
Actually, he kinda liked that they were on equal terms in the field of height. Their eyes made even contact, their shoulders bumped exactly into each other's, and kissing was quite easy considering they didn't have to do any diagonal aiming. If they were like Voltron (now that would be awesome), they could combine to a total of eleven feet, ten inches, and that was not something to be miffed about.
Now, if only they were protectors of the universe...
…Ha. Now there was a thought.