"…Oh my – God – Rory!"
Amy could barely make out Mels giggling back in her room as she tore down the stairs, taking them three at a time and ignoring the painful shock that radiated in her ankles when she made it to the ground (taking a leap of five steps). Rory had just made it out the door and was putting his long legs to good use, sprinting in his awkwardly stiff yet somehow graceful way, with stutters at all his joints that made the operation of his limbs magical.
She remembered back to when they were kids and playing games, racing one another, taking dives to avoid being tagged, becoming entangled in a pile of limbs when the end of the day came. Laughter, lots of laughter, especially at the expense of poor Rory, what with his shaggy, girlish hair and timid nature. If he was ever offended, he never said anything – which wasn't the case for Amy or Mels, who would immediately go on the defensive. No, pleasant-minded Rory was always easy to get along with, sometimes to the point of infuriation at being so placid.
Watching him run – now, the twenty-year-old Rory, run – made her remember those days because even then, she had observed how he ran. It was so strange and awkward for a child to run the way he did, but that was how his body told him to maneuver, so such was how he moved.
"Rory – stop!" Amy tried to plead, knowing that bargain was bound to fail and feeling a bit satisfied (but mostly annoyed) when he gave a glance back but kept on running. His backpack still hung on to his body by merely one shoulder, the other strap dangling limply along and bumping in time to his feet hitting the ground.
There was one distinct advantage Amy had in the situation that most girls didn't, and that was her height. She and Rory were fairly on-par with one another (though it was constantly up to debate, especially from him) when it came to how far off the ground the top of their heads were. Therefore, she too had long legs with which to run.
There was also the fact that Rory had a tendency to be clumsy when flustered. That was how she could tell his mood at that precise moment – afraid, given the running, and flustered, given the clod of earth he had hit the wrong way and went sprawling to the ground on.
Amy made the mistake of thinking that was the end, slowing down in her steps the instant he toppled down. Well, that was almost a mistake, as Rory somehow found his way to his feet and started up again – only to have the one strap of his backpack suddenly cut into his shoulder. He looked to see the pack being pulled at from the other side by a panting redhead whose eyebrows were furrowed and had her feet – barefoot, by the way – planted firmly in the ground.
Now this was the end.
They stood there, breathing, recouping their breath and locked in a stare-down. Rory felt his blood chill the longer they sustained eye contact, but what was worse was that he could not look away. Even when ragged, with some strands of ginger fallen in her eyes, her cheeks red and brow sweating, she looked stunning. Kind of like a killer Amazon, given her gravelly look.
Wait, he found the prospect of a raging female warrior attractive? He…wasn't quite sure what that said about him, and really didn't want to scratch the surface beyond that.
Then all at once, his emotions flooded back. Beyond the embarrassment, he felt just plain bad. He had run from Amy without so much as saying anything – so then he felt pathetic for not being able to say a word. Her feet and ankles were smeared in mud and dirt, wet blades of grass stuck about randomly. That's when he felt guilty, because he had simply bolted, running through anything, through multiple grounds. She could have splinters or cuts or even get some sort of infection –
Suddenly, Rory slipped into a brief fantasy sequence, of him taking care of Amy like the nurse that he was. The sequence was a bit messed up, since treating foot wounds weren't all that romantic, but somehow, his mind was able to make it so.
Reality intervened when Amy yanked on his backpack, sending his shoulder jutting out and him stumbling forward. Words would have been brilliant at that point.
Any other word would have been fine. Ones that didn't involve him would have been better.
Dammit, he shouldn't have said that. Now he was committed to the conversation.
But after a prolonged gap of silence, Rory noticed that Amy herself didn't know what to say. Her eyes raced but no words were being created, just little stutters of her lips that said she wanted to speak but couldn't. And if she was unable to speak, what hope did he have of getting anything out?
So he didn't. Instead, he slipped his arm out of the strap of his pack and watched Amy snap from her own confused trance, lifting up the bag and giving him a questioning look. Rory shrugged and turned before lowering himself to the ground and sprawling onto his back, staring up at the night sky.
"Nice night," he commented breezily. Amy stole a glance up to the stars, her eyes tracing the patterns of familiar constellations without even thinking about it.
"Yeah. It is, isn't it?" She then looked down at him, silently annoyed when he didn't look back, instead keeping his ever-tired eyes glued to what was above.
"Remember that time we built the fort in your backyard?" Rory asked, his voice quivering slightly but masking his panic relatively well.
"It was cold," Amy continued, still staring at him. "But we wanted to camp out there so badly that we snuck out to prove our parents wrong."
"Oh. …Yeah, there was that time, wasn't there? 'cept – uh – I was thinking more about the time we made that really good one from boxes and bean poles."
"Yeah, blankets too. Then Mels ruined it."
"Mels was the dragon, remember? We had to defend the castle and it didn't work." Amy rolled her eyes. "You were too busy trying to protect –"
She stopped. …Oh man, really?
Had it...had it always been that way? Was she missing it this whole time? All those times she thought Rory was just getting in the way, whether it be playing games or fighting off bullies or offering her help with homework, and the whole time he was just trying to express that he…
This might have been the one to max out her "painfully obvious" chart.
Because that whole time, the whole time, Amy had always liked it. She liked having shaggy-haired Rory by her side, being kind and generous and supportive, and then she realized that once they got older, when he cut his girly hair and became a skinny twig of a man, that she maybe kinda-sorta possibly fancied him. Just a bit.
Thing was, as they got older, nothing changed – not really. She and Rory and Mels would still hang out like they always had. When the girls talked about boys, Rory would just sit there and be silent, listening and sinking in his spot. Whenever they asked him about girls, he would go red and flub his speech, ultimately choosing to remain rather quiet.
So that's how she figured he didn't like girls, because he simply didn't talk about them. God, that was stupid in retrospect.
"I don't think I was ever good at protecting you," Rory's voice said, intruding into her musings. "You still got beat up and made fun of."
"Tsh." Amy waved her hand, brushing off the comment. "You had more bloody noses than me."
"I have more of a nose to hit," he replied dryly. She giggled, much to his relief, although that soon turned to panic as she sat down next to him and patted his shoulder.
"The bloody nose squad," Amy said with a spring in her voice. "Oh yeah. So awesome, weren't we? Used more tissues than a bloke with the flu."
Rory wasn't sure if reminiscing about bloody noses was a positive or a negative. He instead took the giggles and the shoulder-touch as his cues. And, before he could really think, his mouth was blurting out, "It's true you know."
"What, the tissue count?"
"No – well yes, that's – wait no, that's not what I'm –"
Amy flung herself on her back, knocking her arm into his side. "I know."
He lifted his head up, eyebrows raised. "You know?"
"Of course I know. You just said it."
"…Oh. Right." Duh.
"I'd love to."
Rory did a double-take, now propped up on his elbows, way too confused to be annoyed at her lack of eye contact. "…Huh?"
She closed her eyes. "'He's gorgeous. He's my favorite guy'."
A cog went off in his head. She had said those things, hadn't she? And they had been about him, hadn't they? …Huh. Talk about forgetting things.
Finally there was eye contact. Rory felt like the wind had been knocked from his lungs, but for an entirely different reason. The way Amy was looking at him made his heart melt and his body cease to function. It was…it was…
He couldn't describe it.
One thing did, though. It was Amy's fingers worming their way into his hand. It took a while for him to cooperate, moreso because he wasn't sure if what she was trying to do was what he thought she was trying to do. So he took a breath and opened his hand, allowing her to fully intertwine their fingers.
Rory exhaled and flopped onto his back. Another lapse of silence and he squeezed her hand, a gesture she returned. He looked up at the stars and let the biggest smile come to his face.
Amy released a grin – a small, silly, cheerful grin – and sighed mentally at herself. Really? That whole time? Unable to see what was painfully obvious to other people?
It had to be them two.