This isn't a date. This is just two mates goin' for chips. This isn't a date.
Rose kept silently repeating that mantra over and over in her head as she and John walked towards her favorite chip street vendor. The more time they spent together, the hard it was for Rose to keep John at a distance. Every second she spent with him increased her inner struggle, and Rose could feel her resolve weakening. While she wanted nothing more than to fall headlong into the euphoria being with him would bring, Rose refused to allow herself to fulfill that desire. A war between fear and longing raged within her daily, leaving her emotionally and, at times, physically exhausted. Every day was filled with constant denial about their relationship, about her feelings. Rose wouldn't even allow her subconscious to entertain any inclinations towards John, no matter how he made her feel.
As they arrive at the chip cart, her mobile rang. Seeing it was Martha, Rose stepped aside to answer it.
"Hey Martha. Everythin' alright?"
"Yeah, 'cours it is. I just wanted to let ya know that Mick's gonna pick up Tony."
"Why's he pickin' 'im up?" Rose asked, furrowing her brow. She could sense circumstances were being manipulated. She should've known that Martha wouldn't have listened when she told her to leave it alone.
"Since when does he need a reason? He said he'd take 'im to a movie or somethin'. Point is, you two don't have to rush back. Ya can take as much time as ya want. Listen, I gotta go. Some customers just walked in. Love ya."
"Martha…," Rose started, but the called abruptly ended. Rose swore under her breath; she was definitely going to give Martha what for when she got back. John's sudden voice broke her train of thought.
"Everything ok?" John worriedly asked as he came up beside her, two baskets of chips in his hands.
"Yeah," Rose answered, pushing back her irritation and putting on a smile. "Everythin's fine. That was Martha. I guess, Mickey's gonna pick up Tony. Somethin' about taking 'im to a movie or something. Thanks for these," she motioned to the chips, "What do I owe you?" she asked, taking them from him.
"You don't owe me anything." At seeing her begin to protest, John smiled and shook his head resolutely, saying, "Seriously, my treat. Since we don't have to rush, do you want to sit in that little park we passed?"
Still not a date, Rose. "Sure," she agreed, beaming at him.
Reaching the park, they found an empty bench and sat down side by side, their arms a hair's breadth away from touching. God, he smells good…really good. And his hair. Wonder what it… Rose shook herself out of her reverie, just as John turned to look at her.
"So... Can I ask you something?" he asked her, his nervousness apparent.
"Sure," she agreed hesitantly.
"So, uh... Martha said something that made me curious. We were having a…eh…conversation and she said that you saved her life. What did she mean by that?"
Rose's eyes widened slightly and she took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Oh. I'm surprised she said anythin' 'bout. I mean it's not exactly a secret; we just don't really... well, we don't talk about it."
John fidgeted as Rose spoke, clearly uncomfortable. Running a nervous hand through his hair, he began to ramble. "I'm sorry. I know it's not my place to ask. I didn't mean to be intrusive. I can be a bit rude sometimes. Sorta like Donna. Except not ginger. That's me, I guess-rude and not ginger. I just-"
Rose chuckled at his rushed words, and put her hand on his reassuringly. "No, John, it's okay. Really. Like I said, it's not exactly a secret." Rose took a steadying, yet quiet breath before speaking again. "Martha and I were in school together, but weren't really friends. Actually, to say she hated me would be an huge understatement."
John raised his eyebrows at that revelation. Knowing their relationship now, he couldn't imagine that ever being the case.
"I used to, uh... date this bloke named Jimmy Stone. Just for a little while. He was one of those bad boys that teenage girls fall all over. But he was…well, he, uh... he knocked me around quite a bit."
Rose looked up at John as she felt his hand tense beneath hers. Looking up, she saw his jaw lock, and his eyes turn almost coal black with rage. Rose squeezed his hand, partly to calm him and partly because she appreciated the fact he cared so strongly, though he barely knew the truth.
Clearing her throat and distancing herself from the vivid memories, she continued, "Made excuses for 'im at first, but wasn't long before I got my head on, and left 'im. After that, Jimmy set his sights on Martha. Me and Mickey happened to be at the pub they went to for their date. As usual, Jimmy got sloshed and thought she was flirtin' with Mickey. Which, of course, she wasn't. He dragged her outside and tried to start in on her like he used to with me. But I got to 'im before he could do anythin'. Found out I have a pretty mean right hook."
John smiled somewhat proudly at her, but his expression became somber as he said, "I'm sorry you both had to go through that. So sorry."
Rose swallowed, turning her head away as she nodded. "Yeah... But we did, and it's done. We're stronger for it, I guess." Awkwardly clearing her throat, she turned back to look at him, this time a smile covering all previous traces of pain. "So…my turn now."
"What do you mean?" was John's confused reply.
"It's my turn to ask a personal question. Turnabout's fair play," she teased.
John grinned at her. "Fire away, Rose Tyler."
She looked at him squarely. "Do you really want to write another novel?"
John mirrored her expression. "You asked me that the other day. Was driving me a little spare thinking about it. What do you mean by that?"
Rose popped another chip into her mouth. "Well…you said Jack insisted you write the first one. Then, you said you wrote the second because the first did good. But, it sounds like you're just doing it because it's expected, not because it makes you happy. Maybe that's why you can't think of what to write for this one, yeah?"
John turned his head forward, looking pensive. He took a breath. "Weelll, I guess I never thought of it that way."
As the silence persisted, Rose felt a little uncomfortable at her intrusion, afraid that she had somehow overstepped. John saw her discomfort and gave her a small warm smile, which seemed to put her at ease. But then John started to fidget slightly, and tug on his ear. She could tell he was working up the nerve to ask something, and apparently it was something difficult, if his behavior was any indication.
"Can I…can I ask what happened to your parents?"
Instantaneously, Rose felt the air leave her lungs. This was one subject she rarely talked about with anyone. And when she did talk, it was only to a limited degree. But looking into John's waiting and concerned eyes, Rose took a breath and decided to try.
"It was a, uh...drunk driver. It was about one in the afternoon but he was still trashed. Never could understand that. Anyway, they, um…they died almost instantly."
Rose could feel the tears threatening to fall, her eyes burning. She sniffed, trying to bat them back, her hair falling in her face as she did so. Suddenly, John's hand grazed her cheek, lifting her hair back and tucking it behind her ear. The intimate gesture took Rose completely by surprised, and she flitted her eyes up to meet his; and what she saw caused her breath to hitch. His eyes held such concern and…love that she started to struggle for air. Everything was still for a moment. No noise, no movement. Time was suspended. It was just him and her, looking intently at each other. And then…
Her mobile rang; and just like that, the moment was shattered and now awkward. Haphazardly, Rose grabbed for her mobile and answered it.
"Hello? ... No, this isn't Katie... No worries," she said hurriedly, and ended the call. Despite her raging nerves, she smiled at him as she explained. "Wrong number. I think we should, um, head back. I don't wanna leave Martha by herself for too long. It starts to get kinda hectic 'round this time."
John did his best to hide his disappointment, and nodded his head as they both stood to up to leave. They walked most of the way in silence, but sneaked occasional glances at each other. In short order they reached the shop. Just before Rose reached for the door, John grabbed her hand to stop her. She turned to look up at him, her insides fluttering uncontrollably after all that had transpired. He looked so nervous that she was afraid of what was coming next, and more importantly, if she could withstand it.
"Rose, uh…my uncle's firm holds this 'thank you' gala every year for all their clients. It's this Friday. Would you, uh… would you want to go...with me?" he fumbled about, never letting go of her hand.
No. Don't do it, Rose. Just tell 'im no. NO!
But when Rose looked into his eyes, all resolve failed. "Yes."
A huge smile broke out on his face and she couldn't help but mimic it. "Really?" he inquired with what sounded like a giggle.
She shook her head in affirmation, poking the slightest bit of tongue through her teeth. "Yeah...What time do I need to be ready?"
"I could pick you up around 7:30."
"Sounds good. I'll see you then, John."
"This one?" Rose asked, holding up yet another dress to herself.
Martha stopped reading her magazine, and looked up from her perch on Rose's bed. "Eh," she shrugged, "I still like the black one best, but that one's good too."
Rose groaned and turned back to the closet, throwing the dress back in.
"Sooo...," Martha drawled, "Are we gonna agree that this is a date?"
Rose continued to stare at the unchanging wardrobe. "We are agreeing that I am goin' to a party with John. That's all we are agreeing to."
"Whatever," Martha snorted. "I'm not gonna argue this with you tonight. Tomorrow maybe, but not tonight."
Rose kept irritably pushing hangers back and forth, still indecisive.
"I'm telling you, pick the black one."
"Fine. Fine," Rose grumbled, and grabbed the dress, heading to the loo to change. Said black dress was classically simple. It was right at floor level, with thin straps and a square neckline that was just low enough to be flattering and not look like she was trying to sell something. It was an excellent choice, and once John saw her in it, he'd lose all remaining ability to focus; Martha was certain of it.
John arrived at exactly 7:30, and Mickey let him in. They both went into the living room where Martha was reading and Tony was on the floor playing. Seeing John, Tony got up hurriedly and hugged him. Martha smiled and quickly headed upstairs to get Rose. John and Mickey sat and began chatting away, Tony interrupting frequently to show John something or another. A few moments later, Rose came down and John stopped midsentence, just staring at her, his mouth agape. Her hair was in soft curls that cascaded down her back. Her black dress fit her just so, highlighting all the right features. John's eyes widened as he took in the entire sight. Realizing his mouth was hanging open, he quickly shut it and gulped. Seeing his effected manner, Rose looked down and blushed.
"Rose! You look like a princess!" Tony said in awe, running up and embracing her tightly.
"Thanks, Tony Bear," she said, placing a kiss to his blond mop.
"Y-y-you look…stunning," John said, unable to take his eyes off her.
"Thank you," she replied softly, her cheeks burning. "Ready?"
Rose felt a little overwhelmed by the atmosphere and more than a little self-conscious, as they entered the ballroom. Slightly unsure of herself, she turned to look at John and saw him beaming at her. He stuck out his arm for her, and taking it, they went over towards Jack and Donna. Donna eagerly gave Rose a big hug.
"You look absolutely amazing, Rose," she said, taking a step back to look at her fully.
"I'll second that," Jack agreed, giving her a quick hug. When he pulled back from Rose, he leaned into Donna, and whispered, "But you still get my vote." Donna smiled up at him and gave him a quick kiss.
Rose blushed, and tucked her hair behind her ear. "Thank you both. This place is stunning," she said as she took a look around.
"Oh, Uncle Wilf's firm goes all out for these things. No expense spared," John told her.
"Are your aunt and uncle here?"
"No, they're traveling. Aunt Harriet threatened him with bodily harm if he didn't take a holiday, considering he hasn't taken one in three years," Donna informed her.
"I'd say he definitely deserves one then," Rose smiled.
The four of them made their way to their table, and continued their conversation. The evening progressed and Rose found herself having one of the most enjoyable times ever in her life. John never left her side the whole evening, not once. Rose also couldn't help but notice that he also couldn't quit looking at her with that look, the look he had given her in the park. It stirred her every time she caught sight of it. You need to get it together, Rose. Y'know you can't let this happen... Nothin' can happen between you two...
It wasn't long before Rose noticed that a certain blonde had made her way past their table several times within the last hour. It was as if she was keeping tabs on them. Curious, she turned to Donna. "Who is that?" she said as she motioned to the woman in question. Donna turned to where Rose was indicating, and let out a small growl.
"That's Yvonne. She and John used to date for a brief time. Very brief, mind you. Thankfully, he came to realize that she was spoiled and a complete cow, and dropped her like a hot potato. She just has a hard time remembering that sometimes. Not used to rejection, that one. Don't worry about her though. Just have a good time," she said and gave her a reassuring smile.
Despite what Donna might have thought, Rose wasn't worried about some jealous ex-girlfriend. In truth, she was worried about herself. John was getting much too close to her, and she was allowing him. She knew it and she was having such a hard time stopping it; and being here, in this beautiful place, with him looking so utterly incredible and continuing to look at her like he was, and Rose knew her strength was floundering. The man in question turned to her suddenly.
"Would you like to dance? I know you have the moves, I've seen them," John said with a teasing smile, holding out his hand to her.
Rose groaned as she remembered her awkward spectacle. "Oh, I was hoping you had forgotten about that."
"Trust me. There's no way I can forget that," he said, his voice low and eyes dark.
Rose felt her cheeks flush, and her breath hitched once again. She stared at his hand, at the decision being placed before her. Slowly, she took his hand and he led her to the dance floor. The band began to play and the woman on stage began to sing Feeling Good. Rose felt John's hand move to her lower back and her heart skipped at the contact. The music played on, and they swayed slowly, becoming completely entranced in each other. Without thought, they moved closer in together, though they were practically already entwined. The song reached its crescendo.
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
It's a new life
And I'm feeling good
Rose looked up at John and was suddenly overcome with fear. The ruins of her guard at her feet. She broke away slowly, her hands the last to leave.
"I-I, uh…I need a mo'," she muttered, and quickly turned on her heel. She knew he was watching her, could feel his eyes on her. After what seemed like an eternity, she reached the back of the room. It was just then that Yvonne decided to approach her.
"So, you're John's new girlfriend?" she smirked, taking a critical eye to her. "I see he's lowered his standards."
Rose rolled her eyes at the cattiness. "I'm not his girlfriend so you can quit your pathetic attempt to intimidate me, and get over y'self. Now, if you'll excuse me…," she finished and moved to leave. Yvonne attempted to grab her arm, but Rose shook her off easily. Quickly, she retrieved her coat and fled outside. She started down the sidewalk but was stopped by John's voice.
"Rose! Rose, wait!" he called as he ran up to her.
She turned towards him, averting her eyes. She couldn't look into them, not when she was so close to breaking completely. "John. I-I'm sorry but I need to go," she answered hurriedly. She again turned to rush off, but John grabbed her hand, holding it tightly.
"Did Yvonne say something to you?" he inquired somewhat hotly. "Because she-"
Rose shook her head. "No, she didn't do anythin'. Ya can practically smell crazy on her. I just…I just need to go." She tried to leave again, but he held fast to her, tightening his grasp. Rose finally looked up at him, her eyes pleading.
"John, please... let me go."
He didn't, but rather walked up to her and cupped her cheek. He looked at her, his eyes dark and raging with emotion.
"John…please…," she whispered.
John leaned down and gently pressed his lips to hers. Her eyes fluttered closed, and she leaned into the kiss. Rose began to lose herself in the moment, in his embrace, in everything. Just as the kiss began to intensify, she realized what was transpiring, and she jerked away.
She shook her head in denial, in confusion at the whole event. Pulling her coat tighter around her, she tried to slow her breathing. "I-I can't... I can't do this. I'm sorry. I can't."
John ran his hand angrily through his hair and began to pace. He rubbed his face in his hands, clearly frustrated and his irritation building.
"I don't understand what's going on. I don't understand one bloody bit of this! Do you not care about me? Is that what this is? Because if so, you should just tell me now, Rose, instead of leading me on!"
Rose stared at him, his words slapping her in the face. "Y'think I'm leading you on? Really?"
John threw his hands in the air. "What am I supposed to think? You're hot and cold. For God's sake, you bloody kiss me and then jerk away! What is going on with you?" He tugged at his hair in anger, continuing to pace. "Maybe I was wrong. Maybe you don't feel anything for me," he said, his frustration and confusion reaching the boiling point.
"Don't feel anythin'? That's the whole reason I'm pushin' away! I want nothin' more than-...," she trailed off, closing her eyes briefly before looking back at him. "I can't breathe when I'm around you. I can't get you out of my mind. But I can't do this. I just can't! I'm sorry but I can't!" she said, her eyes rimmed with tears.
He threw his arms up again. "Why? Tell me why! Give me one good reason w-"
"Because I'm afraid!" she shouted and her finally tears gave way. John looked at her, unsure what to do or say. "I'm terrified! Because if I lost you I couldn't bear it! I've already lost two people of the most important people in my life. They didn't just die in some car wreck. I watched them die. I saw the life fade away from them. I saw everything. I fought to get to them. I fought so hard and I couldn't-...I couldn't do anythin'! I can't take that chance to feel that pain again."
John approached her slowly, still confused. "So, you're afraid of me dying? Is that it?"
"I'm afraid of my heart breaking again! Because what I feel for you, it's so strong that if…if I-I…I don't wanna deal with this! I can't!" she turned and began to walk off. John rushed forward and grabbed at her arm, but she pulled out of his grasp. Sobbing, she fled, never looking back.
The clouds broke, and the rain began to fall heavily. John could do nothing but watch as her figure faded in the distance.
The phone began to ring. She stirred in bed, not wanting to answer, hoping the annoying sound would just suddenly cease. However, it persisted.
Whatever bloody idiot is calling this early, better pray that I don't kill 'em.
Grabbing the phone, she snapped into the receiver. "Hello? …Yeah, that's me…what?! I'm sorry c-can ya... can ya say that again?"
The phone suddenly fell to the floor as she let out an anguished cry and began sobbing uncontrollably.
The man beside her awoke with a start. "Babe? Babe, what is it?" He began to panic. Seeing the abandoned phone, he picked it up. "Hello? ...No, this is her husband."
"Yes, this is Anna from St. Timothy's. I'm sorry but there's been an accident…"
Again... thanks to all of you. Have I mentioned it sucks that I can't reply to all of your comments? Because it really, really does! Thanks for reading!