Cue the Lights, Set the Stage
Hey, look! Another one shot instead of a chapter on my main fic! . This has been floating around in my head for a while and I just had to get it down. Just so we're clear, I don't own Doctor Who or it's characters (I'm working on that, though), nor do I own the song used near the end (it's by Billie Piper, if you're curious). No infringement is intended, it's purely a work a of fiction.
Odd how I only remember to do disclaimers on my one shots.
"I'm getting a water, anybody want anything?" Rose called as she headed for the door that led from backstage to the bar. The other girls yelled various drink orders at her as she left, and she repeated them to herself over and over as she walked to the bar. "Hey Jack," she grinned as the bartender turned to face her.
"Hey Rosie! New costumes?" He asked, looking her sparkly bustier over. Rose rolled her eyes. "Yeah, fittings today, then practicing the routines this afternoon. Now then, if you're done staring at my breasts," Jack grinned, unabashed, "I need two tequila shots, an iced tea, red wine, white wine, orange juice, and a bottle of water." Jack saluted, and moved about the bar getting Rose's order together.
"Um, excuse me…" a quiet, slightly nervous voice said from behind her. Rose turned around on her seat, looking the intruder over. He was young, but dressed like he was at least eighty: bowtie, suspenders, tweed jacket. It was an interesting sight, to say the least. Rose smiled at him and crossed her legs, leaning back against the bar. "Sorry, hon, but we don't open until nine," she told him politely.
The poor guy seemed uncomfortable looking at her (not that she blamed him, mind, she was basically just wearing sparkly underwear), and maintained intense eye contact; probably so he didn't make eye contact with her other…assets.
"I'm here about a job opening?" It sounded like a question. "Um, a lights technician?" He clarified, his eyes slipping for about half a second before they found her own again.
"Lights tech?" Jack asked, setting all the drinks Rose had ordered on the bar in front of her. "What happened to Mickey?" Jack asked, looking at Rose.
Rose glared at him. "He gave his two weeks last Thursday you dope! Martha's pregnant and he wants to get, and I quote, 'a real job.'" She shook her head at Jack and turned back to bowtie-boy. "You'll want to talk to Donna. Her office is in the back, I'll take you. Help me carry these?" She motioned to the drinks which had been placed on two serving trays. She picked one up with the ease that came from several years of waitressing while bowtie-boy wobbled for a moment before following her.
"I'm Rose, by the way," she told him as they traversed the open area in between the bar and the stage.
"Ah, John, John Smith," he mumbled.
Rose paused in front of the door and turned to face him. "Okay, when you talk to Donna, you're going to have to speak up, alright? She doesn't have much patience, and it's best not to try it." John looked a bit panicked, and Rose hurried on. "She's a great woman, really, best boss I've ever had just a bit…" she hesitated, searching for the right word. "Sassy? Let's go with sassy. Anyway, speak up, don't beat around the bush, and you'll be fine. And if she gives you a vaguely insulting nick-name halfway through the interview? It means she likes you." She grinned. "I was 'The Blonde Raccoon' on account of I wore too much mascara."
John didn't look like he knew whether he was supposed to laugh or not, so he settled for a half-hearted smile.
Rose groaned, and set her tray on a table, motioning for John to do the same. "Look, I like you. You haven't tried to stare at my boobs the whole time we've talked—I've talked—and in my line of work, that's a rare thing. So I want you to get this job. But you've got to loosen up. Here," she handed him one of the shots of tequila. He stared at her in wide eyed disbelief.
"But, ah, won't I get thrown out if I go in drunk?" He stammered, glancing at the shot then at Rose.
She raised an eyebrow. "You'll get drunk off one shot? Oh dear—alright, drink half of it then. Just get a little buzz. Liquid courage, there you go!" She encouraged as John finally took the shot from her, and drank half of it, making a face in disgust. "There! Off we go then!" She said cheerfully, taking the glass back from him and downing the other half; Reinette didn't need two shots, anyway.
Rose led him backstage (where he immediately turned bright red, as all the other girls where in their costumes, too) and told him where to set his tray, before leading him to Donna's office. She knocked on the door and poked her head in. "Applicant for Mickey's job," she told Donna cheerfully when she looked up from her computer.
Donna sighed and rubbed her eyes: they'd had ten applicants this week, and all of them were rubbish. "Alright, send him in," she mumbled through her hands.
"I like this one, go easy on him, alright?" Rose said, before sending John in and going back to practice. She was busy for the rest of the afternoon, and so never saw him leave. By the time the club closed that night, she didn't even remember to ask Donna what she'd thought of John Smith.
The next afternoon when she stepped through the blue door that led to the inner sanctum of the TARDIS Lounge, she was confronted with the sight of one very red John Smith, and Jack Harkness wearing the smile that meant he'd turned up the charm as high as it would go.
"Down boy," Rose scolded as she came up to the two. John looked mildly relieved to see her (which was probably due to the fact that she was fully dressed this time), and Jack just grinned.
"C'mon, Rosie! I'm just saying hello!" Jack protested, slinging an arm around her shoulders.
Rose smirked. "Yes, and your hellos have gotten how many sexual harassment complaints?" She asked sweetly. Jack grumbled something that sounded vaguely like "Seven." Rose smiled. "Exactly. Don't scare the poor guy off on his first day."
Jack shook his head and wandered off towards the bar. Rose looked at John, who was starting to finally loose some of the redness. "Sorry 'bout him," she said motioning towards Jack. "He'll hit on anything with a pulse. And I do mean anything!"
"He seems, ah, nice," John said, trying to sound less flustered than he was.
Rose smirked. "A little too nice." She shrugged. "So you got the job, then?" She asked.
John nodded, finally cracking a sincere smile. "Yeah, thanks for the help, by the way. She called me Chin Boy half way through, and I took it as a good sign rather than an insult. She seemed pleased with that."
Rose laughed. "Chin Boy, I like it," she giggled. "Right, I have to get to practice; Mickey going to come show you how everything works?" She asked; John nodded. "Great. See you around!" She called, and ran off towards the back. She'd been running late without stopping to chat, and Donna got a bit…feisty when people where late.
"Late!" Donna called, predictably, as Rose hurried in.
"Sorry, sorry, stopped to save Chin Boy from Captain Cheesecake," she called as she threw down her bag, grinning at Donna.
Rose and Donna had been coworkers at Henrick's, the last shop Rose had worked in. Rose had been a salesgirl; Donna worked finance in the back. The two became friends after Donna happened to walk by as Rose's ex-boyfriend, Jimmy Stone, was harassing her. Donna had chewed him out so thoroughly that Rose hadn't seen hide nor hair of him for several weeks following.
As the two had gotten closer, both expressed a hatred for their jobs. Donna said she'd always wanted a business of her own, and Rose had admitted a talent for singing and dancing. One thing led to another, and the two agreed to open a Burlesque Lounge together. Rose was something of a silent partner, however, as she didn't want to the other dancers to know she could fire them if she wanted to; it made for bad chemistry in the group. Still though, Rose had final say on who was hired as a dancer and who wasn't.
Everything else, though, was all on Donna. And Donna seemed to like it that way. She was bossy by nature, so having the majority of the power suited her just fine.
Donna smiled reluctantly at Rose; the two used the nicknames Donna had assigned everyone whenever they were in private; it was something of an inside joke. Every so often, though, Rose would use them in front of the others; it always made Donna smile.
Rose got into place, grateful that she'd worn her practice clothes under a jacket so that she didn't have to change, and practice got underway.
When asked why they chose Burlesque as the style of their club, both Rose and Donna would say it was because they liked it; and that was the honest truth. Burlesque was unabashed sexuality—something the world was strangely afraid. Donna and Rose loved the idea of doing something society was so uncomfortable with; plus Rose loved the old music that the dances went so perfectly with.
There were only three singers in their group (Rose, Reinette, and Astrid), and the rest where just dancers. They mostly did songs from the 1940's and before, but every so often they'd slip in something more modern, if it had the right sound. They also had some original songs, stuff that was written for them by someone who remained anonymous to everyone except Donna and Rose.
Rose loved her job, and it was the first time in her life she was able to say that. Before this there had been Henrick's, which had been dull and demeaning. Before that she'd been a waitress at a café, which was alright, but then there were the customers who had a bad day and decided to take it out on her (she may have gotten fired from that job for shouting back).
But here, at the TARDIS? It didn't feel like coming to work. She was singing and dancing and getting paid to do it! There were the assholes who liked to shout things at her and the others while they were on stage, but Rose never heard them: when she performed, she was in her own little world.
'Course, the TARDIS was a bit of a money guzzler. Rose hadn't even been able to save up enough money to move out of her mother's flat yet (something her mother reminded her of everyday). Between rent, booze for the bar, electricity, and costumes, Rose barely had enough money at the end of each month to chip in with her mother's rent, let alone eat. But she was happy; really and truly happy.
Rose was usually the last person to leave because she liked to stay and wind down by going over her music. She loved to sing in front of a crowd, but sometimes it was nice to just to sing to a dark, empty room.
She pulled a stool up to their up-right piano (someday Rose wanted a baby grand), and started shuffling through her sheet music. They were working on a new song this week, and there were a few spots she wasn't quite comfortable with yet. She was trailing her fingers over the keys as she hummed to herself when a crash made her leap to her feet, knocking over her stool and sending her music flying. She turned towards the noise, crouched in a defensive position, and sighed when she saw the source of the noise.
"Sorry," John mumbled from his position the floor. It seemed as if he had somehow gotten his legs tangled with the legs of a chair, had a vicious battle, then lost spectacularly to the chair. "Sorry," he said again, his voice sheepish now as he freed himself from his inanimate opponent and pulled himself to his feet.
Rose straightened up, and pressed a hand to her heart. "You nearly gave me a heart attack, John!" She complained, but smiled slightly to take the bite out of her words. She walked over and sat on the edge of the stage, regarding him curiously. "Whatcha still doing here?"
"Mickey said I could stay and look over the controls a bit longer, get familiar with the system," he explained, motioning to the control box where the sound system and lighting systems were housed.
Rose frowned, looking up at the box. "He's not supposed to leave people alone until they've been here for a while," she muttered.
John immediately looked panicked. "I didn't break anything, honestly, I promise!" He said hurriedly, his hands in front of him as if to help plead his case. "I'm good with electronics, and I'm already familiar with most of your equipment it's just—" he stopped so suddenly Rose almost got whiplash.
"Oh," he said after a moment, looking embarrassed. "You mean so that I won't steal anything, don't you?" He asked.
Rose smiled apologetically. "Yeah. Can't risk it, you know? It would take forever to get the money needed to replace any of that junk. No offence to you, of course," she added quickly.
John shook his head. "None taken. And I mean that both in that I take no offence, and that I took none of your equipment. It's all still up there if you want to check."
Rose considered him for a moment. "Nah, I believe you," she decided. She stood up and stretched, and started back for the piano. "Well, good night, John," she said as she crouched down to gather up her sheet music.
There was silence for a few minutes, and Rose assumed John had left, then a pale wrist followed by a tweed jacket appeared in her field of vision, helping her to pick up her sheet music. She looked at him questioningly. "I really am sorry for scaring you," he said quietly, the sheepish tone back in his voice as he handed her the music.
She smiled as she took it, standing back up and moving to sit on her stool once more. "It's fine. I've always been a little jumpy, anyways," she shrugged as she put the music back in the correct order.
John stood awkwardly before her, looking torn between saying something more, and just running away. "You have a beautiful voice," he blurted finally, and promptly turned red.
Rose blinked, surprised at the suddenness of the compliment, then smiled again. "Thank you."
John nodded, then walked stiffly down the stairs, off the stage and to the door. Rose smiled and shook her head as she turned to the piano. The sound of the door opening again made her turn back around to find John's head sticking back through. "Good night, Rose," he called, and left again before Rose could respond.
"I need to get him buzzed more often," Rose muttered to herself as she turned back to the music.
The American movie Burlesque was a godsend to the owners of the TARDIS; while not overly popular in Britain, it was well known enough to create some interest in their club, which in turn increased revenue. Rose especially loved it because she liked some of the original songs in the movie. Her voice wasn't Agularian or Cherian by any stretch of the imagination, but she managed to find a way to work the songs so that they suited her voice.
They all stayed after the club had closed one night, drinking and talk and just celebrating; they'd had a full house and a line for the first time since the club had opened. They were all gathered around the bar (or on it, in the case of Rose and Jack) laughing over some ridiculous story Jack had just told which, inevitably, ended in nudity.
"So why don't you guys have stage names?" Jack asked as the laughter died down.
"'Cause they're not strippers," Donna drawled, rolling her eyes.
"How is it you're supposed to make your stripper name?" Lynda asked, grinning. "The street you grew up on and the name of your first pet?"
Rose groaned, making a face. "That'd make me the Powell Princess! Sounds more like a hooker than a stripper!"
"Alright, if you could pick a stripper name, what would you go with?" Jack demanded with a wide grin. "I like The Captain."
"You would," Reinette muttered, rolling her eyes with a smile. "I like…the Madame," she mused, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
"My name's weird enough without coming up with something new, thanks," Astrid said dryly. "What about you, Rose? Got any stripper names we should know about?"
Rose grinned. "The Bad Wolf," she decided, after a moment of deliberation.
"Why that?" John asked curiously. He'd been pretty quiet up until now; but then, he was still getting to know everyone.
Rose shrugged. "'S a joke between me and my mum," she explained. "When I was little, I always said I'd rather be the wolf than Little Red, 'cause the wolf got to go in the woods and have adventures; Red had to stay on the path. Mum always called me Bad Wolf whenever I wandered away from her, which was fairly frequent," she admitted. She cocked her head to one side in thought for a moment. "On second thought, maybe my mother's childhood nickname for me is a bad idea for a stripper name," she laughed.
"Probably," Jack agreed, and knocked back a shot.
It was a few hours later before Rose realized "Is anyone sober enough to drive?" Luckily John wasn't a big drinker, and they were able to load everyone into his old blue pickup truck.
"Hey Rose?" A slightly nervous voice asked a few weeks later.
Rose turned on her piano stool to face John. He usually stayed behind after everyone else (excluding her, of course) had left. He liked to tinker with the lighting equipment, and, after they'd realized that he was actually fixing a lot of things that had been glitching since they bought it, Rose and Donna decided to trust him to be in the booth alone.
"What's up?" Rose asked curiously, moving to sit on the edge of the stage like she had that first night.
John hadn't looked this nervous since he first came in to ask for the job. He'd warmed to them all (Rose especially) considerably since then, and had revealed himself to be a usually brilliant and hyper (like a child on a sugar rush, it was almost exhausting watching him run about at times) man. The return of the nervousness had Rose curious.
"It's just, ah, well. My friends Amy Pond and Rory Williams are getting married next week," he started, twisting his hands nervously. Rose nodded encouragingly as she tried to quiet the deafening warning bells that were sounding in her head. "And it's just, I'm not very good at meeting people," he blurted.
Rose grinned. "Nah, I hadn't noticed."
John smiled sheepishly. "If I don't bring a date with me, they'll put me at a table with their other single friends, which means I'll either end up accidentally setting something on fire or leaving early and if I leave early Amy won't speaktomeformonthsandshe'sactuallyveryscary—" John picked up speed as he went along until everything sort of just became completely unintelligible. He only stopped because he needed to breathe.
"Ah, so you're looking for a date," Rose surmised, cutting in before he could continue. "You should try Astrid," she suggested, not giving him the chance to ask her. "Or Reinette—I know she fancies you," she added with a wink.
John seemed to deflate a bit, but he pasted a smile back on his face before it was too noticeable. "Alright, I will. Thanks for your help, Rose," he said with false cheer. "G'night!" He called, and fairly ran for the door.
Rose sighed as the door shut behind him. She knew he'd come over there to ask her; hell, she'd known he'd been working up the courage to ask her out for the past few days. And it wasn't that she wasn't interested; John was a great guy: polite, kind, attractive. Rose new any girl would be lucky to claim him as hers.
But Rose had sworn off men (at least in the sense of anything even remotely resembling a serious relationship) after things had gone so terribly wrong with Jimmy Stone. She didn't think she could take having her heart broken again.
She stayed on the edge of the stage for a little while longer before shifting to the side to reach into her pocket for her mobile. "Hey, Jack? I'm on my way over. No, you don't have to put pants on. It's the other kind of visit. Alright, see you soon. Bye."
Jack had been after Rose since the minute he was hired. Rose had endured his advances good naturedly, but always turned him down. After a few months, though, the two came to an agreement. Sex only; no feelings, no attachments, no questions. It had suited them quite well the past year or so. The sex was good, and it didn't interfere with their work relationship. Rose knew Jack wasn't a one woman kind of guy, so she didn't have to worry about him developing any kind of lasting attachment to her.
Donna knew of their deal, of course. There wasn't a single thing that that woman didn't notice.
"If you get pregnant, or it starts to affect your performance," she'd warned in her no-nonsense voice.
"We'll be good, I promise," Rose had sworn. "C'mon, Donna! You know Jack's all about casual sex! And I'm on the pill, and we use condoms besides." Donna still hadn't looked convinced, and Rose had sighed. "Look, I told you what happened between my 'n Jimmy. And everything else before him, with Adam and even with Mickey. Sometimes I need a release, but I'm not going to put my heart out there anymore. Besides, it's either Jack or a bunch of one night stands, and one night stands are far too much work," she'd grinned teasingly.
Donna had grumbled about it, but eventually dropped the subject. Rose knew that she still didn't agree with what Rose and Jack were doing, but she left them alone about it.
Reinette ended up agreeing to go to the wedding with John, and Rose wasn't sure how she felt about that. Her feelings only increased in their confusion when the two started dating, and she had to watch them interact in the club. She found herself getting angry when she saw the two together, but she couldn't for the life of her make heads or tails of why.
She couldn't have feelings for John; that wasn't allowed.
She did everything she could think of to distract herself from the odd anger (it wasn't jealousy. There was no way it was jealousy) that surged through her every time she saw John with Reientte. She worked harder on the dances, on learning the songs. She spent more and more nights in Jack's bed.
Perhaps the best distraction was the process of finding someone to replace Martha. Martha had been one of their dancers, and Mickey's girlfriend. She had to quit when she got pregnant, but agreed to stay on until they could either find someone to replace her, or her baby bump started to show; whichever came first.
The auditions were tedious and numerous, but they kept Rose's mind busy. They saw plenty of decent dancers, but no one spectacular. Rose knew she was wearing on Donna's nerves by being so picky, but this was the one area of the TARDIS where Rose had complete control—and she was going to make sure they got someone amazing to replace Martha, even if Donna killed her (which seemed increasingly likely with every dancer Rose rejected).
Eventually, a woman named River Song came in to audition, and she was exactly what Rose had been holding out for. Graceful, flexible, and with a killer smile. Rose nudged Donna under the table about midway through River's performance, and nodded subtly.
Donna sighed audibly in relief, and informed River that she'd gotten the job.
Rose and River quickly became friends; it was hard not to like the woman. She had a sharp wit a great sense of humor. She could sing, too, and her voice was so different from the rest of theirs that it served to spice up their show. This was especially wonderful, since the hype that had been created by the American movie had since started to wane. Bringing in a new dancer/singer helped them get more customers in again.
Of course, there were several downsides to River. Now that she'd been hired, Rose's mind was free to consider John and Reinette, who had become much closer by this point. Reinette gushed over John when they were all in the dressing room, preparing for the night's show, telling them all about how sweet he was and how she expected him to ask her to move in with him soon.
Rose had to bite her tongue so often that it started to bleed.
It was infuriating to Rose; she'd always gotten on well with Reinette, they were friends. Now though, Rose could barely stand to be in the same room with the woman. The whole thing was driving her mad.
Another downside to River was that Jack had started to show an interest in her, and not in the way he usually showed interest in a woman. Rose caught him watching her when they all hung out together, and he frequently complemented River on her voice or her dancing.
He was completely taken with her, Rose realized, but he was too damn stubborn (or oblivious, it was hard to tell) to do anything about it. It was with a sigh that Rose realized that not only had she lost her last distraction, but she was going to have to be the one to tell Jack to go after River.
"I'm cutting you lose," She announced one day as he let her into his flat.
"Does that mean I should put on pants?" Jack asked, despite his obvious confusion.
Rose smiled and shook her head. "I won't be here long, so don't bother." She walked over to a couch and sat down, waiting patiently for Jack to follow her into the room.
"So…" Jack started, motioning for Rose to speak.
"You've got a thing for River," Rose said bluntly. Jack spluttered, and quickly tried to deny this, but Rose just smiled and waved his words away. "Don't even try it; I see how you watch her. You, Jack Harkness," she pointed at him, smirking, "have got it bad. And I refuse to stand in the way of that."
Jack stared at her for a moment, then sighed loudly, and let his head fall backward. "This doesn't happen to me," he muttered; Rose wasn't entirely sure he was actually talking to her at this point. "I don't develop feelings for people," he continued, spitting out the word "feelings" as if it terrified him. It probably did, Rose mused. He lifted his head to look at Rose again. "How do I make them go away?" He whined.
Rose laughed. "You don't. You do ask her out, though. I'm pretty sure she likes you as much as you like her." Rose stood up, preparing to leave.
"But what if she says no?" Jack continued to whine, following her to the door.
Rose turned to face him, raising an eyebrow. "The Jack I know wouldn't give in that easily," she said simply.
Jack's face turned thoughtful, and Rose continued to the door. "If I ask River out, will you finally ask John out?" Rose slammed the door behind her, hoping he would think she just hadn't heard him.
Jack and River went on their first date the very next night. Rose smiled to herself as she watched the two interact across the room. As much as she would miss the distraction that Jack offered up, she was happy for him and River both. They were both such wonderful people, they deserved to be happy.
"When did that happen?" John murmured, walking over to stand next to her and look at River and Jack.
Rose's heart sped up as his arm brushed hers, and she quickly stomped on the feelings blooming in her chest. "They went on their first date last night," she responded, pleased when her voice came out sounding normal and everything.
John frowned. "But I thought you and…" he trailed off, motioning between Jack and Rose.
Rose shook her head, perhaps a bit more vehemently than necessary. "No, no, no, no, no. No. We were just, ah, friends. With benefits," she clarified.
John's ears turned slightly pink. "Oh, right. I just, ah, assumed…" he trailed off uncomfortably.
"Nope!" Rose said cheerfully, and waved farewell before retreating into the dressing room. She didn't like how tight her chest got when she was around John, or the way her stomach seemed to fill with butterflies. Or maybe they were birds; butterflies didn't seem big enough or violent enough for the feeling in her tummy.
Rose was putting on her makeup in the dressing room the next day, preparing for the show, when Reinette burst in, sobbing. All the girls immediately flocked to her, Rose following only a beat late.
"John dumped me!" Reinette sobbed, burying her face in Astrid's shoulder, her own shaking as she cried.
Rose felt an odd assortment of feelings at this proclamation, and didn't even try to make sense of them, opting instead to partake in the feminine ritual of comforting the recently dumped. They all rubbed Reniette's shoulders, cooing reassurances while insulting John and assuring Reinette he didn't know what he was losing.
They managed to get Reinette cleaned up and put together in time for the show, and managed to get through the night with only a few minor hic-ups. The other girls decided to take Reinette out for drinks after the club closed, but Rose decided to stay back. Her feelings with Reinette were just too confusing right now, and she didn't trust herself to be a good friend.
She hummed to herself as she tapped the keys on the piano, absently playing one of their newer songs. She paused for a moment, staring off into space, before sitting up straighter. She put her hands more firmly on the keys, and started playing a new song. "When I close my eyes you are by my side, And I can picture us together, Every night I pray there will be a way, We can make it last forever…" She stopped playing, and scrambled for her bag, pulling out some blank sheet music.
She'd been writing her own songs for as long as she could remember. It was usually how she worked through her problems and feelings. She could be more honest with herself with music than she could be at any other time.
Donna was the only other person who knew she composed; not even her own mother knew. When Donna found out, she encouraged Rose to have the group preform some of her songs. It took a lot of prodding and encouragement, but eventually Rose agreed, but only if they told the others the songs had been submitted by an anonymous person. These songs were, to Rose, a physical embodiment of her soul and what she thought and felt; she wasn't quite ready to let the others know it was her just yet.
She scribbled down the notes and lyrics she had so far before returning to the piano. "I dream I'm dancing with you and I can really move, I dream you're kissing me and I can really feel it."
As she paused to scribble down the next part, a voice called out to her, scaring her and making her leap to her feet to face the threat.
"I didn't know you wrote music."
John. She sighed, tension leaving her body for a moment. "You've got to stop scaring me like that," she muttered. She fiddled with her fingers nervously, filled with the odd desire to run, run as far as she could, and then run a little more.
John walked up onto the stage, stopping a few feet from her, his hands shoved into the pockets of his tweed jacket. He just stood there, looking at her, analyzing her.
"The others aren't overly pleased with you at the moment," Rose blurted when the silence got to be too much for her. John raised an eyebrow, but remained silent. "Because…because of the whole Reinette business…" she muttered.
Why was she acting like this? He was the skittish shy one, not her! It was because he'd taken her off guard, she decided. She just needed to get her wits back about her and everything would be fine.
"Wouldn't it have been worse if I'd have strung her along?" John questioned after a moment.
Rose shrugged. "S'not the point. You broke her heart; as Reinette's friends, it's our job to hate you for a while," she explained.
John looked a bit uncomfortable, guilty even. "She's really that broken up about it?"
Rose smiled sadly. "Yeah. She thought you were going to be her husband someday."
John pulled his hands from his pockets, rubbing them together in the way he did when he was nervous or upset. Funny that she still remembered that quirk after not spending much time with him the past few months.
"I didn't want to hurt her," he explained. "We just wanted…different things," he sighed. "Is there any way I can make this better?"
Rose chewed on her lip thoughtfully, watching him. "Give her some space, I s'pose. Then, when she's calmer, maybe try explaining to her why you left her? She seemed rather unclear on the subject," she suggested.
John colored a bit, and rubbed a hand through his floppy hair. "Telling her why I left her…might not make things better…" he mumbled, suddenly unable to make eye contact with her.
"Why's that?" Rose asked with equal parts dread and anticipation. It wasn't possible. There was no way. No possible way and she shouldn't get her hopes up. Even if he did say it, it changed nothing, absolutely nothing…
"I left her because…because…" he sighed in frustration and pulled on his hair. "Why is it so hard to talk to you?" He demanded suddenly, angrily. "Every time I get near you it's like my vocal chords are stretched to their absolute limit, and talking will break them," he ranted, pacing now. Rose watched him with wide eyes; whatever she'd been expecting, it certainly wasn't this.
"My mind gets all cloudy," he continued, gesticulating wildly as he paced, "and it's all I can do to form a proper sentence! But only when I'm with you!" He stopped pacing to point an accusing finger at her. There was silence for a moment, and his hand fell limply to his side, the emotions draining from his face as he stared at her. "Why is that?" He whispered, moving a few steps closer to her.
Rose's breathing was much faster than it should be; she felt trapped, cornered, and some disconnected part of her brain wondered idly if this was what a panic attack felt like. He was still moving towards her, a very strange look on his face. She tried to take a step back, but her leg bumped into the piano and she realized she had nowhere to go.
John stopped just in front of her, reaching out slowly to brush a lock of hair from her face. She wanted so badly to lean into his touch, but at the same time was terrified that if she did, he would burn her like fire.
"I left Reinette because I think I'm in love with you," John whispered, his green eyes boring into her brown ones.
"I…" she mumbled, watching with mounting fear as his face drew closer to hers, his mouth angling downward. "I…" his lips were almost on hers, and oh god it would take one movement, one tiny movement to press her lips to his and he was so close and—"I have to go," she all but shouted, finally finding her legs as she slipped out from between him and the piano, grabbing her bag and scurrying from the room. It wasn't until later that she realized she'd left behind the song she'd been working on.
For the first time since the club opened, Rose dreaded going to work. She'd screwed up so very badly; not only had she run from John, leaving him standing alone on that damn stage, but she felt like she was betraying Reinette.
John had left Reinette for Rose, she had essentially broken them up. It was her fault that Reinette was in so much pain right now, all her damn fault.
And John. As terrified as she was to admit it, Rose did have feelings for John. Feelings that she hadn't felt in years, and hell if that didn't terrify her.
She didn't know what to do. She couldn't face John, and she sure as hell couldn't face Reinette.
She paced in her room, tapping her phone to her chin and tugging on her hair, trying to make a decision. She sighed, finally, and pressed one on her speed dial. "Donna?" She whispered, and promptly burst into tears.
Three hours and two cups of tea later, Rose was sitting silently on Donna's couch, having just finished explaining everything. She kept her eyes on her cup, awaiting judgment. Donna wasn't one to sugarcoat things by any means, and Rose knew that whatever Donna told her, no matter how hard it was to hear, would be the absolute truth.
"And I thought you sleeping with Jack was going to make things difficult," Donna sighed at last. The attempt at humor drew Rose's eyes away from her tea and onto her best friend's face. Donna regarded her silently for a moment longer.
"Well, first of all, you need to sit down with Chin Boy and explain to him why you shoved him into a relationship he apparently did not want, and then promptly ran away from him when he made a move on you. The poor boy at least deserves to understand," Donna stated firmly.
Rose cringed, but nodded. The thought of reliving her dating history to John wasn't pleasant, but Donna was right: she did owe him an explanation.
"If you end up deciding you want to have a relationship with him, you need to wait until Reinette's calmed down, and then you should probably get her blessing first." This also made Rose cringe; discussing dating Reinette's ex to the woman herself—not a pleasant conversation. Donna quirked an eyebrow. "Unless you want to destroy that friendship?" Rose shook her head. "Didn't think so.
"As for right now, don't tell Reinette about John leaving her for you—you'll only make things worse. Probably don't ever tell her that, come to think of it. Just be there for her for now, and help her through this. It's really the only thing you can do."
Rose sighed, and stared down at her tea again, contemplating Donna's instructions. She wondered if perhaps it wouldn't just be easier to run off to America and start over there. Not like she had the money to do so, but still—it's nice to dream.
"Thanks Donna," Rose murmured at last, setting her cup aside and smiling slightly at the older woman. "I don't know what I did to deserve you as a friend."
"Made a deal with the devil at some point, I expect," Donna said brusquely, but with a small smile. She stood up, and led Rose to the door. "Off you scoot. Only a few hours until we need to be at the club, and you should probably work things through with John before then."
Rose thanked Donna once more before leaving, and pulled out her cell once she was outside to call the one number in her phone she'd never called before. "Hello, John? Could we meet up? We need to talk."
They met at a small park near enough to the TARDIS that they could walk there, but far enough away that they weren't likely to be seen by any of their coworkers. They sat on a bench silently, John waiting, and Rose fiddling with a loose thread on her hoodie. How did she even start?
"You left these last night, by the way," John said suddenly, breaking the silence and pulling her sheet music from his messenger bag. Rose took them from him with a murmured thanks, slipping them into her own bag.
The silence stretched on again.
"Care to explain why you bolted like a frightened rabbit?" John asked finally, and Rose winced when she heard the hurt in his voice.
She looked up at him for the first time since they sat down, and sighed, running a hand through her hair. "Because I have feelings for you, and that scares the shit out of me," she confessed, her words coming out almost too quickly to be understood.
John blinked for a few moments, and Rose saw the beginnings of a smile to start to stretch across his face. "Now before you go and get all excited," she said hurriedly, stopping the smile in its tracks, "there's some things I've got to tell you."
And she told him. She told him about Mickey, who she'd known since they were kids, and who she had started dating in high school. She told him about how she'd been completely in love with him, but he'd cheated on her and broke her heart. Then she told him about Adam Mitchell, who'd seemed so sweet and perfect, until she found out he'd been stealing money from her mum for weeks. He'd shattered her heart, too. The last one she told him about was Jimmy Stone. She'd been so convinced he was her soul mate, until he started getting violent. She stayed with him much longer than she should have, suffered insults and bruises. It wasn't until he broke three of her ribs and her right arm that she finally went to the police. Even then, he was only locked up for a few months. Donna had been the one to scare him off for good.
"There's been a few others along the way, but those were the worst. They always leave me, in the end," she whispered, once again unable to look at him. "Some because they should, others because they find someone else. But they always break my heart…" she trailed off for a moment, lost in the past, before turning to John. "I swore off relationships, see. Didn't think I could stand to get my heart broken again." She shook her head. "Then you had to wander in and set that all on its head and I'm scared John. Scared you'll break my heart, too."
John had remained silent through Rose's story, watching her face carefully. He remained silent now, staring down at the empty bit of bench that was between them. "I can't promise I won't," he said at last, his eyes staring down. "I won't make you a promise I don't absolutely know I can keep. Because maybe I will. Or maybe you'll break mine. The future is full of so many possibilities and variables, so many ways things could go wrong, and so many ways that that things could go so very right." He smiled, his hand reaching out to take hers, lacing their fingers together. He kept his eyes on their entwined hands as he continued "So I'm not going to make you any promises. None. All I will say is that, if you'll have me, I'll be your hand to hold for as long as I can." His eyes finally moved up to meet hers, and he smiled again, lifting their hands to kiss the back of hers.
Rose let out a watery laugh, a part of her still wanting so desperately to run. "I can work with that, I think," she said hesitantly, still unsure. He'd as good as told her that there was every possibility that he would break her heart. But he had also made her think of all the wonderful possibilities if he didn't.
"But not now," she added quickly, remembering Reinette. "Not the day after you dumped Reinette," she shook her head, pulling her hand free. "Not until Reinette has moved on, and I can get her blessing. I don't want to ruin my friendship with her because of this. It is kind of my fault," she added guiltily.
"True enough," John said easily, ignoring the glare she sent him. "How long, exactly, do you think it will take Reinette to move on?"
The answer was six months. Six, very long, months, until Rose felt it was safe to approach Reinette. She'd been dating a new bloke for a few weeks, and seemed utterly smitten with him. And so, on the night before Mickey and Martha's wedding, Rose approached Reinette and asked for her blessing to start dating John.
"Honestly, I'm surprised you didn't come to me sooner," Reinette answered with a sly smile.
"I—but—huh?" Rose spluttered. And here she thought she'd been so good about hiding her feelings for John from the others.
"Honey, you're both utterly transparent," Reinette said consolingly, and patted Rose on the shoulder. She hesitated for a moment. "Actually, I knew you liked him back before he and I even dated," she admitted. "But then he asked me to that wedding and I liked him so much…and I'm sorry, Rose, I shouldn't have done that to you," she apologized sincerely.
Rose was astonished to say the least, but she recovered quickly. "No, it's perfectly fine. I told him to ask you to that wedding in the first place," she shook her head with a small smile. "So we're good?" She asked.
"Yeah," Reinette grinned. "We're good."
It was about four years later that Rose stood in the dressing room of the TARDIS, the other girls fluttering around her.
"I really hope Mickey still knows how to work the lighting equipment," Martha commented as she adjusted her corset top. "It's been a while…"
"He'll be fine," Reinette dismissed, adding a bit more blush to her cheeks. "I just hope John can get his part done—you know how he gets in front of crowds," she cast a knowing look at Rose, who just grinned in response.
"It's time, ladies!" Jack called, poking his head through the door.
The women all scrambled to get into line at the stage door, Rose standing at the end, clutching her bouquet with nervous anticipation. She and John had decided to have their wedding on the stage of the TARDIS, the sight of so many of their early conversations, and the place where Rose was pretty sure she fell in love with him.
She could hear the first strains of music as her friends, her bridesmaids, started through the door and to their places. Rose counted in her head after Donna stepped through, waiting for her turn, before she too walked out onto the stage.
Her eyes scanned the room quickly: it was a relatively small affair, as Rose wasn't close to many people, and John to even less. They'd decorated the room in blues and golds, and moved the tables to the sides to create a dance floor for the reception.
As Rose's eyes drifted across the room, they paused for a moment on her mother (who, while not overly fond of John, was thrilled that her only daughter was finally getting married), before traveling across the stage to land on John.
She felt a huge grin bloom across her face as her eyes met his and held. They'd had a long and bumpy road getting to this point: Rose had been so wary when they first started dating, that she took every fight as a sign of the impending end. It was only through John's seemingly limitless patience that she'd finally understood he didn't intend to leave her.
He'd proposed to her in the bed of his truck, where they'd been lying and watching the stars. It took her ten full minutes to believe he was serious, and about a half a second after that to shout "Yes!" at him before tackling him into his rear window so hard he got a concussion.
Rose kept her eyes on John through the entire ceremony, and snogged him good and proper once given permission from Jack, who'd been ordained just so he could preside over their ceremony (the number of innuendos he slipped into the ceremony was really quite astounding).
The reception was lively, and Rose even ended up singing one of her original songs to John (he'd convinced her to come out of the metaphorical closet about her song writing two years ago). They smashed cake into each other's faces and, in daring display of complete disregard for their safety, smashed some into Donna's face, too.
She promised to kill them after the honeymoon.
It wasn't until midnight that they left the reception (they'd told him not to, but Jack had still managed to pass around rice to everyone. Donna had scary good aim), and slipped into John's old pickup truck.
Rose grinned at him, reaching out her hand for his. "Ready?"
John smiled and threaded his fingers through hers. "Always."