“OK, I definitely should have known you weren’t gay--I have never seen a man with a worse sense of rhythm!”
Amy’s laugh is loud, but kind: teasing rather than taunting. Watching Rory try to wiggle his hips to the music is a bit like watching a pensioner try out his new hip replacement. Only Rory’s a bit stiffer...
“Oi!” he protests, blushing a little. “I’ll be the first to admit I’m a terrible dancer--if you recall, this little lesson was not my idea! And I’m pretty sure that’s a stereotype.”
“That gay men are good dancers.”
Amy smiles. “I wouldn’t know.”
“Nor would I,” Rory mumbles back.
Amy looks away guiltily. Ever since finding out her best friend isn’t gay, things have been a bit...tense. Rory needs time to recover from the knowledge that the girl he’d been in love with his whole life thought he was gay, and Amy...well, she needs some time to come to terms with the idea that her gay best friend has actually been pining for her since they were kids.
With Amy distracted, Rory manages to abandon their impromptu dance floor and seat himself in his favorite chair in the corner of her bedroom. “I don’t see why I need to learn to dance the Macarena anyway.”
“Because!” He’s not looking at her, but he can hear the eye-roll in Amy’s voice. “Dustin is having a 90s-themed party, and dancing the Macarena is both 90s and fun!”
He’s still not convinced. “I don’t remember the 90s being that much fun. Besides, we were toddlers when that song came out!”
Amy throws a pillow to stop his complaining. “All right, Old Man Williams! I get it!” She always calls him that whenever she’s trying to pressure him into something fun for his own good. She can see his jaw set the minute she’s said it--she has to hide the smirk that says she knows she’s about to get her way.
In a gentler voice, she gives the one final prod he’ll need to get up out of that chair. “Come on, Rory, it’s just one little dance...”
With an exaggerated sigh, he stands up and joins her in front of her full-length mirror. “How does it go again?”
She chased him down the stairs and out of her house. He hadn’t stopped to see if she would follow--he’s already halfway down the drive and turning out onto the lane before she catches up with him.
He’s heard her coming, but he doesn’t stop and turn until she’s grabbed his arm.
“Rory!” she gasps. “Rory, I...”
She has no idea what she’s going to say. She’s standing there staring at him, mouth opening and closing like a goldfish. And in that moment, she wants to laugh, because how can she not know what to say? This was Rory, the boy she’s told everything to. He’s been privy to every single thought that’s ever crossed her mind in the last 10 years, and now she can’t think of a single thing to say.
Instead, she reaches out, and she grabs his arm, squeezing as if she’ll send him her thoughts by Morse Code.
He puts his hand over hers and squeezes back. “Amy, it’s all right. You don’t have to say anything. Mels shouldn’t have said anything! She’s just made things awkward...”
Amy shakes her head. “No! I mean--yeah, she did. Hell, she always does! But I’m glad she said something...or not glad she said something, since it was your something to say...”
In spite of the blood pounding through his head that makes it feel like it’s going to explode, Rory smiles. He’s never seen Amy Pond all hesitant and incoherent before. It’s usually his lot to be the stammering fool...
She grabs his hand and continues on. “It’s just...God, Rory, I never knew! I never knew...”
He takes her hand in both of his. “I just, I didn’t think that you’d...” Amy is watching him expectantly. He wants so very badly to know what the right thing to say here is: the thing that means he’ll get to kiss her and be her boyfriend. He doesn’t know what that thing is, so he says the first thing that comes to mind: “I guess this has kinda ruined our friendship, hasn’t it?” He laughs softly, like it’s a funny joke.
Amy looks into his eyes, and smiles, and for a moment he has hope.
“Never, Rory!” She’s shaking her head and letting go of his hand. “Nothing will ever ruin our friendship!”
And in an instant, hope is gone.
He blinks once, twice. “Oh. Good...”
He’s stiff and awkward again. Amy does her best to reassure him. “Rory, I would never, never give up my best friend!” She tries to meet his eyes, but he’s not looking at her now.
And suddenly, both their smiles are sad.
Amy is calling out instructions like a crazed aerobics instructor: “Arm, arm! Palm, palm! Shoulder, shoulder! Head, head! Rory! No!”
He’s doing it all wrong, moving his limbs seemingly at random, rather than with the very simple music cues. He couldn’t find the beat with two hands and a flashlight, and she’s beginning to doubt he even understands what a beat is. And what’s more frustrating than that, Amy feels too awkward to properly help him.
Only a few months before, she would have simply grabbed him and moved him around like a giant doll, positioning and re-positioning his limbs, swaying his hips for him, and guiding him along to the music until he was finally able to pick up on the rhythm for himself. It’s how she’d taught him to slow dance for the Leavers’ Ball. But now that he wasn’t gay...
Well, not that he ever was. But really, who could blame her for being mistaken? Sure, he’d been on dates with girls before, but never under his own instigation: it was always the girls who had asked him out. And they never made it past the first few dates before Rory was back in his chair in the corner of her room, nagging Mels for getting into trouble and scolding Amy about encouraging her.
The fact that he got asked out rather a lot for a shy bloke didn’t seem all that strange. He was a nice date for a girl who wanted one: kind and polite, always listening attentively and never trying anything on. Plus, he possessed one undeniable quality no girl could resist: the lure of an unavailable man.
He was unavailable, all right: she’d just been wrong about why he was unavailable...
She doesn’t know what she expected when she’d gone running after him: 25 seconds was hardly enough time to switch her brain over from ‘gay BFF’ to ‘potential boyfriend’ mode. 25 seconds from the dawning realization that her best friend was in love with her to grabbing his arm at the end of her drive, and when he turned around to look at her, he was still...Rory. How was she supposed to grasp that everything was changing when his stupid face still looked the same?
She lay in her bed that night thinking about what might have happened. He might have thrown his arms around her, swept her off her feet, and kissed her. He might have asked her to walk him home. On the way, he might have held her hand and halfway there, just before the big bend that connects her little lane to the main road, he might have pulled her into the trees to whisper in her ear how much he loved her and how long he’d waited to tell her that. He might have asked her to go out on a date over the weekend, or to come back to his place for dinner, or even invited her to drop by the hospital the next day and have lunch with him.
It was what any other guy she’d ever dated would have done, and yet, she can’t really imagine Rory doing any of that anyway. She wasn’t really surprised that it didn’t happen any of those ways--when he just mumbled ‘good night’ and shuffled off into the darkness alone.
The only surprise came when she realized she was disappointed.
“Ow! Amy! Now really, how is prodding me with your nail file supposed to help?”
He would have given up and stormed off an hour ago, if Amy’s irritation with him didn’t come as a welcome relief after weeks of her awkward, quiet pity. Her calling him a ‘gangly oaf’ and throwing rolled-up socks at him when he got a move wrong felt like old times. No, he’d suffer a thousand insults and possibly even the addition of a couple of shoes to her arsenal of projectiles just to feel that things might ever be normal between them again.
Amy tossed the offending file onto her bed and turned to face him. “I just can’t believe you are really this rubbish! I learned all the moves in about five minutes--when I was six!”
Rory stopped was he was doing to put his hands on his hips. “I’m sorry but you’re just better at this sort of thing than I am! I didn’t get cross with you when it took you bloody ages to get the hang of balancing equations for the Chem final.”
Amy can’t help but laugh at the reminder. “Oh yes you did! You just think I can’t tell when you’re cross with me...but I know what it means when you start talking reeeallly slowly and pinching the bridge of your nose. You’re not as good at hiding things from me as you think!”
It came out of her mouth before she really knew what she was saying. Once she’d said it, the awkwardness was back: the giant elephant in the room.
It was maddening, really: going back through all the years that they’d been friends and trying to pick up on the clues she’d missed.
She thought back with embarrassment on all of the times she used to change her clothes in front of him. He always stuttered and blushed and turned his back right away, scolding her like an old lady concerned for her virtue. Out of the corner of her eye, she’d watch to see if he was looking as she shimmied into a new skirt or buttoned up her blouse, but he never did. Surely that meant he was gay, didn’t it? There were boys at school who were dying for a peek under Amy Pond’s infamous skirts, and the one bloke with a backstage pass didn’t even seem interested in the show...
He used to change at her place, too: out of his jeans and into his scrubs. He usually went into the toilet, but if it was occupied, he’d insist that she turn her back and not watch. She always did, though she was careful not to let him to see. (He was ever so shy, despite the number of times they’d been swimming together.) He was nice to look at (though she could never tell him that)--skinny, sure, but lean and muscled as well.
She’d looked, and he hadn’t. What was she supposed to think?
Actually, Amy was rather glad she couldn’t remember most of the 90s: gingers looked terrible in neon. Still, it was fun ripping holes in Rory’s old jeans and scouring through the closets of her friends’ older siblings, looking for items to wear to the party. Amy was the closest thing Leadworth had to a personal stylist, and she had all the party-goers looking like extras from Degrassi High in no time.
If they’re honest, they’re both glad to have a break from the tension. They still saw each other everyday: after 10 years of living inside each other’s back pockets, they ended up together out of habit, more than anything. The fact that they didn’t know how to act around each other anymore wasn’t enough to keep them apart, but it was enough to turn their easy, comfortable friendship into an awkward, seething mess. Tonight, amidst all their friends, dressed in silly outfits and dancing to equally silly music, aided by the social lubricant of alcohol, it was much easier to just be Amy and Rory.
And she was flirting with him again. Flirting to Amy was like small talk: it was how you got to know new people, and how you passed the time with old friends. It felt awkward and strange to stop doing it with Rory. She was pleased to find him flirting back, in his own small, awkward way: teasing her about turning everything into a double entendre and sticking out his tongue at her when she teased him back.
Nearly every boy at the party has already asked her to dance, and Rory has let several of the girls drag him out on the floor for a song or two. She keeps catching him looking at her, but he has yet to ask her to dance. Normally, she’d go over and ask him--or more likely, she’d just grab his arm and drag him out after her--but now she feels just a little bit weird about it, like he should be the one to ask her instead. She’s about to give up on the idea entirely.
And then the Macarena comes on.
All of the girls rush out onto the dance floor, while the boys stand off to the side and roll their eyes or leave to get another beer.
Amy’s friends are beckoning her to come and dance, but she waves them off with an impatient flick of her wrist. Her eyes have locked onto Rory, and she’s willing him to look at her. So far, he’s avoiding her gaze. When he makes a move to leave the room, that’s when she decides she’s had it: enough is enough. She storms across the room with purposeful strides and grabs his arm from behind. “Rory Williams, we did not spend two hours practicing this dance in my bedroom for you to run off and hide in the toilet! We are dancing, now!”
He’s too stunned to answer her, but he allows himself to be led out into the crowd of dancers. Some of their friends smile and greet him, but his eyes don’t leave Amy’s face.
She picks up the rhythm easily, shifting into the routine from the middle. She makes it through one full rotation of the dance, hips swishing as she twists down to the floor, and Rory still hasn’t moved from his scarecrow stance. “Come on, Williams!” she teases. “If you don’t move soon, you’re going to grow roots!”
When that doesn’t get him moving, she rolls her eyes and grabs onto his arms, starting to guide him through the motions. He mumbles a protest, but doesn’t pull his limbs free. “Come on, Old Man Williams, you can do better than that!” She pokes him in the ribs, and he laughs. She’s starting to suspect he might be having a good time.
He still hasn’t picked up on the dance moves--his body is far too stiff. Amy moves around behind him, grabbing onto his hips. She presses her pelvis up against his bum, and wiggles with him while singing along, “Heeeey, Macarena! All right...”
When she moves around front of him again, he’s got a funny look on his face, but finally he’s starting to move just a little bit to the music. He doesn’t seem to be paying attention to it, but that’s working in his favor: his self-conscious stiffness is gone, and he finally looks natural, moving and swaying to the beat. His mind seems to be elsewhere: he’s staring at her mouth the way boys do when they want to kiss her, and why doesn’t he just go on and do it already? He knows that she knows that he likes her, and here she is practically groping him on the dance floor, and he doesn’t think now would be a good time to make a move?
But then it occurs to her: when has Rory ever made the first move? She laughs out loud when it comes to her, and his answering smile is all the encouragement she needs. As the final chorus of The Macarena fades away, she grabs a handful of his ripped t-shirt and pulls him toward her. She pauses just a moment to smile at how wide his eyes have gotten, before she presses her mouth to his. His lips are warm and chapped, and he tastes of lager and crisps. She presses firmly, pushing her lower lip up against his, waiting for him to respond. Finally, she can feel him pressing back: he parts his lips slightly, his mouth moving slowly against hers in a gentle caress.
When they finally pull apart, the rest of the world comes crashing back in around them: all eyes are on the couple in the center of the room. There’s applause, and loud whooping and cheering--cries of “finally!” and “about time!” filling the room.
Amy barely even notices those other people are there: she’s finally seeing the boy across from her clearly, for the very first time. “Rory Williams, will you walk me home?”
As for Rory, he’s only ever had eyes for one person; and nothing is going to stand in the way of his answer. “Always.”