Horns blaring. Tires screeching as they struggled to halt. Screaming her throat raw because they cannot stop in time. Sounds of twisting metal. Screams all around. Running frantically. Her pulse bounding in her ears. Smoke...so, so much smoke. Hands trying to hold her back, digging into her arms. Fighting them off and stumbling to the unidentifiable wreckage. Seeing their hands reaching for one another, entwining their fingers for the last time. Her beating on the metal, trying to get them out. Reaching through the broken glass to feel them again, desperate for physical contact. Looking into their eyes, and watching the life fade away. Gashes on her arms, streaks of blood on her hands. Unsure of its owner. Can't breathe. Can't breathe. Can't…
Rose shot up out of bed, gasping for breath. Clutching at the sheets till her knuckles whitened, she took several ragged breaths, trying to steady herself in the wake of the nightmare.
C'mon Rose. Get it together.
She picked up her phone and looked at the time—3:48 A.M. Rose knew for a certainty that there was no way she would be able to go back to sleep; she never was able to after one of these episodes. Making her way downstairs, Rose went to the kitchen and put on the kettle. Tea always had a calming effect on her, stemming from when she was a little girl and her mum would lovingly prepare a cuppa for her after a troubling dream. She could still vividly remember when her mum had shown her the "proper" way to prepare tea, engraining into her that "everythin' else was pure rubbish." It was also stressed that these techniques were a family secret, and Rose had loyally held that secret near her heart, telling no one. Not even Martha.
The blaring steam whistle brought her back to the present. She took the mug and sat down at the kitchen table, focusing on letting the hot liquid melt away the dark images from earlier.
"Rose? What are you doin' up?" Mickey asked groggily as he shuffled in, his eyes squinting as he tried to adjust to the light.
Rose tried to be vague;she really didn't want to relive earlier. "Needed some tea. Sorry I woke you. You want a cuppa?"
Nodding, he plopped down in a chair. "Sounds good, thanks."
Pouring him a cup, she reclaimed her seat. Mickey took a few sips and quietly studied her. Still silent, he scooted his chair closer to her. Rose fidgeted in her seat, knowing what he was going to ask.
"How bad was it this time?" he said, looking at her knowingly.
Rose took a deep breath, trying to steady herself as she felt bile rise in her throat. Without looking at him, she said, "I've had worse. Still shook me up though."
She felt his arm go around her and she instinctively leaned into him, resting her head against his shoulder. Taking a few more breaths, Rose forced back the hot tears that pricked her eyes. They sipped their tea in silence, Mickey's arm still around her reassuringly. After roughly a half hour, Rose began to insist he should head back to bed. Even though he was exhausted, Mickey didn't feel right leaving her in what he knew was a raw state. After Rose made several assurances that she was genuinely alright, Mickey reluctantly acquiesced, kissed the top of her head, and made his way back upstairs. Deciding that she had wasted enough time sitting around, Rose went to the shop early, figuring she could do some extra baking and preparations for the noontime rush.
The morning was busier than usual and kept her on her toes till Martha came in around 11:00 A.M. Finally a much needed lull descended, and Rose made herself a caramel breve, leaning against the countertop and languidly sipping the creamy contents. Reaching under the counter, she pulled out a book that she kept there specifically for such moments. This month was Pride & Prejudice—her favorite, which was evident by the beyond worn spine and dog-eared pages. She had just finished reading of Mr. Collins' unwelcomed arrival, when John Noble walked into the shop…looking great…really,really great. Don't go there, Rose! Just don't! She put down her book, and they met each other with warm smiles.
"Three days in a row, John. Can I take it that you like the place?"
"Weelll, maybe just a little," he grinned.
Rose felt a stirring within her at that brilliant grin, and that reaction troubled her greatly. There was no reason for her to be feeling that way, and it was much too risky.It'll pass. It's nothin'. Just a silly grin.
"So, are you gonna be more decisive today, or are we going to have yet another Q&A on every drink and dessert in the shop?" she asked teasingly, poking her tongue through her teeth.
His grin broadened, becoming increasingly brilliant—(he REALLY needs to stop that)—and said, "Every barista should know their product. Just making sure you know your stuff."
She raised an eyebrow. "Look at you, knowin' what a barista is! Most people I meet don't know that."
"Weelll, I am rather brilliant."
"And oh so humble, too," Rose chuckled. "Tell ya what, how about you go sit somewhere and I'll surprise you?"
"What if I don't like it?" he teased.
Rose put her hand to her chest, pretending to look offended. "You doubt my abilities? I'll make you a deal. If y'don't like it, I'll give ya free drinks for a week."
"No, ya won't," Martha hollered out from the kitchen.
Rose rolled her eyes. "Ignore her. So…Deal?
Smiling, John nodded. "I accept your terms, Rose Tyler."With that, he walked to the back sofa.
Rose began putting the ingredients into the blender—white chocolate base, coconut and macadamia nut syrup, half and half, and ice. She topped it off with homemade whipped cream and a very light dusting of coconut shavings. Satisfied with her presentation, Rose took the drink and made her way back to John. Seeing her, he put down the book he was flipping through, and took the drink. He pulled out his glasses and began studying the drink—holding it up, sniffing it, rubbing a little whipped cream between his fingers before darting his tongue out to taste it.
She rolled her eyes. "Oh for goodness sake, just drink it, will ya?"
John took a sip, his eyes widening at once. He pulled back and looked at her. "This is fantastic!" he said and then went back to greedily slurping it down.
She smiled, tongue in teeth. "Told ya! Although, I wouldn't drink it so fast y'll get-"
John scrunched his eyes and grabbed his forehead.
"Brain freeze," she finished, giggling.
He quickly recovered and went back to sipping on his drink. "So, what do you call this?"
Rose sat down next to him, but still at a comfortable distance. "The Barnett Blast. When we were fixin' this place up, we had some electrical issues. Messed wiring or whatnot. We were a lil' hard-pressed for money, so the electrician gave us a break on the bill. We wanted to thank him, so we named a drink after 'im. One of our best sellers—he's quite proud of it, too. Brags to anyone who'll listen."
"I can see why. It's-," he broke off, slurping every last bit of drink through the straw, "amazing."
She laughed at his childlike enjoyment. Suddenly remembering the lateness of the hour, she checked the time. "Sorry, but I've got to go get Tony from school," she apologized to him and hurriedly standing up.
John tugged nervously at his ear, seemingly unsure of himself. "Would, um…would you like some company?"
Rose was surprised by his offer, but happily so. And only because she enjoyed his company and nothing else, of course. "Uh, sure. I mean that's...that's if you wanna come."
He shook his head enthusiastically. "Yeah, I'd love to come."
"Ok," she said, smiling. Her face was starting to hurt from all the smiling she was doing around him. "I'm heading out now, Martha. Be back in a bit," she called out.
When they got outside, Rose turned to him and said, "It's just a couple blocks from here. Don't mind walkin', do ya?"
He shook his head. "No, not at all."
They walked in silence for a few moments before Rose broke the silence. "So what do you do, John? For work I mean."
"I'm a writer, actually."
"Really?" she question, looking at him with genuine surprise.
John smirked at her expression. "That so hard to believe?"
Rose smiled at him, slightly embarrassed. "No, I didn't mean it like...like that. Just kinda unexpected, s'all. Tony said y'were really into science and after the ketchup thing, I guess I just assumed you did something along those lines."
"I wanted to, actually. Started out in Physics, but I took an English Lit class and after that I was hooked. I found it...I don't know…"
She looked at him thoughtfully. "Liberating?"
He looked down at her, his dark chocolate eyes warm and his smile bright. "Yes, exactly. Wrote some small stuff, then Jack pestered me to try my hand at a novel. First one did really well, so I wrote a second and that did a little better. I'm working on the third now."
"So what's it about?" Rose asked, genuinely curious.
John rubbed the back of his neck and looked at her sheepishly. "Weelll, I'm not quite sure at the moment. I seem to be a little... stuck, as it were."
"Well, what were the others about?"
"Well, they were science fiction. Time travel and temporal displacements, things like that. I didn't have too much trouble with them, so I'm not sure why this time is different," he said, slight concern evident in his voice.
"Do you want to write another one?" Rose asked, looking up at him.
"Why wouldn't I?" John looked at her with a look she couldn't identify. Surprise? Confusion? Rose wasn't sure.
She shook her head. It wasn't her place to question his choices. "No reason. Just askin'. So what were the na—"
Her question died on her lips because suddenly, John grabbed her hand and jerked her close to him as a bicyclist raged by, just narrowly missing her. Looking at each other slowly, they both suddenly realized that they were very close to each other, hands firmly entwined. For the second time that day, Rose couldn't breathe; except this time, the reason was rather... pleasant. They quickly pulled away, and blushing, Rose said, "T-thanks for savin' me."
"Always," he said, the tops of his ears turning bright red.
A loud bell shattered the tense silence, and Rose realized that they were in front of the school. A few moments later, they saw Tony come running out, and Rose was grateful that she didn't have to wait in an embarrassed silence. Tony ran and threw his arms around Rose in a tight embrace. Then, seeing John, he practically leapt on him. John looked just as happy to see Tony, and quickly pulled him into a warm hug.
"What are ya doin' here, John?" Tony asked excitedly.
Smiling and ruffling his hair, John said, "Weelll, I couldn't let Rose here walk all alone. Plus, I wanted to see my favorite scientist."
"My thoughts exactly," John chuckled.
Rose watched the exchange with extreme pleasure. It was the happiest she'd seen Tony, and John's genuine interest and affection warmed her heart. Pulling herself from her musings, she addressed them both. "C'mon you two. We can't leave Aunt Martha by herself for too long," Rose said, taking Tony's hand.
"Can I ride on your shoulders, John?" Tony asked, widening his big brown eyes in pleading.
"Tony!" Rose scolded.
John just laughed and lowered himself so that Tony could climb up.
Rose was genuinely embarrassed at Tony's forwardness. "John, please. Ya don't have to do that! Tony, that was just rude!"
"But Roooose! He's sooo tall. I can see everythin'!"
"It's really alright. I don't mind," John assured her. His assurance put her at ease, but a twinge of embarrassment remained.
"John, do ya like pancakes?" Tony asked.
Looking up, John smiled and said, "Of course! Who doesn't?"
"Awesome! Coz Sunday is Pancake Day. Rose makes the most awesome pancakes. Sometimes, she puts chocolate chips in them or peanut butter. This last time, she put strawberries and whipped cream on them. So ya should come over and eat pancakes with us!"
"Tony! Stop it! Ya can't just put people on the spot. Maybe John doesn't want pancakes. Maybe he has plans." Rose could feel her cheeks getting hot with embarassment.
Doing his best to look at him, Tony asked, "Do ya have plans, John?"
"Nope. Free as a bird," John answered, smiling widely and looking from Tony to Rose.
Oh God, there's that smile again.
"See Rose. He likes pancakes and he has no plans. Can he come over for pancakes? Please? Please? Puuh-leeeeaaase?" Tony drawled dramatically, turning those big brown orbs at her.
"Yeah, Rose, please?" John joined in, his eyes hopeful.
Rose couldn't help but smile at their pleading expressions. "Of course. That is, if you're sure you want to."
Her answer was met with cheers from both John and Tony. The three of them chatted as they made their way to the shop. Rose could see the line forming and she rushed in to go help Martha as John said goodbye to them.
Mickey came in around 7:00 P.M. to take Tony home. They all decided they were too tired to cook a real dinner, so they decided they would get take-away and settled on pizza and a movie when Rose and Martha got home from closing the shop. When it was finally 8:00 P.M., Rose turned off the 'Open' sign and plugged her phone into the sound system. She smugly reminded Martha that it was her turn to take care of the dishes, to which Martha responded by rolling her eyes and sticking out her tongue. Laughing outright, Rose began sweeping and cleaning off tables. As she picked up the rag to clean off the display case and counters, one of her favorite songs came on, Bennie and the Jets. She turned up the sound till it was blaring and started dancing and singing along to the melody.
She's got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine
Bennie and the Jets
Just as she enthusiastically belted out the third "Bennie", Rose turned and saw John at the window, causing shriek in surprise and drop the Windex and rag. She quickly turned down the sound, and went to the door, feeling like she would vomit from embarrassment.
John stood there, his grin from ear to ear. "Sorry to bother. I think I left my mobile here. I couldn't find it when I got home."
"Oh...yeah...s-sure, come in," she said, holding the door open for him to come in and steadfastly avoiding his gaze. They both checked around where he sat earlier and found it under the cushion.
"Got it!" he said, holding it up in triumph.
"Oh...Good. That's...that's good," she fumbled, still embarrassed.
They both walked to the front door.
Still grinning manically, John looked at her and said, "I'll see you Sunday, Rose."
"See ya Sunday, John," she said, swiftly closing the door. When he was out of sight, she leaned her back against the door, closed her eyes, and sighed. Oh boy, I think I'm in trouble.