Life in a new city was going swimmingly for Rose. She loved her new job, had made a few friends who she already adored, and her flat was much cheaper than the one she’d had back in London. Her love life was still non-existent at best but fixing that was fairly low on her priority list.
It was item number one on Jackie’s list though.
“I’m just saying, Rose. You’ve got to find somebody. It’s not good for you being all alone!”
Rose sighed and was glad that this was not a video call so her mum couldn’t see her roll her eyes. She’d been trying to get Rose out on dates ever since Howard had started to come around more. Moving away hadn’t changed a thing.
“I’ve got friends, Mum. I’m not a total shut-in.”
“You need some good romance in your life, love,” Jackie insisted.
“That’s what movies and books are for.”
“Not the same and you know it. Next time I call I want to hear all about whatever date you’ve gone on or I’m going to find a way to set you up. I’m sure someone on the estate knows a nice boy in that town.”
Rose blanched. “Mum, you don’t have to do that.”
“Seems like I do. I just want my little girl to be happy!”
She didn’t bother telling Jackie that she was happy because it wouldn’t change a thing. She loved her mum and knew she meant well but this was one area that they often bumped heads.
“I know. I’ve got to go, I’m meeting a friend for dinner and I’m already late,” Rose said. It was a lie but what Jackie didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.
“Okay sweetie, I’ll talk to you soon. Love you!”
“Love you too, Mum. Bye!”
Rose rang off and flopped back on her bed. She needed a plan or it wouldn’t be long until her mum found the time to come visit her and set her up with the nephew of a friend of a friend of one of her neighbors.
Groaning, she rolled over and grabbed her laptop. Tonight she had a date with Netflix and a glass of wine and that was all the romance she wanted.
A week later, Rose had an armload of grocery bags and was struggling down the hallway towards her flat while cursing herself for waiting to do the shopping until she was literally out of food. She didn’t hear the door open to one of the flats she was passing so she was not expecting someone to bump into her as they just as obliviously walked out without checking the hallway.
“Oh Christ, I’m sorry. Let me help you get those.” The words tumbled out quickly, each one almost tripping over the next as the man bent down to grab the felled grocery bags.
“S’okay, I think I managed to keep hold of the eggs,” Rose quipped, smiling down at her favorite neighbor and hefting the single bag she’d managed to not drop..
His head whipped up and a grin spread across his face. “Rose! Fancy running into you again.”
John Noble stood, easily handling her load of groceries and smile not leaving his face.
“Maybe next time try not actually running into me,” she teased. “Wanna help me get these inside?”
John nodded and followed her to the door of her flat. “How exactly were you going to unlock the door when you were carrying this much?” He asked jiggling his armload to accentuate his point.
“Hadn’t thought that far ahead,” Rose said. “Didn’t mean to buy quite this much but the cupboards were bare.”
“Done that a time or two myself,” he said. Rose shot him a look over her shoulder and he amended his statement. “Alright, more than a few times. Getting the shopping done usually isn’t high on my priority list.”
She laughed as she turned the key in the lock and swung the door open. “Last time I was over you had two granola bars and a pint of expired milk and that was all.”
“There were a few other things in the cupboards! I had sugar to lend you, if you’ll remember.”
“Because sugar is a meal on its own,” she said, dealing out the sarcasm with a heavy hand.
“Could be.” He gently kicked the door closed behind him after following Rose inside.
“Please don’t tell me that you’ve eaten straight sugar as a meal.” Rose set her bags down on kitchen counter and turned to stare him down.
Now that he wasn’t occupied by the bags that he’d deposited on the table, John’s hands strayed to his pockets and he rocked back on his heels. His tongue pressed against the back of his teeth as he considered the sugar problem. “I haven’t but, in a pinch, it could at least give me the requisite energy to get to the store.”
“I’m a scientist, Rose, I’m required to be ridiculous.”
“Is that what scientists are for, Doctor Noble?”
“Course it is. Although now that you know our secret I might have to kill you.” His smile was growing wider by the second and Rose couldn’t help but mirror it.
“What if I bribe you with some of the roast I’m making tonight? That buy me some more time to live?”
“Come round sometime around eight and I’ll make you a plate.”
“You’ve got a deal.”
They chatted for another minute before John headed out on whatever errand he’d been trying to start when he’d run into her.
Rose’s smile stayed in place as she put away her groceries and started preparing the roast for the oven.
She’d met John the day she’d moved into the building. She’d been tired and sweaty and still had a couple more boxes to haul up the stairs because of course the lift was out of order that day. John had almost run into her on his way down the stairs and then offered to help her carry the rest of her boxes.
After the last of the boxes were in her flat, John told her he lived just down the hall and invited her to dinner so she didn’t have to try and unpack her kitchen or find the nearest takeout. They ended up at a chippy two blocks over once he’d realized he didn’t have enough food in his flat for a full meal for two and their friendship was solidified by the time they went their separate ways in the hallway that evening.
Now they grabbed dinner together every other week or so and hung out in one of their flats whenever their schedules aligned and Rose counted him as one of her closest friends.
She mostly tried to ignore the fact that he was gorgeous and the knowledge that she would snog him if he ever showed any interest in being snogged by her.
It was all a moot point since she hadn’t noticed an ounce of romantic interest from him.
At quarter to seven, Rose was startled away from the novel she was reading by her phone trilling the ringtone she’d set for her mum. She marked her place in her book and accepted the call.
“Hey Mum, wasn’t expecting a call until tomorrow. Everything all right?” Rose said.
“Course it is. I have a date with Howard tomorrow night though so I thought I’d call early. Not interrupting anything, am I?” Jackie replied.
“Nah. Got a roast in the oven and a bit until it’s ready so I’m just waiting around.”
“Seems a shame to keep my famous roast recipe all to yourself. Could be feeding it to a date that you’re trying to impress.”
Rose suppressed a sigh as her mum went straight into where they’d left off in last week’s call. At least she had John coming over as an excuse to get off the phone fairly quickly, even if he wasn’t due for another hour or so.
She sat straight up as an idea hit her. Jackie wouldn’t be coming to visit for quite some time so if Rose just told her what she wanted to hear…
“Actually, I do have someone coming over.” Not a lie.
“Really? A date?”
“A casual one, yeah.”
Jackie snorted. “Nothing casual about inviting him back to yours for a Sunday roast.”
“He lives down the hall, Mum, he’s been over often enough that it’s not weird.”
“So, you’ve been seeing him for a while and haven’t told me?” Jackie sounded offended and Rose quickly backpedaled.
“We’ve been friends since I moved in but we just recently decided to give the dating thing a go. We’re taking it slow so I didn’t want to tell you yet.”
“You let me harp on you about finding a date when you were already seeing someone?”
Rose laughed. “I did, didn’t I?”
“Wasting my breath on you,” Jackie said with a laugh of her own. “Now go on, tell me about your bloke.”
Rose gave her a few details about John - name, occupation, general description - before moving on to ask Jackie how things with Howard were going. She really didn’t want to give too many details about her fake relationship with her real friend in case she tripped over them later.
She rang off half an hour later saying that she needed to finish getting ready for her date and sat still on the sofa, worrying at her bottom lip. Rose felt like she could probably keep this fiction up for a bit but she was going to have to fake a breakup at some point before it blew up in her face.
A knock at the door interrupted her musing and she headed to the door with a smile, knowing it had to be John, even if he was early. She let him in and pointed him in the direction of the corkscrew so he could open the wine he’d brought.
Yeah, she could definitely continue making up a story about dating this man. She was just never going to tell him. No harm done.
Three months into the lie that was starting to get too elaborate for Rose to keep up, she got a phone call that changed the game just as she was walking into her flat after a day of work.
“Hi sweetie, guess what?” Jackie said, obviously excited.
“I’m about to get on the train to come visit you finally! Surprise!”
Rose let out a squeak. “When do you get here?”
“A few hours. You could sound more excited, you know.”
“Course I’m excited! Haven’t seen you in ages, just thinking about how much cleaning I have to do before you get here,” she said.
“Well get on it. This trip is a treat from Howard and he’s paying for a hotel room so don’t worry about finding me a place to sleep.”
“I’ll call you when we’re getting close so you can come down to the station. Feel free to bring John, I’m looking forward to meeting him finally!” Jackie said.
The blood drained out of Rose’s face and she felt her heart drop through to her stomach. “Yeah, I’ll see if he’s free.”
“Oh, they’re boarding. Gotta go, ta!”
Jackie hung up before Rose could say anything else, leaving her daughter to stare at the phone in horror. She was in so much trouble.
Knowing she only had a limited amount of time, Rose took a deep breath and headed back out into the hallway on shaking legs. Time to face the music.
She stood in front of John’s door for a solid minute before getting the nerve to knock. The door swung open and she watched as his welcoming smile shifted into a concerned expression.
“Rose, you look like you’ve seen a ghost. Are you alright?” He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, steadying her.
She took a deep breath. “I need your help.”
Rose took a deep breath. “I need your help.”
“Come in, it looks like you’re about to keel over,” John said, using his grip on her shoulder to urge her forward. He shepherded her towards his sofa with a hand on the small of her back.
Rose felt about two inches tall. Here he was being the supportive friend he always was and she was about to drop a bomb that had the potential to destroy their friendship.
“Do want some water? Tea?”
“John, I’m fine, I promise.”
He snorted. “You don’t look fine.”
He continued like he didn’t hear her interruption. “And fine people don’t normally show up at my door pale as a sheet and asking for help. So, tea?”
Rose flopped back, sinking into the sofa. “Fine. Tea. We’re both going to need it by the end of this conversation.”
“That sounds encouraging,” John said as he headed towards the kitchen.
Rose just groaned in response.
John came back with the tea, Rose’s already fixed just the way she liked it.
“Thanks, John,” she said before taking a sip and then setting it on the coffee table.
“Of course. Now what’s going on and how can I help?”
“You’re probably going to hate me for this,” she warned.
“You say that now…”
“And I mean it. What’s going on?”
“So my mum called me a few minutes ago and she’s on her way up here for a surprise visit,” Rose explained.
“And that necessitates my help how?”
Rose bit her lip and then tried on a sheepish smile. “Because she sorta thinks the two of us are dating.”
John’s face froze for a split second, mouth opening and closing a few times before he managed to actually emit sound. “Ah.”
“And she got that idea from where?” His voice had hiked up a few pitches.
“Well, she kept nagging me about my lack of a love life and threatening to find someone to set me up with and one of the nights you were coming over for dinner I just told her that I was seeing you so she’d stop pestering me. I didn’t think anyone would ever know! I thought she’d warn me ahead of time before planning a visit so I could tell her we broke up or something.”
“But now she’s coming to visit and is expecting to meet me.”
Rose nodded. “Got it in one.”
“And we can’t break up now, I take it.”
“Well, we could, but you’d probably get slapped by my mother.”
John winced. “Okay, not the best plan then. What exactly is the best plan?”
“I was hoping you’d agree to be my fake boyfriend for a few days while my mum’s here.”
“Doesn’t sound too hard. I’m game,” John said.
“Really? Just like that, you’re in?”
“Of course. Come on, Rose Tyler, you should know by now that I almost never say no to you.” He grinned brightly at her. “Besides, why I would turn down an opportunity to potentially embarrass you in front of your mother?”
“Oh, I’m going to regret this,” Rose sighed before smiling back at him.
“Probably,” he agreed. His worry about her had given away to the manic energy he always had when faced with a new problem to work through. “So, what have our alternate selves been up to and when did we start dating?”
Rose made a face. “About three and a half months ago.”
“You don’t even remember our anniversary exactly, I’m offended, Rose. Hurt and offended,” John declared dramatically.
Rose pushed at his shoulder. “Wanker. It was a casual thing at first so neither of us can agree what the first date was or when we were technically together.”
“Casual?” John sounded like he was choking. “Did you really tell your mother that you were using me for sex instead of dating me?”
“No!” Rose knew her cheeks had to be bright red. “I meant that we kinda went on a few dates without either of us officially calling them dates.”
“Ah, okay. Makes sense. That makes it easier since our stories don’t have to match.”
“Glad that my lies are convenient in this instance,” Rose said. She picked up her rapidly cooling tea from the coffee table and took a sip. “I cannot believe that this is happening.”
“Oh come on, Rose. It’ll be a lark! I just charm your mum and maybe she won’t ask a million questions.”
Rose took one look at John’s earnest expression and burst into laughter, almost spilling her tea in the process.
“You really have no clue what you’ve agreed to. Jackie is going to give you the third degree and there’s not much I can do to stop her.”
“Then you better start teaching me what I need to know to pass as your boyfriend,” John said. “You said she’ll be here in a few hours?”
Rose nodded. “And she asked if you would be coming with me to the train station to pick her up.”
He rubbed his hands together. “Then let’s get started.”
Rose launched into a brief summary of what she had told Jackie over the last few months with the disclaimer that it was basically their normal life but with kissing. When she was done, both of their mugs of tea were empty and John looked a little dazed.
“Sorry again,” Rose said. Her eyes tracked her finger tracing the rim of the empty mug in her lap. “I know that this is a lot to remember and a lot for me to ask of you. You can still back out if you want.”
He was being such a good sport about all of this and Rose felt terrible that he even had to put up with any of it.
“The remembering shouldn’t be a problem. Like you said, it pretty much mirrors our friendship just with more kissing and all of that’s easy to remember,” John said. “And like I said before, I don’t mind helping you out. I’m off work for the next few days because another department is running an experiment that they need our lab for. Really, you’re saving me from getting extremely bored and doing something our landlord would disapprove of.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “He still hasn’t forgiven you for setting off the smoke detectors last month.”
“Better than the time he evacuated the building because someone thought they smelled gas when it was just my experiment,” John mused.
“I assume this was before I moved in? Because I haven’t heard about this one.”
“About a month before you moved in,” John grinned with all his manic glory. “He was livid.”
“Oh, I bet!”
He reached over and plucked her mug out of her lap before unfolding himself and heading towards the kitchen to deposit the dirty dishes in the sink. “So, for your mum’s visit, how affectionate is she going to expect us to be?”
He wasn’t looking at her when he asked the question so Rose couldn’t gauge his expression, couldn’t guess how he was really feeling about this whole situation.
“Very. I’m a tactile person,” Rose said apologetically.
“Noticed that, actually,” he said. He still hadn’t turned around from where he was rinsing out the mugs but he sounded cheerful. “I’m the same so it shouldn’t be too difficult.”
Rose pulled her phone out to check the time and cursed under her breath. “John, I’ve got to go clean up my flat. My mum’s not staying with me but she’s going to want to come see it first thing, despite the multiple video call tours I’ve given her.”
“Need any help?” he asked, dish towel still in hand as he turned to face her.
“You’re already helping plenty,” Rose said. “I can handle my flat.”
“Let me walk you back then.”
Rose laughed. “It’s just down the hall, you idiot.”
“I’m practicing being a good boyfriend,” he said with an outrageous wink.
“FIne, whatever.” Nothing could mask the big smile growing on her face.
He followed her out to the hallway and the grabbed her hand, lacing their fingers together and swinging their joined hands a bit as they walked. Rose valiantly tried to ignore the warmth the contact was sending shooting through her veins.
They were at her door far too soon but he didn’t let go of her hand.
“Practice was probably a good idea,” she admitted. Jackie was never going to buy any of this if Rose went around looking like a smitten schoolgirl all weekend -- and that was exactly how she felt right now, holding John’s hand in the hallway.
“I thought so,” he said. “And if Jackie’s going to expect us to be affectionate, there’s something else we might want to practice before she gets here.”
“Oh? And what would that be?” Rose really hoped she didn’t sound as breathless as she felt.
John shuffled forward half a step. “Can I kiss you, Rose?”
His eyes looked darker than normal but Rose was pretty sure she was just projecting. She nodded, not trusting her voice.
John cupped her cheek with his free hand and leaned down to press his lips to hers. He kissed her slowly, exploring how she responded to different angles and pressures with the same thoroughness that she assumed he showed in his scientific work. His lips were soft against hers and Rose barely resisted the temptation to nibble on that pouty bottom lip of his like she’d wanted to for ages.
He broke the kiss and rested his forehead against hers instead of pulling back all the way. She was glad for the extra couple of seconds to compose her face. She pulled her bottom lip into her mouth and the taste of him bloomed in her mouth. It was all she could do to not pull him into another kiss. She didn't think she'd ever been kissed so thoroughly and he hadn't even slipped her any tongue.
John squeezed her hand and then straightened, putting a bit more distance between them. He looked a little flushed but then again, she knew she was too.
“Right, I’ll let you get to your cleaning,” he said, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
“Yeah, good plan. I’ll let you know when it’s about time to leave for the train station.”
He nodded sharply and turned to head back to his own flat. Rose opened the door to hers and closed it with her back once she was inside. She stayed there for a moment, leaning against the door with a hand pressed to her mouth, heart still pounding.
She was in so much more trouble than she’d anticipated. How was she going to make it through this without John realizing that she wanted to be so much more than just friends with him?
Rose knew her grip on John’s hand had to be bordering on painful as they stood in the train station, waiting for Jackie to disembark.
“It’s going to be fine, Rose,” he said, knocking their joined hands against his leg.
“You can’t know that.”
“One of us has got to be optimistic! Plus it’s only a couple of days, what could po-”
Rose cut him off with a glare. “Don’t you dare jinx it, John Noble.”
“I wouldn’t dare.”
She looked up at him, worried expression fading into a smile. “Thanks again for going along with this. I really appreciate it.”
“Believe me, it is my absolute pleasure,” he replied, returning her smile.
“Think you two can stop being all lovey-dovey for a few seconds and give me a proper hello?” Jackie’s voice made them both jump.
Rose dropped John’s hand and went to go hug her mum. She really had missed her loads since she moved.
“S’good to see you, Mum,” she said, pulling back but leaving her hands on Jackie’s shoulders. “You’re looking good. Howard must be treating you well.”
“Sent me up here to see you, didn’t he?” she retorted, grinning at her daughter.
Rose laughed. “He did.”
Jackie looked over Rose’s shoulder, gaze locking on John who was standing there with his hands in the pockets of the brown pinstriped suit he’d put on for the occasion. She ran a critical eye over him, taking in everything from his messy hair down the plimsolls he insisted went with his suit.
“This himself, I take it?” she asked Rose.
Rose couldn’t help the fact that her smile widened. Despite the circumstances and the lies, she was really excited to introduce her mum to one of her favorite people. “Yeah. This is John.”
She stepped back and reached for John’s hand, twining their fingers together. “John, this is my mum.”
“It’s lovely to meet you Mrs. Tyler. I’ve heard wonderful things about you.”
“Flatterer,” Jackie shot back but Rose could hear the smile in the single word. “But you’re apparently making my little girl happy so I suppose that’s alright.”
“I try my best.”
“You better.,” she warned before turning her gaze back towards her daughter. “Now, Rose, love, I want to see your flat. I’m sure the video I’ve seen doesn’t do it justice.”
“The video really doesn’t lie, Mum. It’ll probably just look smaller in person.”
“Still want to see it.”
“Of course, Mum,” Rose said. “John drove, so we don’t even have to catch a cab.”
“Right, forgot you had a car. Cheers, cabs are murder when you’re travelling with luggage.”
“Rose told you about my car?” John asked, shooting a questioning look at Rose. She just raised her eyebrows at him.
“Tells me almost everything, now doesn’t she.”
“Right, of course. Can I get your bag, Mrs. Tyler?” John asked, dropping Rose’s hand and reaching towards Jackie’s suitcase.
“Yeah, alright. And call me Jackie. No need to be all formal with me.”
He snagged the handle of the suitcase and gestured in front of him. “After you, ladies.”
Rose flashed a grateful smile at him and then turned her attention to Jackie. “So, tell me how things are going with Howard. And how’s Bev doing?”
She listened to her mum go on about her friend and boyfriend as they walked out to the car park and tried to ignore the fact that what she really wanted to was to linger behind and slip her hand back into John’s.
The ride in the car felt much longer than necessary. Rose was in the backseat on her own, having given the front passenger seat to Jackie. Her mum had asked John about his work so he was rambling excitedly about what he was doing in the lab currently, gesturing with one hand as he did. Rose couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiasm. Her mum was completely lost but was nodding along anyways.
“Is he always like this?” Jackie asked, craning her neck to look at Rose when John stopped for a breath.
Rose’s smile grew. “Yeah.”
“Could talk someone’s ear off,” she said as she turned back around in her seat.
“You’re one to talk,” Rose teased. “I’ve heard you on the phone with Bev.”
Jackie huffed but Rose could see a smile tugging on her mouth.
“So are you working this weekend?” she asked John.
“Well actually,” he started to say.
Rose scrambled to interrupt him knowing he was about to tell Jackie the truth that he had a long weekend and lose his only escape route for if he needed to get away for a bit. “Actually, he’s on call this weekend for if something goes wrong at the lab.”
She reached over the seat and squeezed his shoulder, silently promising to explain later and hoping he understood.
“Yup! On call all weekend,” he said, voice pitched higher than normal in the way it did when he was hiding something. “Hopefully they don’t need me though.”
John pulled up to their building and into the first parking space he found. “This is us. You can leave your luggage in the boot if you want and I can drive you to your hotel later.”
Jackie sized him up again. “I think you found yourself a keeper, Rose,” she said after a moment. “That’d be lovely, John,” she continued over Rose’s embarrassed groan. “I really hate taking cabs.”
They headed into the building and took the lift up to Rose and John’s floor, mostly quiet. Rose was fidgeting, picking at her nails as she watched the numbers tick up, until John reached over and took one of her hands. Their fingers twined together like they’d done this a million times and Rose’s heart jumped when he ran his thumb across her skin in a soothing rhythm.
She stepped closer to him and shot him a grateful smile. She might not get through this weekend with her heart completely intact but at least she had John for right now.
The doors slid open on the fifth floor and they filed out.
“That’s John’s flat,” Rose said as they passed the door for 5C. They stopped in front of 5G and Rose dropped John’s hand to dig in her bag for her key. “And this is me.”
She led them all inside before closing and locking the door behind them.
“Oh look at all the light you get in here! Much brighter than our flat,” Jackie exclaimed.
“Big reason why I picked this place,” Rose said with a laugh. “Can actually see what I’m painting when I work here. The gallery lets me stay afterhours and paint in one of the workrooms, though, so I don’t paint in here as often as I’d like.”
Rose saw John open his mouth and then close it after looking at Jackie, obviously filing whatever question he had for when they were on their own.
“And look at these!” Jackie cooed, standing in front of the two canvases hanging behind the sofa. “I haven’t seen these. New work?”
“Finished them a few months ago,” Rose said, moving to stand next to her mum. “I’m thinking about making a series of them, actually.”
“Well, you know I could use something new for the living room back home,” she said.
Rose slung her arm around Jackie’s shoulder. “I’ll bring something when I come visit at Christmas,” she promised.
Jackie looked around for a bit longer, walking through the kitchen and poked her head into the bedroom before excusing herself to go to the loo.
Rose exhaled loudly and looked over at John who was looking a bit lost as he stood in front of the sofa, studying her paintings. She tried to think of what he might see. They were flowers, bright and bold with a single bloom taking up the entire canvas. John had complimented them when he’d seen them the first time so she didn’t know what was catching his attention now.
“You alright?” she asked, moving to stand next to him. She slid an arm around his waist so she could lean against him and sighed quietly when he draped his arm over her shoulder and pulled her closer.
“I didn’t know you painted these,” he admitted, voice quiet and almost forlorn.
Rose looked up at him, confusion wrinkling her brow. “You told me how much you liked them right after I hung them.”
“But I didn’t know that you were the artist.”
“Did I not tell you?”
“Rose, you’ve never told me you were an artist at all.”
She pulled away and stepped in front of him so she could see his face. He looked a little hurt and confused. “I had to have. You know I work down at the gallery.”
“Yes, of course. I know you love art, I just didn’t know you also created it.” He ran a hand through his hair, tugging on the ends a bit. “How did I not know this?”
She shrugged and opened her mouth to answer but then she heard the toilet flush and water start running in the sink. “Can we talk about it tonight?” she asked, taking his hand again.
Rose wrapped her arms around him, drawing him into a hug that she hoped doubled as an apology. He hesitated for half a second before returning the hug.
Jackie walked in to the sight of them wrapped around each other. Rose had her eyes closed as she rested her cheek on his chest and John’s mouth was pressed to the crown of Rose’s head in an extended, barely-there kiss.
She smiled. The man was obviously as in love with her daughter as she was with him and she was just so happy to see Rose happy.
“Alright you two,” she said, making them both jump and disentangle from one another, “I’m knackered. If you’ll get me to the hotel, I’ll leave you to the rest of your evening.”
Rose knew she was blushing, she knew it, but there wasn’t anything she could do about it or the suggestive tilt of her mum’s cocked eyebrow.
“Yeah, we’ll drive you over. It’s not far,” Rose said.
They all bundled back into John’s car and drove the ten minutes to the hotel with the radio making the majority of the noise.
“I’ll come over tomorrow morning,” Jackie said once John had unloaded her suitcase and they were all standing on the curb. “Don’t worry about picking me up or any of that nonsense.”
Rose hugged her tight. “I’m glad you’re here, Mum.”
“Me too, sweetheart. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Jackie headed into the hotel to check in and Rose and John climbed back into his little blue car. The silence on the way home was too thick for some pop song to comfortably cut through. Once they were in their hallway Rose broke the silence.
“Do you want to talk at yours or mine?” She paused then offered, “I have wine in the fridge.”
He nodded sharply. “Yours, then.”
Rose quickly unlocked the door and made a beeline for the kitchen where she poured two glasses of the white she’d opened the previous night. When she came back out, John was staring at the paintings again.
“Why didn’t you ever tell me that you’re an artist?” John asked quietly, accepting the glass of wine she offered and taking a large sip.
“I honestly thought that I had,” she admitted.
He tore his eyes away from the paintings to look at her. “You’re my best friend, Rose, and I didn’t know.”
Rose bit her lip. “I didn’t mean to keep it from you. I guess I’m just used to everyone knowing because people did back home. I don’t really talk about it that much because,” she shrugged a shoulder, “well, because it’s not like I’m some big name artist. I’ve had one piece make it into a gallery show and it was a gallery I worked at.”
“But it’s still something you love.”
“Yeah, it is.”
He tugged her closer, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. “You’re extremely talented, Rose.”
She turned her face into his shoulder instead of answering.
“I mean it!”
“I know you do.” She squeezed him in a half hug before pulling back. “Do you want to sit?”
He nodded and they settled on the couch, Rose stretching out and tucking her toes under John’s thigh.
This was a normal, every day occurrence.
Except it wasn’t. It just felt like one. Rose was positive that now that she had a taste of just casually touching John, more than what she could justify as a friend, she was never going to be able to go back to how they were.
“So, how long have you been painting?” he asked, eager now to know more about her art.
They talked through their glasses of wine and a refill, moving closer together on the sofa as they did so.
“So why did you tell Jackie that I was on call this weekend? You know I’m completely at loose ends,” John said, eyebrows drawing together in confusion.
“Oh, I just wanted you to have an out in case you got tired of hanging out with me and my mum. Work’s always a good excuse for that,” Rose explained.
He grinned at her, all bright and sappy and a bit tipsy. “Oooh, I doubt I’ll ever get tired of hanging out with you, Rose Tyler.”
Rose’s heart was pounding and she grinned right back at him. He was so close and his eyes were sparkling and all she wanted to do was lean up and kiss that smile off his face and see what happened from there. Tonight had been wonderful and she thought maybe, maybe …
He blinked and pulled away before she could decide.. “We should probably go to bed. Sleep, I mean. I should leave so we can both get some sleep.”
Rose giggled. “Alright. Thanks again for doing all of this, John.”
“It is my genuine pleasure.” He said, popping up to his feet and stuffing his hands in the pockets of his suit trousers.
“Need me to walk you back to your flat,” Rose asked, shooting him her tongue-in-teeth smile.
His cheeks pinkened and she was delighted at the way he seemed to get even antsier at the thought of what had happened when he walked her back earlier that evening.
“Umm, I’m fine I think. No need for you to get up, I’ll just… go.” He headed towards the door and then paused with his hand on the doorknob. He smiled back at her. “Goodnight, Rose.”
Rose flopped back on the sofa with a sigh as soon as the door clicked closed, the moment where she could have kissed him playing on repeat in her mind, taunting her with all the what-if s. She groaned, throwing her arm over her eyes. John didn’t want that with her and she needed to remember that he was just playing the part she’d given him for the weekend with the same enthusiasm that he did everything..
Two more days and they would be back to being the just the best of friends and Rose could work on piecing her world back together once that happened.
Rose was just finishing her morning cuppa when there was a knock on her door.
“It’s unlocked, Mum!” she called.
The door swung open and Jackie walked in, closing the door after her. “Good morning, sweetheart.”
Rose stood and gave her mum a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Morning, Mum. Want a cuppa?”
“Yeah, but I can make it. You want another one?”
Rose nodded, smiling. Tea made by Jackie was always better somehow. She could never figure out why that was but she wasn’t going to turn down the magic.
“Is himself hiding around here somewhere?” Jackie asked after setting the kettle to boil.
“Nah, he’s back at his flat. Wanted to spend some time with just you,” Rose said.
Jackie looked up from where she was dropping teabags into mugs. “You found yourself a good one there, Rose.”
Rose looked away, knowing her cheeks were burning. She hated lying to her mum like this but she was in too deep to quit now. “Yeah, I did. So, did I tell you about the show we have going on the gallery right now?”
Jackie smiled at Rose’s obvious topic change. She hadn’t minded talking for ages about John on the phone the past few months but apparently in person it was a different story. She knew what her daughter looked like when she was flustered and this was it. Something was going on but Jackie was confident Rose would confide in her before her trip was over.
“No, I don’t think you have love.”
“It’s gorgeous. I can take you down to see it if you want. It’s all one artist and she’s recreating famous fairytales but each one has a twist and they’re just lovely. The brushwork is honestly incredible and the emotion conveyed in all of them…” Rose paused and sighed, “It makes a girl jealous some days, but it’s amazing.”
Jackie splashed some milk in both of their cups and then set Rose’s in front of her on the counter. “No reason for you to be jealous, you’re just as talented, Rose.”
Rose smiled at her. “You’re biased.”
“But I’m also right,” Jackie insisted.
Rose turned away from her tea and pulled her mum into a hug. “You know I miss you, right?”
“I miss you too, love,” she said, hugging back just as fiercely. “But you’re doing just fine up here and I’m so proud of you.”
Rose pulled back, eyes a little watery. “I love you.”
“Love you too. What brought this on?”
Rose shrugged. “Just a bit emotional this morning.”
Jackie picked up her tea and leveled an assessing look at her daughter. “You’re not pregnant, are you?”
“God, no!” Rose sputtered. “Not even close to being pregnant. Not even thinking about it.”
“It’s the not thinking about it that gets you in trouble.”
“I’m not pregnant, Mum.”
“Alright, I’m not quite prepared for grandkids quite yet anyways. Now go on, drink that tea before it gets cold.”
They continued to chat as they drank their tea and then Rose excused herself to finish getting ready for the day.
“I was thinking we could go show you around town,” she said, walking out of her room while putting in an earring. “Show you the sights. Maybe have some lunch and I can show you the gallery if you want. I have a few paintings there that I’m working on.”
“Sounds brilliant. Are you bringing John?”
“I’m going to start thinking you’re here to see him instead of me,” Rose said with a laugh.
“I just want to take the chance to size him up while I’m here. Make sure he’s good enough for my little girl,” Jackie said.
“He’s a good guy, Mum.”
“I can see that. Go ahead and invite him along though, we’ll see if he manages to spend extended time with me and still have my approval.”
“Don’t do anything drastic,” Rose warned. “I’d like him to stick around.”
Jackie just smiled and Rose rolled her eyes.
“Alright, I’ll call him and invite him along,” Rose acquiesced. She shut herself back into her bedroom to make the call.
John answered on the second ring. “Hello, Rose!”
“Someone’s chipper this morning,” she teased, smile already forming at the sound of his voice.
“Might have made coffee when I got up,” he admitted.
Rose groaned. “So you’re going to be hyper all day, aren’t you?”
“At least for the next hour, I’ve been awake for a while already. Need me? For the thing?”
She shook her head, irrepressible grin lighting up her face. John hopped up on caffeine was always a treat. “I do. Mum specifically invited you to join us on our tour of downtown. I’m planning to take her out to lunch and also by the gallery to see the exhibit we just set up and the pieces I’m working on. You in?”
“I’m definitely in. Should I come down there?”
“Might as well,” Rose said. “See you in a few?”
“Yup!” He popped the p at the end of the word and then disconnected the call.
Rose walked out into the sitting area, still grinning.
“What’re you so pleased about?” Jackie asked, her own smile forming.
“That man is a nutter,” Rose said. “He’ll be here shortly but he apparently had some coffee this morning so he’s bouncing off the walls. John cannot handle his caffeine.”
Before Jackie could answer there was a knock on the door. Rose practically skipped over to let John in.
“Hello,” she said, tongue sneaking into the corner of her smile as she swung open door. “Fancy meeting you here.”
He grinned back at her, smile just this side of mad and it made something in her stomach flutter. “Crazy coincidence, that,” he answered. “Good morning, Rose Tyler.”
John cupped her face with both of his hands and leaned down to give her a soft kiss that was over almost before it begun. It still left Rose reeling, even as he brushed his thumb in a caress over her cheek before releasing her and going to greet Jackie.
She knew it might have seen odd to Jackie if he hadn’t kissed her hello but she hadn’t even thought to prepare herself for the possibility as she opened to door. She turned and watched as he started regaling her mother with a story about the coffee maker he’d modified for the lab that someone had exploded somehow.
Rose stifled a laugh, regaining her balance a bit as she did. This was classic John. He was wearing a pair of dark wash jeans that were secretly her favorite, a blue oxford with the sleeves haphazardly rolled partway up his forearms, and was rambling on excitedly.
She walked over and rested a hand on his arm, startled when he went completely still at her touch, stopping mid-sentence. “You two ready to go?” she asked.
“Yup!” John said, voice going squeaky.
Rose gave him a look, wondering exactly what was going on with him. Jackie stood and retrieved her handbag from the kitchen and announced that she was ready as well.
They decided to walk as their building was close to the city center and parking was in short supply. Rose caught John’s hand in hers, tangling their fingers together and swinging their hands as they walked and she asked her mum if there was anything in particular she wanted to see.
John had gone oddly quiet next to her so she squeezed his hand before prompting him to tell her mum about the latest story his sister Donna had called him about.
Just like that, he was off and jabbering again, leaving Rose wondering about what was going through that head of his, even as she laughed at the tales of Donna’s exploits in investigative journalism.
Within minutes, his odd behavior had been pushed to the back of her mind as they took Jackie on a whirlwind tour of their city, showing her all the little spots they liked best in addition to the main attractions. She and John held hands and joked and laughed with each other and Jackie and generally had a marvellous time.
John didn’t even bat an eye as Jackie not-so-subtly interrogated him about various things. He did however, blush when Rose stood on her tiptoes to plant a kiss on his cheek at one point.
When their feet started to ache, they nipped in to Rose and John’s favorite lunch spot.
“This is where we had our first date,” Rose confided to Jackie as they waited in the queue.
“We had chips!” John chimed in, grinning and bumping his shoulder against Rose’s.
“I had to pay for them.”
“Why’s that then?” Jackie asked, leveling her gaze on John.
He rubbed the back of his neck, looking sheepish. “Might’ve forgotten my wallet at my flat.”
“Cheapskate,” Rose teased.
“You take that back!”
“Has anyone told the two of you that you’re both ridiculous?” Jackie asked.
John and Rose looked at each other and then back at Jackie, answering in unison. “Yes.”
They got their food and chatted amicably as they ate. Rose was amazed at how well John was dealing with her mum who was not necessarily going easy on him. The fact that he kept throwing soft smiles at Rose and reaching out to touch her without any particular reason was probably winning him points with Jackie even as it sent Rose’s heart racing.
She’d honestly never guessed that he was this good of an actor.
Once they were finished, they all headed over to the gallery where Rose worked. She took them on a tour of the small space, telling them all about the art that was currently on display with obvious enthusiasm.
When they reached the back of the gallery, Rose ushered them into the hallway of offices where they conducted the business side of the gallery. She opened the door to what the owner allowed her to use as her painting space and gestured for Jackie and John to go in.
“I’m working on more flowers right now,” she said as she stepped towards the canvasses propped up against the walls. “None of them are done yet but I think I’m going to end up liking them. I’m at least happy with how the colors are coming along. Oil paint has never been my favorite but it’s what works for these.”
“Oh Rose, these are gorgeous!” Jackie cooed, stepping closer. “You know this green one would look great back in the flat.”
“I’ll keep that in mind for Christmas,” Rose said, grinning.
“I love this one,” John broke in. He was standing in front of her most recent painting.
It was still in its early stages but Rose had finally given in and started painting her namesake flower. It was a pale pink, almost white, with just the barest hints of darker colors in the shadows cast by individual petals.
“I mean, they’re all brilliant but this one in particular.”
Rose smiled up at him, slipping her hand into his as she moved to stand in front of the canvas with him. “It’s my pet project,” she admitted. “Thank you, John.”
He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “Any time.”
John moved on to other canvases and he and Jackie both were effusive in their praise.
“I’m telling you, sweetie, soon it’s going to be your work out there in the gallery,” Jackie said.
“She’s right,” John agreed.
“You’re both extremely biased,” Rose said with a laugh. “But I can take a compliment, so, thank you.”
She led them out the back door and they all stood on the sidewalk for a moment, enjoying the late afternoon sun.
“I don’t know about you two, but I’m beat,” Jackie said. “Never sleep well the first night in a hotel and then all this walking. Done me in. Think I’ll go back to the hotel and make an early night of it.”
“Do you want us to get you a cab?” Rose offered.
“Nah, we’re not far. I’ll just walk.”
“Text me when you get there, yeah?”
“I will, love.”
Jackie hugged Rose and then eyed John for a second before giving him a quick hug as well. Rose giggled at the shocked look on his face.
“See ya tomorrow, Mum,” Rose said.
She turned and walked off in the direction of the hotel, leaving John and Rose in front of the gallery.
“Home?” she asked. “We could pick up some curry on the way there.”
“Sounds brilliant!” He grinned down at her and they set off as well.
It didn’t even occur to Rose that there was no need for them to be holding hands until they were almost to the take-out place. She didn’t let go of his hand even once she did.
The next day went by in a slow blur. Rose couldn’t decide if time was moving faster or slower than normal but it definitely seemed to be distorting around her in some way. The end of Jackie’s visit, and therefore her pretend relationship with John, was drawing close and Rose was already dreading her mum’s departure.
A rainy day had left the three of them to spend almost the entire day at Rose’s flat watching movies and playing board games. Jackie had gone surprisingly easy on John, apparently deciding that she liked him enough not to grill him incessantly. Rose had even caught her smiling at them as they cuddled up on the couch to watch a movie.
Her stomach had flipped as guilt ran slick through her veins. This whole charade of a relationship was to make her mum happy and it was working splendidly. Jackie was buying into the story Rose’d spun, but Rose hadn’t counted on not being able to lie to herself. Every time she snuggled into John’s side or took his hand or stole a sweet, barely-there kiss, she almost forgot that this wasn’t real, that she would go back to only having this in her daydreams in less than twenty-four hours.
She wanted it to be real more than she wanted to see her art hung on the walls of a gallery, wanted it more than she wanted almost anything and it scared her. She didn’t know how she was going to be able to go back to just being friends with John and her heart hurt just thinking about it.
Sunday night clicked ever closer to an end and every tick of the second hand sounded like a death knoll to Rose. Finally, John yawned and said he’d better get back to his flat since he had work in the morning.
Rose raised an eyebrow at the lie but he just gave her an inscrutable look in return before squeezing her hand. She could only figure that he could tell something was bothering her or wanted to give her some more time with just her mum.
John untangled himself from Rose and walked over to Jackie. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Jackie. Hopefully you’ll get to come visit again soon, I know Rose always misses you.”
He stuck out a hand for her to shake but Jackie just smiled. “Oh, come here you,” she said, pulling him into a hug.
“You take care of my Rose, you hear?” She let him go so she could look him in the face. “I will be up here faster than anything if you hurt her.”
John swallowed hard. “Understood.”
“Good lad.” She patted his cheek and then stepped away.
Rose knew her smile was a little forced as she walked John to the door but it was all she could do to keep from crying. This was it, the end of their little ruse, and Rose wasn’t sure at all that she was going to be okay. Jackie had believed them, had approved of them. The whole plan had gone better than she had ever dreamed but she still felt like she had failed, like she was losing.
“You okay?” John asked softly when they reached the door and he turned to face her.
“Yeah, course,” she said, trying to brighten her smile and convince him. She rested a hand on his chest, tilting her face up towards his.
“I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Rose had a feeling that he hadn’t really meant that to be a question but it came out as one regardless. “I’ll come by after I take my mum to the train station.”
She rose up on her tiptoes and kissed him gently, lingering more than she’d dared to before. “Goodnight, John,” she said, voice soft once she pulled away.
He leaned down and pressed one more kiss to her lips. “Goodnight, Rose.”
She let him out and closed the door behind him. She sagged back against the door, eyes closed as she tried to gather herself to get through the rest of the night.
“So, are you going to tell me what’s wrong or do you want me to start guessing?”
Rose startled and opened her eyes to see Jackie leaning against the wall in the living room entrance. She could feel tears welling up and even though this whole thing had been designed to keep Jackie in the dark, all Rose wanted to do was tell her mum everything and let her comfort her.
“Oh Rose, come here.” Jackie opened her arms and Rose rushed over to bury her face in her mum’s shoulder. Jackie rubbed her hand up and down Rose’s back, trying to soothe her. “What’s wrong, sweetheart? You know you can tell me anything.”
Rose let out a sob.
“Come on, let’s sit down.” Jackie led them back to the sofa and sat them both down. She brushed pieces of hair out of Rose’s face, tucking them behind her ears as Rose sniffled. “Is it something to do with John?”
Rose hesitated before nodding. “Yeah, but don’t go thinking you need to slap him. It’s all my fault.”
“I think I want to hear this story before I go agreeing with you.”
“He didn’t do anything wrong, Mum.”
Jackie just made a clucking noise with her tongue. “How about I go make us some tea and then you can tell me what’s going on.”
Rose nodded. Jackie squeezed her knee before bustling off towards the kitchen. Rose wiped the tears off her face with her sleeve and then wrapped up in her favorite blanket that she kept on the back of the couch. She’d just finished tucking it around herself when Jackie returned with two steaming mugs.
Jackie settled back against one arm of the sofa and gave Rose a steady look. “What happened?”
There was no point in dancing around it, Rose knew. Jackie preferred to cut straight to the heart of things and figure it out from there.
She took a deep breath, seeking strength from the familiar scent of tea, and looked directly into her mum’s worried face. “Me and John aren’t really dating.”
Jackie’s eyebrows drew together. “Sure seemed like you were to me. Did you break up while telling him goodnight?”
“No, Mum. We’ve never dated. John’s just my best mate.”
“I mean it!”
“You’ve been telling me you’re dating this man for months and now you’re saying that you’ve never dated him?”
“Yeah. It was…” Rose looked away, swallowing hard. “I was lying to you. Made it all up.”
Jackie reached out and put her hand back on Rose’s knee. “Sweetheart…” she started.
Rose cut her off. “I just wanted to make you happy so I told you I was seeing someone and telling you I was dating John was easier than making someone up.”
“What about these past few days? You two have been very couple-y.”
“When you called to tell me you were coming up here I panicked,” Rose admitted. “I didn’t want to tell you I’d been lying to you for months so I asked John to pretend to be my boyfriend for a bit.”
Jackie pursed her lips. “You know, most people wouldn’t agree to something like that.”
“He’s a good guy,” Rose said.
“You’re in love with him.” Jackie’s tone was achingly gentle but firm. There was no question implied, just a simple statement of fact.
Rose felt tears stinging her eyes again and she nodded. “I’ve ruined everything. He’s my friend and he was just doing me a favor and I don’t… I don’t…” A sob escaped her with enough force that her tea almost sloshed over the rim of her mug.
Jackie quickly moved to set down her own mug before divesting Rose of hers. She wrapped her arms around Rose. Rose cried into her shoulder just like she had when she’d gotten her heart broken as a teenager.
“Shhh, it’s all going to be okay.”
“It’s not though. How can I go back to being just friends with him now?”
“I don’t believe for a second that the two of you were ever just anything,” Jackie said, moving so she could look Rose in the face. “I saw the two of you together. That man can’t keep his eyes off of you.”
“He was just playing the part, Mum. Nothing more.”
“That’s bollocks, and I think you know it. No one’s that good of an actor.”
“Don’t you ‘mum’ me, Rose. I think I know a thing or two about what a man in love looks like and that John of yours is definitely in love with you.”
Rose shook her head. “He’s not, though.”
“I would’ve spotted the lie a mile away if he wasn’t,” Jackie said. “I knew you were hiding something but the two of you looked happy so I wasn’t going to push it yet.”
“I was so happy,” Rose admitted. “Getting to be with him like that was better than anything I’d dreamed up while telling you stories.”
“I think you need to talk to John after I leave tomorrow.”
“I don’t even know what I’d say. ‘Hey John, I know you were just being my pretend boyfriend to help me out but what do you think about giving it a go for real?’” Rose let out a harsh laugh. “I don’t think that’d go over well.”
“I think it’d go better than you think,” Jackie said.
“You don’t know him, Mum, not really. He’s kind and funny and a little bit mad and he’s never once given me any kind of sign that he wants to be anything more than my friend. I don’t want to push him away and lose my friend.”
“I don’t think you’d lose him. He’s probably over at his having this same crisis right now.”
Rose shook her head and leaned against Jackie’s shoulder again. “You’re just trying to make me feel better about managing to break my own heart.”
“Is it working?”
Jackie dropped a kiss on top of Rose’s head and then leaned forward to grab their mugs of tea and they sat in silence for a few minutes as they finished drinking, letting it soothe their ragged edges.
“I didn’t mean to drive you into lying to me,” Jackie said finally. “I just wanted to make sure you were happy and not lonely.”
Rose gave her a small smile. “I know, Mum. I’m sorry for not just telling you what was going on.”
“All’s forgiven now. I still just want you to be happy.” She paused for a second and then barrelled on. “I think being with John makes you happy. You always sounded so excited when you were talking about him. S’why I wanted to meet him while I was up here. I wanted to meet the man who was making my baby girl smile so much.”
“He makes me laugh, Mum. More than anybody I’ve ever met. He’s so brilliant and also ridiculous and sometimes that smile of his is enough to blind me.”
“Tell me about him? Without the lies this time.”
Rose smiled and told her that it wasn’t all that different but with a little bit of encouragement she started telling Jackie more stories about John and the fun they had together.
Rose was exhausted by the time she stopped talking an hour later.
“I still think you should talk to him,” Jackie said. “I think you’ll be surprised.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“That’s my girl.”
Rose smiled at her. It was still a wobbly thing but gloriously real. “Thank you, Mum.”
“Of course. Now, why don’t you call me a cab while I pop to the loo.”
Rose did just that and then walked Jackie down to the outside curb. “I’ll see you in the morning,” Rose said, giving her another hug as the cab pulled up. Jackie looked like she was going to say something else but just bid Rose goodnight and climbed in the taxi.
By the time Rose collapsed into bed, she was too tired from her emotional rollercoaster to mull things over any further. She fell asleep almost immediately.
She dreamed of John.
The next morning, Rose made her way over to Jackie’s hotel and then accompanied her to the train station. When it was time for her to go, Rose wrapped her in a fierce hug.
“I’m going to miss you,” she said.
“I always miss you,” Jackie replied. “Now, you go talk to that bloke of yours and get things straightened out.”
Rose started to protest but Jackie cut her off. “No, you’re going to talk to him. When you find someone who makes you feel like this,” she poked Rose in the middle of her chest, “you fight for them and you don’t let them go, no matter what.”
“It’s precious, Rose. Don’t let it slip through your fingers because you’re scared.”
Rose just nodded and hugged her again.
Jackie kissed her cheek and they said their goodbyes before she headed towards her train to board.
Rose waited until the train pulled out of the station before leaving. He mind was whirling and a knot of anxiety built in her stomach as she walked back towards her flat and John.
She wasn’t sure what she was going to say to him, if she’d even be able to bring up the possibility of them being more than friends, but she had to go make sure that they were going to be okay.
She could live with a broken heart if it meant John was still in her life.
It felt a bit like déjà vu when she knocked on the door to John’s flat. Just like when she’d dragged him into this whole mess, she was nervous and holding onto a confession that could ruin their friendship.
He answered the door before her nerves could convince her that running off was her best option.
“Rose!” His grin was wide and welcoming but she couldn’t help but notice that it wasn’t as bright as usual. It looked like he hadn’t slept well, if the state of his hair and the bags under his eyes were anything to go by.
“Hey,” she said softly, giving him a smile of her own.
She wanted to lean up and kiss him but that was no longer allowed. Her hands twitched at her sides as she resisted the urge to reach for him.
The silence stretched between them for just a second too long.
It was a plea for normalcy if she’d ever heard one. Rose swallowed her disappointment and followed him inside. John started flitting around the kitchen, putting the kettle on. He was twitchier than normal and Rose wondered if he was just as nervous as she was.
Maybe her mum was right about her not feeling this all on her own.
“Jackie on her way back to London?”
“So long as she got on the right train, she is,” Rose answered. “Thanks again for, you know, helping me out.”
He turned towards the kettle, tapping his fingers impatiently against the counter. “No problem. It was fun.”
“Hey, look at me,” Rose said, resting her hand on his shoulder. He turned slowly, an unreadable expression on his face. He looked like he was ready to run at the slightest provocation.
Rose knew the feeling.
“I mean it, John. Thank you.”
“It was really no burden on my part, Rose. It was-” he cut himself off, eyes skittering away from her to focus on anything else he could find in the kitchen. “It was fun, like I already said.”
“I had no clue you were such a good actor,” she ventured. She was going at this all roundabout but she wanted, she needed, to know that John was on the same page as her if she was going to say anything at all.
Jackie’s encouragement had given her just enough nerve to knock on his door, given her the hope that she’d been missing, but this… this had to be all her and John and neither of them were very good at this.
She watched nervously as John took a deep breath. “I wasn’t acting, Rose,” he admitted.
Rose couldn’t believe her ears. She had to have slipped into one of her daydreams or something, there was no way John was actually saying what she thought he was saying. “What?”
“I know this is probably not what you want to hear and I’m probably stepping over about five lines right now, believe me I’ve counted them, but being with you like this,” he reached for her hand, connecting the two of them, grounding them, “it didn’t require any acting on my part.”
“John…” Rose’s heart was beating double time and all of the words she wanted to say seemed to be sticking in her throat.
He pulled his hand away and ran it through his hair in agitation, making it stand on end even more than it already was. “I know, I shouldn’t have said anything. I’ll just...I’ll just go.” He hooked his thumb towards the door and stepped backwards.
“No! Don’t go,” Rose said, finally getting words out. “This is your flat after all so if anyone leaves, it’ll have to be me.” She laughed weakly but his expression didn’t change.
“I was just surprised is all. You’ve never shown any interest in…” she bit her lip, “well, in me, I guess.”
“Rose, I’m pretty sure I started falling for you the moment I almost knocked you down the stairs when you were moving in,” he said with a self-deprecating laugh. “I thought it was painfully obvious, really. Everything I did these past few days has been things I’ve thought about doing so many times that it was practically a habit anyways.”
“John, why do you think I asked you to help me out with all of this?” Rose asked.
He flinched. “I don’t know.”
“I made up this entire story about us dating and all because I wanted it to be true.” Rose stepped forward and reached for his hand. “You weren’t the only one who wasn’t acting.”
“Really?” The hope in his eyes made her heart flutter.
“Really.” Rose felt like her smile was too big for her face, like her happiness in this moment was too big for her body.
John inched closer, his own smile lighting up his face. “You never said anything.”
“Neither did you. We’re quite the pair, aren’t we?”
“Quite. “ His eyes flicked down to her lips. “Rose, I really want to kiss you.”
“Please do,” Rose said. She tilted her face up in further invitation.
John pulled her against him with their joined hands and threaded the fingers of his free hand through her hair before pressing his lips to hers. The feeling was halfway familiar after the last few days and the kisses they had shared.
This one was different though. Neither of them were hiding their emotions and it wasn’t a stolen moment -- it was a beginning.
and here we are at the end! thanks for the amazing reception y'all have given this fic, I really appreciate it!
I have a few ideas for some alternate/missing scenes, so if there's interest for more of these two dorks, those may make an appearance at some point!