The day Steven calls Karen and Arthur into his office is a grey one, the sky a smattering of disgruntled, worn clouds caught in indecision somewhere between breaking apart and swirling furiously into an oncoming storm.
She is very much the same, though she keeps it together as Steven sinks gingerly into one of the chairs opposite the leather couch on which his two stars sit, façades perfectly in place. But inside she feels like she’s cracking – so like the walls in Amelia’s bedroom a hundred lifetimes ago – and is afraid that pieces of her might be thrown upward to the sky, lost forever.
She smiles and nods, says she understands because in the moment she does, and accepts a hug from the man who offered her everything and was now slowly starting to take it away.
Matt’s waiting for her outside, edges of his scarf dancing unencumbered in the stiff wind. He takes one look at her and knows.
She catches him by the arm as he’s making his way to storm back inside the production offices, voice uncharacteristically soft. “Please don’t.”
He looks her up and down, body as rigid as the tempest gathering around and within them. She loves him for wanting to ride to her rescue even if she doesn’t need it; even if she’d normally take the mickey out of him for suggesting she couldn’t fight for herself. But right now she doesn’t need him to take a stand, she just needs him to take her home, arms wrapped protectively around her so that those broken parts of her don’t disappear into the wind and she loses yet another part of herself.
They go to his flat, crossing the threshold just as the skies open up. She shivers as the rivulets cascade down his windows, as understanding marches down her spine. He makes her tea, kisses her gently, and for a moment, everything is right in her world again.
She holds on to that moment like she will every memory she’s ever made as Amelia, and for a far too fleeting second, she feels like herself again.
The day her departure is announced, he turns up as he does, unexpectedly and on time, with a sympathetic smile and take away. She sighs with finality, leaning against the doorjamb as he toes his trainers off in her small entryway, and tries to muster a smile that says anything but does it really have to end?
He gingerly places the bags of dinner at their feet and cradles her effortlessly to him, right hand resting comfortably and familiarly at the nape of her neck, while his left palm sneaks its way beneath the hem of the t-shirt she’s wearing – it used to be his, but she figures it’s just a little bit of quid pro quo since he stole her heart long ago – and as it always does, his touch burns. This time, however, it scorches for an entirely different reason: in warning, making sure that while she might be losing Amy, she must never lose him.
She wraps her arms around him and buries her nose in the crook of his neck. It’s a little awkward; even barefoot she’s slightly taller than him, but in this moment as open as the door he’s yet to kick shut behind him, it feels like the right thing because he’s had her off-kilter since day one.
She kisses the underside of his chin and he leans back just slightly, absently running his thumb against the small of her back as he asks wordlessly if she’s okay. She lifts one shoulder in a silent shrug, and neither of them are sure exactly what the gesture means, but he presses his lips to hers, moving his hands to her face and runs his thumbs along her cheekbones. He’s done it a thousand times, starting months ago in the ashes of the aftermath of two relationships, their own rising like a phoenix from the debris. It continued with New York mornings winking at them through the slightly parted curtains as he threaded his fingers with hers, first in exploration and then in desperation, putting touch to all those things they’d both sensed for so long. It ended in Spain with him donning a Burger King crown and her making friends with far too much Sangria, and unintentionally letting the world in on their not-so well kept secret. But she can’t help but smile at remembering feeling the freedom of coming so far undone that she felt she’d never be put right again; she’d loved that frenetic freedom of living in the moment, of sharing unadulterated joy and unmitigated happiness with the rest of the sometimes harsh, cold world.
The memories even out the rough edges of her discontent; start to mend her even when she’s at her most broken.
He smiles back against her lips and wants to know what’s so funny. Her only reply is to wind her arms around his neck and gently prod his lips open with her tongue. His hands find her hips quickly and easily, pulling him flush against him as his head slants to accept her more fully, and within moments, their dinner is forgotten.
He disappears ten minutes into Manhattan, and when he doesn’t return, she goes to find him in her kitchen, head in the fridge and muttering unintelligibly. She watches silently as he pulls ingredients for a salad from inside its depths, seeing through his seemingly steadfast determination at finally eating something other than the fish and chips kick he’s been on of late. They sidestep the tension for a few minutes, the only sound in her flat his shaky chopping skills against her bamboo cutting board. It’s a dance they not only learned but perfected a long time ago, one done to an adagio written not by pens for strings but for hearts by fate, one partnering with propriety while sliding along the edges of desire – and it throws her off step for a minute because they haven’t engaged this awkwardly in a while.
She lets him get most of his frustration out on carrots and cucumbers before sliding behind him, hands resting atop his and putting the knife on the counter. She puts her chin on his shoulder and waits.
Finally, he drops his head. “You’re not just my Amelia anymore.”
She kisses his neck. “But I’m always your Kaz.”
He turns, hands automatically resting on either side of her slim waist, and she boxes him in by keeping her hands on the counter behind him. They’re torso to torso and she can feel him breathe. This is far from the first time that they’ve been this close, but the intimacy, the sheer vulnerability, still takes her slightly aback. He runs a hand through her hair before cradling her cheek in his palm. She turns her face to kiss his lifeline, the reminder that theirs is a journey that has just started. Glancing up, she sees he’s a bit steadier in his gait and gaze and they silently turn back to finish his half-done salad.
Bowls in hand, they sit in what has become their default position on either of their sofas: he leans against the arm of the couch, legs spread wide enough for her to settle herself between them, back leaning against his chest. When she turns her head, his heartbeat is soothing and loud in her ear, but it still doesn’t drown out the quips he makes about her being taller than half the sets built for the movie.
He gets quieter during the romantic parts and she can feel him tense beneath her. Salad bowls discarded on the floor below, she smiles to herself, oddly pleased at how protective he is – not of her, but of them – and squeezes his thigh in support and reassurance, and smiles to herself when she feels him relax beneath her touch.
She starts to doze off, content and warm in the confines of his arms, until he pinches her lightly and whispers that it’s her movie so she’d best bloody pay attention, but his breath is hot on her ear and it sends shivers down her spine and soon television becomes the last thing on their minds.
She’s on the phone with her mum when she hears the spare key she’d never quite believed she’d ever give someone else slide into her front door lock. From the way he climbs her stairs from her foyer to the main living space, she can tell he’s weighted with something, and quickly disconnects her phone call.
She stands at the table and watches as he slings his jacket off and throws it over the banister. He runs a harsh hand through his unruly hair, and instinctively she knows and reacts, wrapping her arms around her midsection.
He doesn’t have to say anything to let her know the mourning period for Amelia Pond has just commenced, because now her replacement has been chosen and there’s no more looking forward to anything, only back, and she hates the risk that everything will fade to black.
The anagram she'd used to enter the inner sanctum and read for Amy was coming true; she was panicking as moonbeams started to spotlight the end of the happiest years of her life, and the fear that she will become nothing but an anachronism, a footnote, begins to seep into and worry her porcelain skin.
She tosses and turns all night, and it’s about half past three when he finally wakes up fully, leaning across to the bedside table and turning on the light.
She’s staring off into the nothingness of the room but yet her gaze is trained much further. She’d known for months that she was to leave, and having such a gutwrenching reaction to it is catching her severely off guard. But she can’t control these static waves rolling through her, or the lightning storm pulsing in her head as too many thoughts set off sparks that multiply until it threatens to blind her, even in the darkest part of night. Her knees are pulled to her chest, her long arms folded atop them, and her chin is resting on top of her forearms. He closes the minute space between them and runs a hand down from the crown of her head to the base of her spine, rubbing gently through the thin chemise she’s wearing. She turns her head to look at him, and he leans over to kiss the tears from her cheeks.
They’re in her trailer when they make the official announcement about how the Ponds will depart the TARDIS and as they introduce the new companion.
They say nothing as they sit in their natural position, far more deeply intertwined than anyone truly knows, left hands linked and fingers tightly linked.
Karen’s turning her mobile over the knuckle in her right hand and after taking a deep breath and stealing a soft kiss from Matt, she dials the number Beth gave her and waits for it to ring.
A bubbly greeting comes across the line, and Karen closes her eyes, a tenuous smile on her face and a trembling in her heart as she finally says goodbye while someone else says hello, and welcomes Jenna-Louise to the Doctor Who family. Matt squeezes her hand and presses a kiss behind her ear, whispering the only three words whose addition to their vocabulary could dull the ache of losing “companion.”
She’s in their new home in London half listening to Matt and Jenna’s first BBC Breakfast interview together, trying to figure out why half his wardrobe is in a box marked “dishes.”
Her annoyed sigh gets half caught in her throat when, as she’s refolding a pair of his trousers to be relocated to the master closet, she feels a distinct shape in one of the pockets.
She pulls out the velvet box, thinking to herself that if it’s a pair of earrings she’s going to outright kill him, when from on the television – as though he’d timed this as perfectly as a conductor leads his orchestra – he says, “Sure, I’ll miss working with Karen. But I’ve made sure I’ll be able to see her every day on a very regular basis.”
She slides to a sitting position on the hardwood floor, completely dumbstruck and nerves on fire waiting for his inevitable phone call. When his ringtone sounds and his ridiculous face pops up on her mobile, she punches “answer” so quickly she’s momentarily afraid she might have cracked the screen.
They hold their breaths for a minute until he finally croaks, as unsure as she’s ever heard him, “D’you…you know…”
“Smith,” she cuts him off sharply. “Just get that bony arse of yours back here.”
She says yes.
In the end, it turns out to be a beginning.