AN: There's only a few more chapters left in this story. It's all finished, and I was just tweaking things before I posted it over here. This is actually a series. I haven't decided if I'll post the rest or just leave it after this. Either way, thanks so much for reading! I know it's been angsty and for what it's worth, I always give a happy ending. Thanks again! I appreciate all of your comments.
John had phoned Rose at least a half dozen times with no answer. The first few times it rang repeatedly until finally going to voicemail. When he had tried later on, it only rang twice before going straight to voicemail. He knew she must be ignoring his calls, a fact which, oddly, gave him a small measure of comfort. If she was ignoring him, it at least meant she was alive. He didn't like this situation—not one bit. It had too many parallels to that horrible night.
John was torn about everything that had happened in the last forty-eight hours. Things had been progressing, albeit rather slowly. That afternoon at the shop, he had known, with absolute certainty, that things would have reached a turning point had not Martha come in suddenly. And then in an instant, everything had gone pear shaped. They had fought—a fight that made all previous disagreements pale in comparison. The words needed to be said, the feelings to be conveyed. But again, Rose had run, and even though this time he had gone after her, he still couldn't catch her. Despite all of that, he was not going to let her run away from him. John had seen the look in her eyes when he had admitted that he loved her—better yet, he'd seen the look in her eyes when he had declared that she loved him. He had been right—Rose did love him. She just couldn't admit it to him or herself.
After rising late, thanks to a fitful night's sleep, John made his way to the shop. He knew that Rose would more than likely be there. When he walked in, he saw Martha on her phone and pacing by the far back wall, clearly agitated. He saw Calleigh at the espresso machine, occasionally side glancing at Martha. He walked up to Calleigh as a troubled feeling began to build in his stomach.
"What's going on?" he asked her, brow furrowed and nodding his head towards Martha.
Calleigh bit the side of her bottom lip, clearly warring with herself as to whether or not to let him in on what was happening. Much to her relief, she didn't have to—Martha came up to John, clearly upset and confused.
"Hey," Martha said to John, her thoughts clearly elsewhere. She kept running her hand over her hair and taking frequent breaths in an obvious attempt to calm herself.
John lightly grabbed her shoulders, causing her to focus on him. "What's wrong?" he asked calmly, doing his best to both comfort and keep his own feelings in check.
Martha looked at him, her eyes troubled. Finally, letting loose a breath, she threw her hands up and said, "She's gone!"
John felt like he had been sucker punched in the stomach. He knew she meant Rose. "What do you mean 'she's gone'? Where is she?"
"I don't know! Don't ya think if I knew that, I'd be draggin' her bum back here? She didn't tell any of us anythin'! She called Calleigh early this morning and asked her to cover her shifts. Said she was goin' outta town—didn't say where…didn't say one bleedin' thing of any use. And when she finally answered her phone, she just said she needed to think. Wouldn't say where she was or what she needed to think about. I don't even know where to look! I've called everyone I know, checked most of the hotels, and nothin'! I don't have any bleedin' clue as to what's happened or gotten into her!"
John ran a frustrated hand through his hair. The events of last night ragged through his mind, and the possible outcomes that had happened. Martha could see in his eyes that his mind was racing. Something in his manner told her he was holding back something from her.
"What do you know?" she said in a no-nonsense tone, narrowing her eyes.
He looked at her sideways, a measure of uncertainty in his eyes. "I don't know anything."
Martha grabbed his arm forcefully. "John, you have about five seconds to tell me what you know, before I find new uses for that blender over there." The way she said it made John fairly certain she was serious.
He rubbed his face with his hands and looked at her. Sighing deeply, he said, "I saw her last night. We…we fought. She ran out. I went after her but couldn't find her. I honestly don't know where she is."
Martha's confusion was apparent. "What do ya mean ya fought? What could you two possibly have to fight about? Especially after the other night."
John's eyebrow quirked upward. "What do you mean?"
She cocked her head to the side, giving him a knowing smirk. "After your lil' stargazing night…you two kissed, right?"
John could feel a blush slowly spread over him and he turned his gaze downward. He wasn't aware anyone knew about that.
Martha continued, "She was all giddy the next morning, all singing and smiles. And then of course, there's me walkin' in and interrupting whatever it was you two were about to do."
"Yeah, thanks for that, by the way," he sarcastically grumbled.
Martha grinned in spite of herself. Quickly, she turned her attention back to her original question. "Ya still haven't answered me. What did you fight about?"
He finally looked back up at her. "She…she found out that I—and when I tell you this, just keep calm and let me explain—she found out that my new book is inspired by her life."
He immediately saw fire flash in Martha's eyes and heard Calleigh mutter "pig" under her breath.
Martha let out a shaky breath. "You better start explaining…fast!" she said, crossing her arms.
John began to pace. "Can we sit down and talk about this?"
Martha turned on her heels and swiftly moved towards the back sofa. John followed her and again heard Calleigh mutter, although this time he couldn't quite make out what insult she used. They both sat down on the sofa and Martha turned herself towards him, her fiery eyes burning into him. He swallowed hard, trying to push down the anxiety that was rapidly threatening to take over.
"John, you're quickly runnin' outta time before I leap across this sofa and throttle you."
"Alright, alright. Just…," he let out a breath, and then continued, "I didn't exactly write about her life. It was more about her…and what she means…to me."
"I'm not following."
John ran his hand through his hair, yet again. Why is this so hard to explain? "It's about finding what seems impossible. It's about losing everything but refusing to give up—even when the odds are against you. It's about finding someone that defines you—that makes you better. And what you'll fight to be with them."
He glanced over at Martha, her expression unreadable. He let out a frustrated breath. "I'm doing a crap job of explaining this, aren't I?"
"No…no, you're not," she replied, her voice lacking all previous anger. "So, that's it? That's what the fight was about?"
"No…I couldn't really get a word in edgewise about the book. My…my ex, Yvonne…well apparently, she came in here and told Rose something about me using her and writing her 'life story.' Needless to say, she didn't take it well…at all. She came over to my flat, slapped me and tried to run off. I was able to…to get her back inside my place to talk about things and…well…things were said…a lot of things."
Martha nodded her head in understanding, obviously still trying to process everything she had just learnt. After a moment, she leaned forward, closed her eyes, and put her head in her hands.
"I don't know what to do, John. Me and her…we've always been able to get through things together. We've always been there for each other. And now…she said I can't help her this time. That's never happened before…and I don't know what to do."
She looked up at him, her eyes rimmed with tears and begging for an answer. "What am I supposed to do?"
John put his arm around her shoulders and hugged her to him. "Everything's going to be alright. I'll find her…I promise."
oOo oOo oOo
Harriet Noble (nee Jones) had met Rose almost eight years ago, during one of the lowest points in both their lives. Harriet's mother had been battling cancer for over a year and, due to a dangerously abnormal blood count, had ended up back in the hospital. She had stayed by her mother's side, trying to remain a pillar of strength for the increasingly frail woman. The oncologist had asked Harriet to step outside the room so they could speak. So many words were spoken, but they all amounted to one simple fact—her mother was dying. Harriet held her composure through the entire exchange, desperately yearning to be free of this man who had handed her mother a death sentence. When he was finished, he mechanically put a hand on her shoulder and went on his way. She peaked her head into the room, and on seeing her mother asleep, went off to find a quiet place to process. She found the small waiting room and, thankfully, it was empty. She took a seat, placing one arm on the armrest, and burying her face in the palm of her other hand. The tears were silent, but her body racked with each one that fell.
After a few moments, she felt a hand softly cover her own. Harriet turned her head towards the new presence in the room. Her eyes locked with warm hazel ones. As she broadened her focus, she saw the eyes belonged to a young blonde, who was at most eighteen, dressed in jeans and a pink hoodie. Harriet was surprised that this young girl had taken the initiative to comfort a complete stranger.
The blonde girl gave Harriet's hand a brief squeeze. "I'm sorry."
Harriet gave a faint smile through her tears. "Thank you."
They mostly sat together in silence, both content to be each other's comfort. Knowing it was time to rejoin her mother, Harriet again gave her thanks and went to her mother. A few days later, she was on her way to her mother's room when she noticed the same blonde, Rose, attempting to turn the doorknob on the restroom door. Harriet approached Rose and at once noticed a black brace around her wrist. At hearing Harriet's sharp intake of breath, Rose jerked her head upward to see who was beside her, giving Harriet a full view of Rose's battered face. She could see slight fear in Rose's eyes and it broke her heart to see that this young woman had been treated so abominably. After some gentle prodding, Harriet was able to get Rose to confide in her what, or rather who, had caused her injuries—some worthless no-account named Jimmy. Even though she hardly knew Rose, Harriet wasted no time in telling her what she should do with "that animal," with a few of her suggestions eliciting a chuckle from Rose.
They sat together for a few hours, talking and exchanging their reasons for being there. Harriet told her about her mother, and Rose told her of her father and her family's current situation. Her father, Pete Tyler, had discovered he had a malignant tumor on his lung and had been undergoing chemotherapy. The mounting costs of his treatment were taking its toll on them. Her mother was pregnant and unable to work enough hours to keep up with the oncoming bills, and Rose confessed she was considering leaving school to help ease their load. Harriet immediately forbade Rose from doing such a thing, insisting that she had ways of helping her. Before she left to join her mother, Harriet gave Rose her business card and made Rose promise to contact her.
The next day, Rose called and Harriet arranged to meet with her and her family. Although she had initially butted heads with Jackie Tyler, it wasn't long before the two women developed a warm relationship. She could see Rose had inherited Jackie's passion and Pete's warmth. She spent a good amount of time helping the family, arranging for financial assistance and obstetric and pre-natal care for Jackie. Fortunately, Pete's cancer went into remission and the family was able to get their lives back on track. Not too long after that, Jackie gave birth to little Anthony Allen Tyler. Though this was a joyous time for them, it was rather tragic for Harriet—her mother had finally passed.
Several days after the funeral, Harriet received a modest yet beautiful bouquet of daisies—her mother's favorite—along with a heartfelt letter of condolences from Rose. Unfortunately, their interaction, through no direct fault of either party, slacked off. Then almost a year later, Harriet read of the tragic accident that had claimed both parents, leaving an orphaned Rose and Tony. She had made sure to attend the funeral, even waiting till everyone else had left so she could talk to Rose. However, in her grief, Rose had rejected Harriet's attempts at comfort, demanding to be left alone. She had obeyed, although reluctantly. Harriet had attempted numerous times to contact Rose over the years, but the majority of them went unreturned. But every year, without fail, Harriet would leave flowers on their graves and write to Rose, attempting to reconnect with her—hoping that one day, the young girl, who she had come to care for deeply, would come back.
Harriet and her husband, Wilf, had returned earlier than planned from their holiday. Even though they had thoroughly enjoyed their time away, they both agreed it was time to return home. They were in the midst of settling back in, when a knock was heard. Neither of them had told Donna or John that they were returning early, so Harriet was at a loss as to who could be calling on them. Curiously, she answered the door.
Harriet looked in astonishment at the young woman in front of her. She hadn't seen her in almost six years and, honestly, despite her hopes otherwise, never expected to see her again.
"Rose? Rose Tyler? Oh for heaven's sake, child, come in!" she said, opening the door for her to step inside. Rose picked up her small overnight bag and entered the house. Once inside, Harriet embraced her tightly, only pulling back to smile at her. Rose was still a jumble of nerves, but Harriet's reaction at seeing her helped to alleviate some of her uneasiness. Harriet motioned for Rose to follow her into the living room. As she did so, Rose was taken in by the rich décor of the house; it was beautiful, to be sure, but at the same time, it lacked any flashiness or pomp. Harriet sat down on a plush couch and patted the spot next to her, beckoning Rose to join her. She did so.
"Oh, my dear, you haven't changed at all—still beautiful as ever," Harriet said as she took Rose's hand. "Especially now that you don't wear those horrid bruises anymore," she said. Her voice was low and slightly dark as she recalled that past memory of seeing Rose.
Rose squeezed her hand. "That's thanks in large part to you. I owe you a lot, actually. You did so much for me…and I—I've been complete rubbish at showin' what it means to me…what you meant to me. I've been rubbish at so many things," she said as her voice cracked and tears threatened to fall. Harriet looked at Rose and could see that she was in a deep amount of pain.
Rose sniffed as she tried to keep her tears at bay. "I'm sorry…so, so sorry. I know I—I have no right to come here…but…," Rose finally broke down and sobbed, "I just…I didn't know where else to go. I always felt…safe with you…I'm sorry…I should leave," she said, but couldn't get her feet to listen and instead, continued to shake with sobs. Harriet pulled her into her arms.
"You stay right where you are, Rose. You are always welcome here and always will be. You wait here. I'm going to make us some tea, and when I get back, you and I are going to have a long talk about what's troubling you," she said warmly, and patting Rose's shoulder, went into the kitchen. When she had left the room, Rose got up and began looking at the various photos scattered around the room. Harriet and a man, assumedly her husband, mid-dance. Vacation photos. Older child photos, John, D-….wait, John?! She grabbed the frame and stared at it, her mouth widely agape. Why is there a photo of John here? She looked around and found another…and another…and then Donna and Jack…they were everywhere. She suddenly remembered John and Donna speaking of "Uncle Wilf and Aunt Harriet," and she instantly felt the room begin to spin. At that moment, Harriet returned.
"Rose," she said worriedly, "are you…are you alright?"
Rose turned to her, her hand still clutching the frame.
"You're…you're Aunt Harriet?!" Rose choked out.
Harriet wrinkled her brow. "I don't understand."
She lifted the frame. "You're John's aunt?"
"You know John?"
"He's my…I mean I…," Rose trailed off, unable to make a logical sentence in her mind, let alone out loud.
"Rose?" Harriet asked somewhat firmly, trying to bring Rose back to the present.
"I-I should…I should go…I can't let 'im know…not yet…," Rose said absentmindedly, moving around with no real direction. Harriet grabbed ahold of her gently and turned Rose's face towards her.
"Rose, you're staying right where you are. John and Donna don't know we're back yet—no one does, actually. So, there's no reason for you to not stay here," Harriet reassured her, but her tone and manner conveyed that she wouldn't yield to Rose's desire to leave.
Rose weakly sat down on the couch and looked up at Harriet. "I don't…I can't let anyone know where I am right now," she said, her voice childlike and just above a whisper.
Harriet sat beside her, putting her arm around her. "You can stay here as long as you need—and I'll make sure Wilf keeps quiet. But if I'm going to do this, you need to be honest with me."
Rose turned her gaze downward as her tears began to fall. Harriet gently took her chin and tilted Rose's face to meet hers. "Tell me what you're running away from."