This fic was written for the "Stolen" one-shot challenge on the LiveJournal community who-contest. Enjoy!
The first time it is aunt Sharon's watch.
It lies forgotten on the counter where she left it earlier, neglecting to pick it back up when she walked out of the room. Amelia stands there, alone and she's quite busy with the cooking, thank you very much. They were supposed to do it together, but aunt Sharon isn't that good at it, really; she has no patience, her gestures are brisk and she just wants everything to unfold exactly like the book says, to be so neat and orderly, not a single thing out of place. They are supposed to be having a nice time, just the two of them, until she snaps and Amelia snaps back, sometimes she's not quite sure what about.
She can feel the disapproval every time she gets something even slightly wrong. It's not wrong, anyway—it's just not precise, just a bit messy, and she doesn't care, but aunt Sharon does. Aunt Sharon wants her to be a good little girl, she wants a nice dinner and a reliable, accurate recipe. She takes it all so seriously, since itʼs her responsibility; she takes care of everything and keeps the house running like it can fill the empty space.
The grease sizzles and spits in the pan, and from a distance she can hear the hushed words from the living room as she clutches the spatula in her fist. She swallows and pokes at the meat a little viciously—then she turns and, despite herself, inches closer to the door. She pricks her ears, heart beating in her throat. She doesn't want to hear.
She must. She does. She has no choice.
Her aunt and the latter's friend chatter and sigh, bonding over child-rearing. She hears her own name, of course. She tries to focus, looking over the shiny surfaces, eyes catching the silvery glint of the watch. Time ticking away. Dinnertime soon, and then homework time, playtime, and bedtime.
"I do try to push her into more activities, you know," aunt Sharon says. "It isn't healthy to be dreaming so much all the time. Always off in her own little world."
Itʼs always the same words, always, but god, her world is not little. Her world is too small and too wide all at once, mundane and bewildering, bizarrely overwhelming. She isn't dreaming, she's seeing things that are actually there, only nobody else seems to realize—or sheʼs making stories out of a part of truth, about a man sheʼs actually seen. No one ever believes her. But maybe she just doesn't want to be healthy, not in the way aunt Sharon wishes her to be. She makes the word deeper and bigger than it is, like some important standard Amelia fails to live up to.
No one listens, and no one sees, and no one ever really seems to care. They will smile or sigh or pat her head, but they will not listen—there's always better to do, and she's balling her fists so tight, something hurts in the hollow of her palm, squeezed too hard and digging into the flesh. She turns, and runs off to her room.
Later, in the night, their dinner has burned and her makeshift blue box is lying in the corner of her room, an angry heap after hitting the wall, but the watch is still glinting silver on her nighttable. She stares it down, trembling without knowing why. Seconds slip by, all kinds of fancy hands pointing to irrelevant details. She waits for the whole night to pass her by, counting hours in her head for something to think about that isn't the whispers. It feels better than with her clock, or worse; it's like revenge, and cuts both ways.
Her aunt finds her asleep with her head on the floor, half kneeling still, half fallen. She sees the watch too, and Amelia doesn't hear the end of it.
It's just a little too hard to convincingly act contrite. She wishes she'd hidden it away. She wants to just keep something, once in a while, even something that isnʼt really hers. She is owed that, isnʼt she?
It is for the stealing that they send her to the shrink for the first time.
She keeps saying the shrink, even as the years go by and there is a second one, and then a third. It is the same even when it doesnʼt seem to be; the very poised, very soft-spoken lady is akin to the serious elderly man with the glasses, and the younger, slightly more energetic one is no different. Each one of them she loathes on sight. They all call her Amelia, drawling the name so importantly; they all act like they understand; sometimes they smile, sometimes they nod, they ask questions they clearly believe to be ever so clever, and most of all, they are under the delusion that they know her better than she knows herself somehow, when she's only just walked into the room. They see that she's angry, but how could she not be? They only notice that, that and what they're told, and then they assume. How could she not rage? How could she not be defiant, have that attitude?
"Tell me why you're here," this one says, and she retorts: "You know that already."
"Yes, I know, but I wish you would tell me how you feel about all of this. I hear that this is not your first time seeing a psychiatrist, Amelia. Apparently it is not your first time stealing, either. You are not here to be punished for it, but I want to help you understand. Will you help me as well?"
She curls her lips in response. Like hell she will help that man. Like hell she will talk to him, when everything she says is twisted and turned against her eventually.
I hear you have an imaginary friend—
Why did you do that, Amelia? Why did you lash out? Why did you shout? Why did you take those things?
Why are you angry?
Why are you angry?
She didn't mean to take anything, but then she did. She isn't angry, but something is roaring in her chest and there is a smothering haze clouding her mind, making everything distorted and unbearable. She isn't delusional: she knows things, she understands what is real and what is not. Her life is real, her house is real, the people around her are real. Her wall is real. Her nightmares are. Her memories are.
Everything is real around her, so steady, so quiet, so still, and she crashes into cold stone and pliable people everywhere she turns.
"Amelia? Will you answer me?"
She won't. She won't. She only curls her fists.
"I'm not a thief," she spits. She doesn't take things, they are taken from her.
Together, they run until their lungs are aching and burning, until they collapse together near the roots of an old tree, too breathless to speak or even laugh.
There is a creek dancing and gurgling closeby, singing to them only. This moment is theirs, this place and this rush of liberty; there's nothing else like it. She pants for air and squeezes her eyes shut, drinking it all in.
Amelia knows she'll be yelled at, a notion faraway yet still somewhat present, making her stomach clench just a little bit—more than she cares to admit. Were it only about her, she would face recriminations with her chin tilted defiantly high. But there is Mels, drawn to trouble like moth to flame, a little more each day—and most of all she fears that they will try to pull them apart, throwing around words like "mutual negative influence", "mischief" and "learn to behave". She scowls at the mere idea. She feels like she's behaving painfully well, most of every tedious second, and people never even seem to notice. Mels understands—Mels feels the same restlessness, though she is even worse than her in fact, in many ways.
"You okay?" Mels says, because Mels sees.
(Which can be annoying, too, mind—)
There is a moment or two before Amelia can answer in more than a wheeze. "I'm fine," she retorts then, with as much dignity as she can muster. "You're not that much faster, you know. I can keep up with you any day."
"Yeah." Mels starts laughing at that; Amelia shoves her, but she doesn't stop. She giggles wildly, and then shakes her head. "We don't need to go back," she says. "We can live here, by the creek. We'll drink the water and steal apples from that tree we saw on the way, and we'll never need to do as we're told again. Just you and me. It'll be fun."
Amelia laughs at that too, though she has that tiny, strange feeling that Mels is serious, or very nearly so. "Yeah, right," she drawls. "We'll be found, and it'll be hell. Or we'll get cold, anyway, and get all sick and it won't be fun anymore, it'll be stupid."
"You coward," Mels quips back, "coward, coward, coward."
Amelia hits her side again. "Don't call me that!"
"You're being one, right now."
"Not true. And you are just a silly person who never thinks, Melody."
She snarls: "It's Mels."
Amelia doesn't push it—she gets that one. Considering her point made, she scrambles to sit up instead, gazing stubbornly into the leaves of the tree. She counts seconds in her head until she can peer back into her friend's face, not wanting to look like she's letting her have the last word.
Mels is impossible. She's annoying, and as stubborn as she is, but not even Scottish to get away with it—she has crazy ideas and always wants to be right. She's a terrible pain, really, but Amelia is still her friend and she can't even help it. There is that bond between them and it is the way it is, no questions asked.
They have that, and nobody is taking it away. Certainly not any pesky grown-ups. Mels isn't going anywhere even when she's bouncing all over the place, aching for wildness.
Amelia doesn't dwell on that too much. She doesnʼt have that many certainties and they never seem to hold.
"I'd do it if there was a point," she speaks again, deciding to pretend she's talking up at the tree. "But they'll get us back, anyway. And you know that. It's like you want to get in trouble."
"Maybe I do."
"Well, you do it alone then. I'm not stupid. I know that's not the way to do it if you want people to leave you alone."
Mels scoots closer and grins at her cheekily, poking her until Amelia deigns to look down at her. "Maybe I don't want to be left alone. Maybe I don't care."
Amelia doesn't answer that, and Mels rolls back over and sighs. "But it's nice here," she carries on, "and that's all I care about, you know? I'll go where I want, and I'll do what I want, because I can."
"Well I can't!" Mels can't very well either, actually, and she must know it, they both do—so why does she push? True freedom is just stories. They are stuck in the real world, the two of them, where they donʼt fit.
Amelia doesn't want the knot in her throat, the taste of tears. She's tougher than that. She told herself she wouldn't cry anymore, when things like this happen—things unreachable, things impossible, slipping through her fingers.
Then Mels' head is resting against her arm, and she can't trust her face or voice, so she just stays exactly where she is and gazes up, up, up. The wind is on her cheeks, her forehead, ruffling her hair like gentle fingers. The air smells strong and sweet, water and rocks and grass and soil all mixing together, and she closes her eyes so she doesn't have to see how it's all so familiar.
For now, they are here, and they are free, and there is no one to tell them what to do. She has that; she can hold it close. She can remember this moment, silly, childish, useless as that is, because it's like one tiny taste of running away. Stolen time, small defiance.
It takes forever before any of them moves, each just clinging to the next second. It almost hurts to be so still. She could be like a fish in the water, sliding away, but she's not and she canʼt ever be.
Stupid fantasies of hers.
Something old. Something new. Something borrowed—
Rory has always been there.
She can't recall a time without him there—she can't recall a time when he hasn't been with her, somewhere, somehow. Around her, on her heels, in her corner. It didn't always show—but she would turn, and there he was, and in a way, that was both the most normal thing and an ever-renewed surprise. Rory Williams, shy, clumsy, wry, comforting Rory. How he annoyed her sometimes, when they were kids. How she could wish that he would just go away, because he didn't understand—
Rory doesn't claim things that aren't his. He doesn't rage against the world. He doesn't long to cut free of his roots. Rory is grounded and sensible, just taking things as they are—the rocky shore to her stormy sea, a constant thing, forgotten beneath her feet as she runs and runs. Yet he is not going anywhere. Little Amelia longed for something, anything that wasn't going anywhere, even as she loathed the stillness and trembled with longing, feeling trapped and untrusting.
Amy doesn't know what she's running from. It could be the village, or people's eyes, or the long white dress and the mutual claim of forever. She doesn't recall who first had that notion, and people stare when she says that, so she stops saying it and just twists the ring around her finger, again and again and again until she just pulls it off and keeps it tucked in her palm. It is hers and does not belong to her. It might have been stolen, somehow, from a different girl, one that can say "I do" without her throat closing around the words.
Rory is Rory and she can be herself with him, but she will not be Mrs. Williams. That's just fine, he says, why should he care—and she shakes her head and tries to laugh. It's not the point.
Amelia Pond is a stranger, no matter how she twists and turns the name around. How can she be herself when everything dissolves around her? There is no one to give her away but what would there be to give?
Amy doesn't know how to give. Take she can do, as a thief does—quick to grasp and quick to deny, heart roaring in her ears. Steal and be stolen.
It is only a temporary thrill, but all things in this world are temporary.
They steal many things he insists are just borrowed, hand-picked through time and space at a whim or an urgent need—really, really, he can drop them back just whenever he likes.
It is still stealing. He just snags things, people, and seems so thoughtless about it, it's almost like it doesn't matter. It does, Amy knows—if it didn't he would not snap quite so tightly, all flaily hands and angry, defensive sentences blurring together over the controls. He would just laugh it off, and he does try, but she sees through the pretence like through a clumsy, misshapen mask, easily torn away. He changes the subject and flits to the next thing, elusive. He throws glances at her when he thinks she's not looking. He's been like that for a little while now; maybe it's since Vincent, though she has the feeling it was somewhat earlier.
Maybe it is the guilt. He stole her, too, sank into her leaving seeds of longing, and reeled her in after years or, he insists, seconds. She doesn't mind. It feels good to be stolen, rather than the grasping hand, always empty.
She has both roles in his wake, the fugitive and the prize, all of the rush and none of the responsibility. She has no one to tell her off. She has no one to be good for. All of time is there at her fingertips, if she only asks; no need to dread the ever-looming end, the dream fading, reality coming to call. The dream is real. Her adventures are hers. Nothing has to fade away or be snatched back.
It's funny, how she's never felt so light. It could be scary. It is a life, not the one she's supposed to have and yet entirely hers. An opened door. Alice tumbling down the hole, deeper and deeper and deeper.
So light, she doesn't want to stop and think. She doesn't want to read into their giddiness.
She is there, she is. She owns this—and what if there is something missing? She never had much to leave behind, anyway.