AN: You're surprised to see this, aren't you? I have actually been working on this chapter for four months - no joke. (It's not particularly good, though. Don't get your hopes up; mostly talking.) But, those four months were not great for me time-wise or mentally, hence the wait. Hopefully you can still get something out of this chapter, even if you need to go back and reread the first three.

Amy wakes up swallowed in white sheets and sunrays coming in from the window. She stirs and notices that the clock reads ten, and also that she's alone in the bed, and with a groan, shoves her face into the sheets, as if to block out the shaming stimuli. This proves a bad decision, since the sheets smell absolutely rank. , and Sshe recoils immediately. It figures—not even the best laundry detergent can withstand a few solid hours of sweat and other bodily… excretions.

Sufficiently scolded by the late hour and a barrage of birds chirping noisily outside, half an hour later sees her showered and dressed and sauntering into the kitchen.

Rory is sitting at his rickety little table with the newspaper spread out before him and half a slice of toast hanging from his mouth. He looks very at home in his cramped flat; all the furniture is long-limbed and angular and that weird kind of retro-rustic that can't totally be described, and which only Rory can really pull off. And she's not even sure it's a matter of pulling it off—it's plausible he just spent a lot of time in thrift stores when he was broke during medical school.

His expression brightens instantly when he sees her, and she returns it with a little half-smile, as she sets about fixing herself of a cup of tea.

"Sleep well?" he inquires.


She reclines against the counter, gripping her cup with both hands, and watches him flip a page. It seems strange that someone could be so content with this—late mornings and thrift store furniture—while knowing that a universe exists that is vast and unknown and teeming. She gets the urge to ask him how he's okay right now, how he can just sit there and read about real estate prices and the arrest of a local dog-napper, but it's beyond the scope of her set plans.

She had directed the Doctor to take her to the weekend before the wedding, when a well-to-do friend had surprised her with a spa getaway in lieu of a bachelorette party. Rory wouldn't hear about it until later that afternoon, when Present Amy had already been away for a night, which left Future Amy (her, she supposed, though thinking herself as being a future version was strange) a good window of time with Rory. Her execution was clear enough; her intentions, less so. In true Time Lord style, she was improvising that bit.

And she'd improvised them right into bed, for lack other options.

It was a good way to kill time—which didn't make a whole lot of sense, considering she'd asked to come here and made up all sorts of fibs to realize that goal, so surely there was some purpose lingering in her unconscious. She had gone with her gut, as she was wont to do, and expected a perfectly rational reason to crop up in her awareness when she needed it. When it hadn't, she'd stood in the parlor awkwardly and started kissing him to wipe the puzzled expression off his face. And things progressed.

Now, she tells herself that perhaps some fun, minus the possibility of death or capture, had been the goal all along: a release after the stressful business of several close brushes with mortality, and possibly contracting space madness, and the consecutive heated encounters with the Doctor. Or, alternatively, considering that last one, a projection—but she swats that thought like a fly. Ironically, she'd never been much good at swatting flies; it required too much patience.

She begins to drum her fingers on the countertop. He's gone back to reading. With an enormous yawn, he flips a page. She thinks about how yawning is contagious, and wonders if he means to infect her, or if she's just collateral damage in his war on interesting.

Sighing noisily, she sets her tea down and then, in a single swift movement, moves across the small room and settles into his lap. He has to lift his arms in order to accommodate both her and the paper, which leaves him looking distinctly uncomfortable.

"Hello," he says, uncertain.

Amy gives him a grin and starts burrowing into his neck, working up the beginnings of a fresh hickey. Rory chortles nervously, and brushes her away. "Maybe we should save a little for the wedding night."

The sigh that follows blows out of her with lengthy force, like steam out of a kettle. "Bored!" she declares loudly, hopping to her feet, and then realizes who she's starting to sound like. Swallowing a groan, she faces him. "It's just that—we're sitting. In your kitchen."

"Yes." He looks at her expectantly, as if waiting for a punch line.

"You could be dead tomorrow," she says flatly. "I could be dead tomorrow."

Rory's brow wrinkles, upper lip curling disdainfully. "When did you get to be so doom and gloom?"

"I'm not—" She grits her teeth, falling back to lean against the counter again. "That's the opposite of what I'm saying. I'm saying you could be out doing stuff, doing anything, and you're sitting in your kitchen." The last four words come out dripping with derision.

"You're standing in my kitchen," he points out dryly. "Is that any better?"

"I don't always stand in your kitchen," she shoots back, before remembering herself. Her little secret. Or her very big secret, depending on your outlook. "You don't know."

He's looking at her, searching for education or enlightenment. But it's not to be found in her eyes, or even the twitch of her lips—the truth is too complicated for mind-melds. Romanticism had never been her favorite, but she wishes for it now, and desperately. For psychic understanding to grip Rory, and for him to just know, like he might if this were some cloyingly sweet love story. The very kind she's always claimed to hate.

No, she'll have to tell him herself. He knows so much about her, more than anyone, more than the Doctor, probably. Everything except the last three weeks. The most important weeks. It feels as though it should be enough to just say that, but it won't suffice. Not for Rory—her friend, her oldest friend. Doggedly loyal and occasionally bumbling. He deserves an explanation. I'll see him again, she promises. But, then again, what's a promise to the Doctor?

"Sell me your lumber," he demands, increasingly frustrated.

A message flashes on to the console screen in glowing block letters.

Insufficient offer, it reads.

"I've offered plenty. All my brick."

The screen flashes again. Grain as well.

"No. No grain." He grits his teeth. "You're beginning to make me regret teaching you to play this game, dear." The ship's lights swell brighter for a moment, which he understands to be laughter of sorts.

The Doctor pouts fiercely, but the TARDIS doors flies open and there is Amy, to rescue him from an embarrassing defeat.

"Hello," she grudges as she enters. He notes glazed-over eyes and a dragging step—tiredness. Tired has a strong correlation with snippy, especially in her, he recalls.

"Hello," he chirps, unfailing cheerful, pursing his lips while she climbs the steps to the console. "The TARDIS and I were just enjoying a round in our long-running game of Settlers of Catan. You're welcome to join us. I hope it never falls to me to settle a colony, I fear I'm ill-suited for it." He gives her the best grin he can manage with the hope that a little self-deprecation might shake her free of whatever thing bothered her. "It requires patience, which I've always thought was the dullest virtue."

Alarmingly, his joke gets little to less response. "I'll pass." Amy half-smiles to cover a sigh, and sinks into the jumpseat.

He weighs whether or not to ask for a millisecond. He's still undecided when it comes tumbling out of its own accord. "How is Rory?"

She snorts derisively, but answers anyway. "Not so good, I'd guess. Or perhaps very good, I don't really know." He squints at her, not understanding, which prompts a solid eye roll and a straightforward explanation, "It's over."

His eyes widen.

"Really?" he splutters. Surprise is the only emotion he can seem to muster; an actual response would have to wait. Or was he not supposed to have one at all?

Amy's lips curl and twist out a smile in a way that's as coded as any of the TARDIS's fifteen thousand ongoing algorithmic programs—the difference being that he can read the ones and zeros. "Really really."

"Oh," he says, feeling clumsy. He scratches his face nervously. "Do you—I mean—are you… alright?"

His attempt at support seems more amusing to her than comforting. "Yes." Her eyes flash, signaling a hint of mischief, which relieves him. Her old self returns in an instant, and he feels the mounted tension in his chest melting away. Fun Amy, Happy Amy, Good Amy. It doesn't matter what he calls her, only that she's back. "I'm brilliant," she continues. "So brilliant I could burst."

"Brilliant," he echoes brightly. "So you don't need to talk about it, or anything?"

"Do you want to hear about it?" Her tone suggests that she doesn't think so. Indignation flickers within him.

"If you want! I'm a very good listener, I'll have you know."

She settles back into the jumpseat. Her expression is unbearably smug. "Is that so?"

"It is. Universally renown. I could console you. If I wanted. And you wanted."

"Oh, you'd console me, would you?" she mocks, her voice lowering suggestively.

The Doctor huffs, though half the frustration he directs inward. He should be able to see that kind of remark coming by now. Fun Amy was also Suggestive Amy, a fact that he found difficult to remember.

"Appropriately," he corrects. "Like, patting your arm and hugging and things."

"And things." She keeps grinning.

"Are you going to tell me what happened or not?"

Another eye roll, and the act falls away. "Fine." She clears her throat, crossing and uncrossing her legs once before speaking.

He feels oddly anxious, like he's about to leap off a rocky outcrop into a tumultuous swell. No reason for nervousness occurs to him, but the feeling persists. It's not as if anything she could say would be relevant to him—his role here is as an observer, not an actor. That's the way it always is, the way it has to be. His dramas involve laser beams and high-speed chases; emotional machinations rest squarely in the realm of humanity.

Finally, she begins. "I went over, we spent the night together, and this morning I started getting on him about, I dunno, boringness. And I decided to tell him where I'd been. And he wasn't happy." He stares at her, waiting for more, but she only shrugs.

"That's it?"

"That's it."

His stare turns into a squint. He knows these creatures tend towards fragile feelings, but that sounds… well, it sounds a bit too fragile, as though it lacked the final nail in the coffin.

"You're quite sure that's the whole story?"

Amy looks straight at him, and for the first time since she's returned, he realizes. Her eyes are saucers, her jaw clenches and unclenches in succession as she clearly works through something.

"Bullocks," she breathes at last. "I gave him more of a reason to end it than… than I… well, it wasn't enough that I'd run off on the night before our wedding. I just added enough to get him there."

So she'd wanted their relationship to be over? This was news to him, and big news. Real headline material. Good news or bad news, though? He chose to omit the question. "What does that mean?"

She squirms, no more comfortable in this conversation than him. "I may have given him the impression that—I may have exaggerated a bit." Her attention is suddenly diverted to a loose thread on her skirt, which she picks at, not meeting his eye. Finally, she admits with a sheepish blush, "I told him I'd been with you." She rolls her eyes, barely grudging the full story: "Physically."

He feels himself stiffen, turn to stone. The freeze crunches up his arms from his fingertips and his toes to his hearts and his head, and he—who has only known movement for a millennium—is a statue. He can't help the voice in his mind that scolds, she used you. And Rory, too, bandied him about as if he meant nothing to her. The realization seizes and wracks him, and a myriad of things surge to his throat, protestations and accusations he could hurl at her. A person cries out who he tries to ignore; a person who showed himself, for example, on the decks of the Starship UK at the precipice of human calamity—a person who is as motley human himself as those who make him angry enough to act it. He swallows.

Instead, he says coolly, "You ought not to have done that, Amelia."

Amy seems taken aback. Whether she expected more or less of a reaction, he can't say. "Why, because I lied?"

"Yes, and he deserves better."

"So what's better?" she demands, though it's indignation that brings the color to her cheeks now.

"The truth of why you don't want to be with him." Those words feel strange on his tongue. Want to be with him, want to be with him. A voice in the back of his head, sounding not unlike River Song, chuckles. This isn't your game, old man.

His companion seems blissfully unaware of his discomfort. She fights him tooth and nail, as always. "He dumped me."

"Not entirely of his own free will, as you've suggested."

"Well, I—" she struggles, glaring up at him, and then pops to her feet and paces across the deck. "It's none of your business."

He endeavors to keep his tone objectively level, to not betray anything unseemly, to recall his place. "On the contrary, it became my business the moment you told him I was involved."

"Alright, fine. I'm sorry I insulted your honor. Or whatever this is." She makes a sweeping gesture in his direction, apparently trying to indicate his reaction. Her apology doesn't even feign sincerity. "Happy?"

The lemon-sucking face he makes is more than enough to answer her question, so he presses on. "You should go back and tell him the truth."

"I'm not doing that," she scoffs. "You go do it, if it's so important to you. I want to get out of here."

"We're not going anywhere until you've made amends." He slams down a lever on the console for emphasis. They're speaking quickly now, in an animated back and forth exchange, which they always do, but this is more of a shootout than a friendly volley.

"What, is there some kind of code I've got to follow to travel with you, now?"

"Always has been."

"And what if I break it? The code?"

He gambles on his answer, and not for low stakes. He believes, though. It'll work, it has to. The alternative… "Then you have to leave."

Her reply comes too fast. "Fine." Her tone is simple, almost terse. Careless, he thinks.

A long beat passes. She makes no move for the door. They stare at each other.

She adds, "I'll see you."

She's waiting for him to rescind; it couldn't be more obvious. The look on her face is bloody expectant, and he feels a sudden surge of anger at her. It makes it all the harder that she knows him, knows he doesn't want her to go, that sending her away would be painful. But he could take the pain.

She takes a step towards him, and her eyes rake across his body, as she inquires, "Why is it so important to you?"

"The TARDIS is not a means of avoiding responsibility towards your friends and family. It's not an escape vehicle," he intones. The wise idea to move away from her strikes him, but not hard enough, and he's frozen to the spot.

"What else have you ever used it for?" A strangely plain question, coming from Amy. She watches for his reply with an expression that is all quivering resilience, but there's a note of pity in her voice, too.

It takes everything he has to just stand there, his mouth a thin line. He's torn between barely suppressed rage and an inflammed desire to pull her against him and press his face into her shoulder, just like the old times that are really all but brand new to him. Neither option is right, however, and that's all he's trying to do, something right.

His silence eats away at her quickly, and she moves away, to stand hunched over the railing with her back to him. "You were always involved, you know," she observes, and he's reeling again, because he thinks he's been caught. She's seen through his performance, unraveled him. And then she adds, "I wouldn't have left if it weren't for you. I would have just gotten married."

Relieved to be free of more clandestine accusations, he goes to join her, the two of them looking out one of the rounded glass windows to a galaxy beyond that sloppily overflows with stars. "Is that true?"

"What? That I'd have stayed with Rory?" She laughs. "You're definitely the homewrecker type."

He has to return the mirth, because she's funny, she is—funny, magnificent, ginger. "I've been called worse." He pauses; funny, magnificent, ginger, and too good for him, because his ego has always lived as much in his heart as it did in his head. "Perhaps it is best, if you…" It's harder to say when he actually means it, but Amy picks up the implication—he sees her smile grow sadder in an instant. Neither of them wants a separation, he realizes, but that can't matter. It will come sooner or later, regardless of anyone's feelings. He must not forget.

"Best for who?" she challenges.

"For everyone."

"I think we might have different definitions for best, then." Does Amy ever think to herself? It seems like when she speaks it's the most marvelously candid thing, like her thoughts might never be turned against her. "But best is just your way of saying easier, isn't it?"


"Listen, I know you're all embroiled in this dramatic battle with yourself because you fancy me and you don't think you should—"

His stomach drops ten meters into the floor. "Amy, that is not—"

"Don't." A finger to his lips and he's pouting again. She continues, unshaken, "The whole point of this thing isn't that you take someone along to make you miserable, it's the other way around. I'm not sentimental, so I'll move on when I want to." He remembers the dolls and cartoons and dress up of her youth, and wonders what that it is, if not sentimental. "I won't die."

"No, Amy," he says tiredly but firmly, all that he has left.

She shrugs and glares. "Idiot."

"I know," he replies, trying not to sound utterly pathetic but failing, as usual. He smiles a melancholy one and moves away, back to the control panel. "Rory tomorrow."

Her last protest is a little grumble, and then she throws in the towel. "Fine. But you'll never get me off this spaceship."

He sighs. There is no more fight in him, not tonight, and he finds comfort in that fact that if she really wanted him she'd just snog him while he's down.

"I'm going to bed," she announces, and starts for the stairs. A thought seems to grasp her, and she pauses, and turns back to him. "Your loss," she says, lilting provocatively, and she's going to kill him, one day, if he doesn't do it first. He manages a strangled laugh.

"My loss."

Another shrug and she traipses off.

A long bath leaves her feeling contemplative as she lies in bed, waiting to be overcome by drowsiness.

Rory tomorrow—and there's no way to make the Doctor understand that righteous isn't always right, that white lies save people sometimes, because in all his thousand years of life he must have picked up on that important truth. But it's uncanny, the way he lets her get to his head.

She likes it.

At least when she's not worrying about whether he's gotten to hers.

The lie she told Rory had nothing to do with the Doctor, she's certain. Well, it had something to do with the Doctor, but only because his was the name she'd dropped. It was easier that way, she thinks. Easier than the truth. The situation had not been any different than the usual, honestly: she had known what she wanted, beneath the surface of her brain. And when an opportunity showed itself to achieve that goal, it sprung into her consciousness, and she'd just—done it. Said the thing, the exaggeration.

As challenging as it had been to watch the hurt wash over Rory, she knew it would have paled in comparison to the truth. Because the truth is complicated, in all ways but one. I don't know what I want, but it's not that.

Well—there were a few things. Like, she wanted not to be rejected continuously. Quite reasonable, by her estimation. Furthermore, she wanted the Doctor to confess everything; to tell her she was beautiful and damn sexy and one of the most challenging, persuasive, brave people ever to travel with him, and that he—

That was an exceedingly complicated desire. It puzzled her. She moved on.

A plan hatched in the back of her mind, amidst all the swirling, occasionally conflicting wants and needs. For all the confusion she was feeling, there was one thing which never failed to appeal: a victory.

The last thought in her mind before she drifts off is that if it's the truth he wants, then it's the truth he'll get.

AN2, added 8/15/12 around 7:15 PM EST: Yes, I know that if Amy and Rory aren't together, River wouldn't exist. It's an issue I plan to deal with in a later chapter, so hold tight.