There’s a game that they play when they’re kids featuring a blue box that’s a spaceship and a time machine: if you could go anywhere and any when, where would you go?
Armed with borrowed old clothes that they turn into costumes, props mostly made by Amelia, and vast imaginations, they roam Leadworth visiting alien worlds, past times, and fantasy places. The woods at the back of Rory’s house become a planet where people live in trees (which means that Rory has to learn how to climb them). They dress up as Roman soldiers and execute a battle campaign (against the ducks in the village pond who don’t return afterwards, which they never live down). They quest for Camelot as Knights of the Round Table (until Amelia gets caught riding Mr Gibson’s pony, falls off, and breaks her leg).
Amy surprises her teachers at school by being a star pupil in History and worries her Art teacher with the subjects of her paintings. Rory likes Physics and thinks he’d like to learn Engineering when he grows up. He figures it’s practical, to be able to fix things when they go wrong, and in his spare time he reads more science fiction than he has time for.
Sometimes they imagine that the Doctor comes along with them on their adventures and sometimes he stays behind in his blue box after dropping them off. He’s a figure that hovers at the edges, a man that can’t walk in a straight line, wears ill-fitting clothes, and says crazy things. He’s the guy that gets them where they want to go.
In The Great Duck Pond War he’s captured by the enemy and held for ransom. Rory comes up with a rescue plan featuring a Trojan Duck (made out of a large cardboard box) and once they’re close enough Amelia challenges their leader to single combat. (Mrs Thompson at the Post Office watches the whole thing and gives them each a lollypop for free, saying she’s not been that entertained in years).
Then when Rory is twelve his Dad has a stroke and dies.
Amelia stands next to him at the funeral, slips her warm hand into his, and lets him hold on tight. It rains hard enough that he can’t tell if he’s crying. The words roll across his mind: if you could go anywhere and any when…
They stop playing games. They’re not kids anymore and they don’t have the time.
Amelia keeps everything though, the things that they made and some of the outfits. She has a little suitcase in her bedroom full of drawings, maps, and puppets, and the Trojan Duck, looking a little worse for wear, lives under her bed. Rory is okay with that, making her the keeper of their memories.
He doesn’t like it when she decides to change her name to Amy, because I’m not a child and I don’t live in a fairytale she says, but he thinks that it’s her name, she can do what she likes with it, and he’ll get used to it.
He also gets used to her taking hold of his hand and leading him about. In the early days it’s how he gets to school, it’s how he gets home, and it’s how he gets up the stairs to bed. She helps him in the kitchen as he learns to cook for the days when his Mum doesn’t get out of bed and she helps him to do the cleaning, although she always forgets to dust the windowsills.
Rory takes over what were his Dad’s jobs around the house the rest of the time, clearing out the gutters, replacing light bulbs, and looking after the garden. Amy tries to help with those tasks as well, but eventually he gets tired of her pulling up the wrong kind of plants. They have a bit of a row and afterwards she does more watching than helping, sitting on top of the garden gate, smiling and swinging her legs, talking about everything and nothing, and he thinks one day he should tell her that helps him more than anything.
At school and college Rory moves from Physics to Biology and studies to be a nurse. He wants to help people, because fixing people is more important than fixing things. He realises that he’s always wanted to help people, has always tried to, and it’s not fair that it takes his Dad dying for him to grasp that.
His Mum wants to know why he doesn’t want to become a doctor and he tells her that nurses are more hands on, that he’s allowed to get to know people and help them everyway he can, even if it’s just with a kind word. Doctors just toss out a diagnosis and move on. Stroke. Besides, he doesn’t say, Doctors are unreliable.
Amy drops out of college (to the disappointment of the History teacher and to the delight of the Art department). She goes from job to job, from helping at the Post Office, to being a receptionist at the hospital, to Assistant Village Caretaker (which mostly involves gardening and doesn’t last long). There’s babysitting and house cleaning and being a kissogram. Some people say they didn’t realise how many jobs were available in Leadworth until they met Amy. They use words like flighty, wild, and unreliable.
Rory knows better. She’s never let him down. It’s just that Amelia Pond has always wanted to be elsewhere.
He’s in the vegetable patch, weeding again, when he hears a distinctive sound that he hasn’t heard or even thought about for a very long time, and Amy fills his head, because if could go anywhere and any when he wants it to be with her.