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He's completely smitten with her at first sight, head over heels, arse over elbow, name it and he feels it - she's a song and a dance, and he's a stuttering fool when he thinks about her. It's the way her blond hair dances as she laughs and smiles, and the coy little expression on her face that has John Smith completely infatuated. She's rich, beautiful and completely out of his league, and spends months flirting with him (well, with everyone really, but he tries not to think about that). He's not sure she's even interested in him; until, that is, she invites him along to stay at her favorite resort in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc with a dozen of her closest friends on a ski trip in a few months' time.

He's so elated over the idea that Jeanne Poisson invited him along that it doesn't immediately register that he doesn't know how to ski.

The thought panics him slightly, even more so than his seeming inability to remember to pay his rent on time. As a university-level physics lecturer, he doesn't have a large salary, and knows he'll need to scrimp to afford the trip: resorts in the Alps are notoriously expensive, after all, and Chamonix more so than most. Still, he knows he'll manage - he always does, even if his bank account might not have much to show for it after the trip.

His lack of experience skiing however, is a different matter entirely, and one not so easily fixed. It bothers him- he's so used to being an expert in everything he does, that the thought of being a novice at something, not even sure where to begin, is rather uncomfortable for him. He knows he can't tell her that he's never been skiing in his life - but also he knows he's brilliant, and he's sure he'll think of something. So, when he finds an ad for ski lessons in Swinhope Moor in the hills of Weardale, he signs up immediately. It sounds ridiculous at first, cross-country skiing through farmland in an abandoned mining town flanked by low-lying hills in the-middle-of-nowhere-UK hardly seems comparable at all to skiing in the awestrikingly dramatic beauty of the much-romanticized French Alps, but he signs up anyway. He feels like a fool, but he is a fool in love and he doesn't want to make an even bigger fool of himself in Chamonix not even know how to lace his skis.

Or, for that matter, if skis even have laces.

After his lectures are over on one chilly Friday afternoon in November, he packs a weekend duffel bag and loads it into his old blue Volkswagon. Or, rather, what has the body of a Volkswagon - he's interchanged so many parts to customize it to his exacting specifications over the years that on the inside, it's really part Toyota, part Citroën, part Vauxhall, and maybe a teeny-tiny-bit Mercedes S-class that was only pilfered in the most literal sense of the word. He feels almost furtive, like he's sneaking away to do something secretive, and, in a way, he is. He's told hardly anyone of his weekend plans - his good friend Jack Harkness is the only one who knows about his skiing lessons, and since this adventure is in pursuit of l'amour passionné, Jack heartily approves. More importantly, he knows Jack will keep quiet about this - the worst thing he can think of would be his embarrassment if word of his lessons in the back-of-beyond ever got back to Jeanne.

Smile on his face, he gets in his car, buckles the seatbelt, starts the engine (welll, that last part does take him two tries, and is finally achieved by use of a mallet he keeps under the driver's seat just for these kinds of emergencies). Ready for adventure, he cheerily starts driving north on the several-hour journey from London to Weardale.

How bad can it be?

--

Five and a half fucking hours later, he arrives.

It's snowing hard and fast, the kind of teeny-tiny flakes that feel like they've been crunched down into something like ice, and they bounce off his windshield with a rat-a-tat-tat that is starting to drive him crazy. The heavy snow, in combination with the dark, cloudy night sky, makes visibility nearly impossible, and he swerves to avoid hitting signposts more than once on the annoyingly curvy country roads. What concerns him most, however, is his tires - they're built for city driving and don't have enough traction to get him much further if the snow keeps falling at this rate. For this reason, he drives carefully, quite intent on avoiding the unpleasantness of skidding out and getting caught in a snowdrift overnight. In fact, he's alarmed to realize that since (d/dt)*h*(t) = k, and µk = F / N, and since the snow is falling at about half a centimeter per minute, he only has about 20 minutes before the coefficient of kinetic friction in his tires is not enough to keep his car on the road at all. (And yes, he calculated that in his head, and, by the way, did he happen to mention he is brilliant?)

Thankfully, he can just make out a sign for a B&B up ahead, and pulls in to the parking lot. It appears to be some sort of an old converted farmhouse, and he's certainly not lucky enough for it to actually be the lodge at Swinhope Moor where he booked a room, but it's something, and that's good enough. He supposes he'll spend the night here, and figure the rest out later. He always does, after all.

Clearly, he doesn't have a reservation, but the parking lot appears to be rather empty (or what he hopes is the parking lot seems rather empty - with the snow already carpeted several centimeters thick over the ground, he can't be completely certain). He parks and gets out of the car slowly, stretching his long, lean frame before grabbing his duffel bag and heading towards the entrance with an optimistic jaunt in his step.

The door is unlocked, and a little bell chimes as he lets himself inside the building as if to alert the proprietor of his presence. The inside of the B&B is deliciously warm in contrast to the brutal weather outside, and is decorated in what strikes him as a quaint country fashion that he's never seen closer to his home in London. The low, almost-dim lighting in the entrance underscores the old, rustic feel of the place, and he looks around, curious. The small reception area opens to an even smaller dining room, with a sitting room complete with a wood-burning fireplace off to the side. The entire place looks small, and worn, but cozy. He looks around but doesn't see anyone here at all.

"Hello?" he asks, into the air.

He soon gets a response - all of a sudden he hears the clear sound of footsteps clattering down a staircase.

"Coming - just a minute!" a female voice yells.

A moment later, bounding down stairs that he hadn't even noticed off in the corner, is a young woman with shoulder-length blonde hair. She appears to be in her late teens or early twenties, and she looks up at him, a bit breathless, as she wipes her hands on her blue jeans, straightens her T-shirt a little self-consciously, and tucks back a few wayward strands of her hair behind her ear.

"Sorry 'bout that, I only just got in! Can I help you?" she says, eyes friendly and bright.

"Uh, yes. My name is John Smith. I'm afraid I don't have a reservation, I was hoping to get to the ski lodge at Swinhope Moor but couldn't quite find it in this weather," he says, motioning to the window at the increasingly heavy snowfall.

She smiles, and for a moment it seems like the whole room brightens.

"You would've passed it about a kilometer back, it's not very well marked. I'll call them, make sure they know you're here, and we'll get a room set up for you, if you want?"

He nods and can't help smiling back at her.

"Your name's John, you said?"

"Yes ... John Smith," he says as she nods and hands him a pen, motioning for him to sign the guest register. "And I'm sorry, what's your name?"

Her face breaks into a smile again.

"My name's Rose."


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