Donna continued to stare at Rose for what seemed like ages. In actuality, it was only about two minutes. Rose couldn't help but smile through her tears at Donna's gobsmacked expression. Finally, Donna came to her senses, realizing that this was definitely not a cruel dream, and rushed Rose, enveloping her in a warm yet fierce embrace. They were both bursting with love and excitement over their reunion, a reunion Donna never conceived possible.
A few minutes into their embrace, Rose spoke up. "Donna," she said as she patted her shoulders, "Donna, I can't breathe. Ease up just a lil'."
Donna pulled back, tears staining her cheeks. "Oh, sorry!" she said as she quickly wiped her face. "I-I…I just…God, I can't believe you're really here!" she said as she again pulled Rose into a crushing hug.
Rose tightened her embrace, equally moved and not caring anymore that it took increased effort to breathe. She couldn't help the tears that continued to fall or the joyful giggles that broke through. She had waited so long and fought so hard to get back to them, and now she was finally here—in her living room, hugging Donna, and hopefully soon, her husband and little ones. They finally released each other.
Rose couldn't bear it any longer and eagerly asked, "Where's James? Is he here?"
Donna felt a sick feeling brew within her at the mention of James. She had been so overcome with emotion at seeing Rose that she had completely forgotten about James. Now she was called back to reality and rapidly trying to determine what to tell Rose.
Fortunately for her, Rose jumped topics and asked, "What about Zo Zo and Sarah? Where are they? There here, yeah?"
Donna chose to sidestep the question about James' whereabouts and focus on the girls. "They're upstairs having a kip."
Before Donna could even finish her sentence, Rose was sprinting up the stairs to their room. Donna rushed after her. When she reached the girls' room, she saw Rose standing at the door with her hand on the knob, but not making a move to open it. Donna walked over and stood beside her. Tears spilled through Rose's tightly closed eyelids and she nervously bit her lip. Donna reached over, put her hand on top of Rose's, and turned the knob. Slowly, Rose entered the darkened room. Though they had separate beds, the two little ones were curled up together, sound asleep. Rose knelt beside the bed and hesitantly reached out her hand, stopping briefly before she began gently stroking their soft curls. She released a rough breath and bit her lip again, refusing to allow her sobs to awaken her precious darlings. She pressed a soft kiss to each forehead before rising and exiting the room, gently pulling the door closed behind her. When she looked up, her eyes met Donna's which were warm and sympathetic. Rose walked up to her and gave her a brief hug before pulling back again.
"They got so big…and so beautiful. I bet they act just like James…bouncin' off the walls and stuff."
Donna snorted. "They take after him and you…it's a lethal combination."
"Yeah, I'll bet," Rose said with a wet laugh.
Donna took Rose's hand and squeezed it. "Rose…wh-where have you been? How are you even here? Not that I'm complaining! Far from it! I'm thrilled—beyond thrilled but just…just at a complete loss as to how this is even possible."
"Red, I'll tell you everythin' you wanna know but first—can I please take a shower? I've not had a proper hot shower in years."
"Of course," Donna chuckled, "g'on!"
Rose stayed in the shower until the water ran tepid, relishing the feel of hot water on her skin again. She grabbed the terrycloth towel and wrapped it around herself as she stepped out of her en suite. She opened the closet, taking a chance that maybe some of her clothes would still be there. Of course, they weren't there—after three years why would they be? What was there, were James' suits and button downs. She gingerly ran her hands over them and leant forward, inhaling his scent and longing for the real thing. Realizing that she was still wrapped in a towel and dripping, she went to the door and poked her head out into the hallway.
Donna stepped out of one of the end rooms. "Yeah?"
"Umm…I don't have any clothes. I mean I have what I wore in here, but I really don't wanna put those things back on. Do ya know where I can find somethin' to wear?"
"'Course I do! C'mon," she said and motioned for Rose to come into the room. Rose walked in and saw Donna's things about in the room.
"When did you move in here?" she said, feeling guilty that Donna had given up her flat to come here.
"A few months after you went missing. James was a complete mess and needed some help," Donna answered as she looked through her closet for something to give to Rose.
"Where is he anyway? Ya never answered me."
Donna closed her eyes and silently chided herself for mentioning James. She had hoped to put off talking about him for as long as possible. Now Donna realized she was going to have to tell her. She turned to Rose and saw her sitting on the bed.
Rose quirked an eyebrow and said knowingly, "C'mon, I can tell you're avoiding somethin'. Don't think I haven't noticed there's no pictures of me anywhere—not even in our bedroom. Or that you sidestepped my question about 'im earlier. So spill."
Donna let out a long sigh of resignation. "Rose…James is-…well, he's…he's…"
"Just say it!" Rose said, mildly frustrated and anxious for information.
"He's married! He got married this morning," Donna said, grimacing when she saw Rose's shocked expression. Granted, she could have said it a little better, but honestly was there any good way to tell someone that their husband's married someone else? It's not like there's a manual on that sort of thing.
"Oh…," Rose said, trailing off and turning her gaze downward. "Well…I guess that's…," she looked up at Donna, "do I know her? Is it that woman with the water name—what was it—Lake or River? She always had a thing for 'im. Or that chav, Christina?"
Donna shook her head and sniggered. "Lord, no! Neither of them. Though this one's not much better. He met her working at the hospital. She's a plastic surgeon."
Rose nodded her head as she took in this information. "She nice?"
"No," Donna scoffed emphatically. Rose remained silent which unsettled her.
"Well, I guess I have no choice but to be happy for 'em."
Donna's jaw dropped. "You can't be serious!"
"Don't be daft! Of course, I'm not serious!" Rose said, jumping up off the bed and pacing around agitatedly. "How can this be happening?! Why couldn't he just get a dog or somethin'?"
"Well, he kinda married one," Donna sneered.
"Where are they now?" Rose asked as her eyes darted upwards and locked with Donna's.
Rose's eyes widened and she shook her head. "Oh, no! Please don't tell me he's takin' her there! That's our spot! And he's takin' that—that…," she trailed off. Suddenly, she turned around darted towards their room. She rushed into the closet and began rummaging around, clothes and shoes falling to the floor as she searched.
"Rose, what are you doing?"
"Looking for a case. We used to keep 'em in here. Y'know where they are?" she answered as she kept focused on her search and tried to keep her towel around her.
"He took them."
"Oh, right. Obviously. Well, where's yours?" Rose asked as she hurried out and into Donna's room.
Donna continued to follow her. "Rose, what are you gonna do?" she asked.
Rose looked up at her, her eyes fierce and determined. "What do ya think I'm gonna do? I'm gonna go get my husband back!"
The Gallifrey Inn had been open and operating in St. Andrews for over thirty-five years. Even though it was moderate in size and not considered as high class as others, it was still an elegant and charming hotel, and very popular with tourists. Beautifully situated near the coast, it allowed the guests to be soothed by the sounds of the North Sea. It was there that James and Rose had honeymooned. James and his family had taken many a holiday there during his childhood and it held some of his fondest memories; and he wanted to create new ones there with Rose. And the fact that Rose had never been to the seaside had decided the issue. They had spent many evenings just walking the beach or the cobbled streets, stopping at the various eclectic shops and basking in the pure bliss of being with one another. So the fact the he was taking another woman to their place made Rose fume. She had every intention of voicing her anger to James—right after she drug him into the first available room and snogged him incessantly. Rose was so engrossed in that image that it took the concierge three times to get her attention.
Rose shook herself out of her rather amazing train of thought and looked at the man behind the front desk.
The man smiled but slight annoyance was evident on his face. "How can I help you, ma'am?" he repeated.
"Oh yes, sorry! I was…never mind. I was actually trying to find someone," she said with a nervous chuckle and hoping her blush wasn't painfully obvious. "I was told he was staying here. His name is James Arden."
The man typed away on his computer and studied it for a few moments before saying, "It looks like he has a reservation for two, but he hasn't checked in yet. Are you the other guest?"
"No. I'm a…friend. A very close friend. I'll just wait over there 'til he comes," she said as she gestured to the lobby. Rose was disappointed that he hadn't yet arrived but at the same time somewhat relieved. "
"Very good, ma'am. I'll be sure to let him know where you are when he arrives."
"No," she practically shouted at the man. His eyes widened, clearly surprised by her reaction. "It's just…um…we haven't seen each other in a long time and I wanted to-to surprise 'im," she said quickly, hoping her explanation was sufficient for him.
"Of course, ma'am."
Rose gave a relieved smile. "Thanks," she said and then walked over to the one of the overstuffed chairs in the lobby. She nervously played with the hem of her jumper as she waited. The only thing of Donna's that fit her were a pair of denims and a green long-sleeved jumper, which thankfully were somewhat form fitting. Even though she had lost some weight, she still had some nice curves and she definitely wanted to show them off to James; he'd always been rather…fond of them. The more Rose thought of him and that woman—(she still couldn't say wife)—the more anxious she became. She honestly didn't have a plan for what to do when she saw him. She had been so focused on getting here and stopping…well…certain things—she couldn't let her mind go there; it made her physically ill to do so. She began to bite her thumbnail and nervously tap her trainer clad foot on the tiled floor. After several minutes of doing so, an elderly man looked up from his paper in frustration. She saw him out of the corner of her eye and stopped her tapping.
"Sorry," she mumbled as he turned his attention back to the article he was reading.
The more time that passed, the more Rose felt like she would jump out of her skin. Just when she thought she was about to literally go mad from waiting, she heard his voice. She jerked her head up and her wide eyes followed him as he approached the front desk. She saw a blonde woman fawning all over him and then lean in to whisper something to him. She started laughing at whatever she had said and James joined her, though not with the same enthusiasm. Rose could immediately tell that his laugh was off. It lacked the warmth and depth she remembered. This laugh seemed almost…forced. Whatever it was, it wasn't normal.
The two of the approached the desk and began inaudibly speaking with the man from earlier. Rose stood up but remained frozen in place. The man behind the desk repeatedly looked her way. This caught James' attention and he began to turn his head in her direction. Before he could see her, she dove behind one of the chairs.
Did I seriously just hide behind a chair? Rose went to look back at James and the woman, when she realized she had dived behind the elderly man's char. He peered at her over his spectacles, eyebrows raised and clearly perplexed.
"Hello," she whispered and wiggled her fingers. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement and realized that James was heading towards the lift. She quickly got to her feet and followed, not completely aware of what she was doing. James and the woman got onto the lift, but Rose stopped several feet from it, unable to follow anymore. James looked down at the woman and smiled. As the door began to close he turned and looked forward—his gaze directly at her. She saw his eyes bug out of his head and his jaw drop as he recognized her. All she could manage to do was give a faint wave as he continued to stare at her in shock, the door finally closing on them.