John met Rose at the Village Bookshop for the second and third time. Davies winked at him on those occasions and busied himself in the front of the shop, giving them the privacy of the back room. They talked about books, and Rose found that she had to be very careful at times with what she said. Once, when they'd somehow ended up talking about Charles Dickens he did a double take when she mentioned the man himself, rather than his works. “Oh, he was quite fun to be with,” Rose said at one point.
“You talk about him as if you've met him,” John pointed out, hiding his bemusement behind a wary smile. He looked like a boy at that moment, a little boy who had discovered something brilliant but was unsure if he had the right to actually enjoy it. It was that very moment that made things complicated. It was the moment in which Rose fell in love with John Smith.
“I... um...,” she said, looking down at the tips of her black boots — period ones — smiling embarrassed. Then she looked up at him, fiddling with some loose locks of her hair. “I'm sure he was quite a funny person. There's so much humour in his books.”
John's gentle smile widened. “You're...” He looked upwards, as if he could find the right word on the top shelf, hidden away and dusty from long disuse, “amazing, Marianne.” When he looked at her, she saw, for the first time, John in his eyes. John, not the Doctor. She felt her smile falter as she realised what was happening, and something cold wrapped itself around her heart.
“I... I may call you Marianne?” he asked, clearly confused by her change in mood.
“Yes,” she said softly.
“Are you quite all right?” he asked, hesitating briefly before reaching out to touch her upper arm.
Rose's mind and heart were racing. She couldn't fall in love with John. It would only end in heartbreak. Besides, falling in love with John was like betraying the Doctor, the man she had been looking for for the past four years, the man she loved so much. John looked like him, but he was so very different.
Rose nodded, then she looked at her wristwatch. “I'm afraid I'll have to run.”
“But... what about tea?” he asked, even more confused.
“I'm sorry, Professor,” she said, turning to go. “I'm really sorry.”
Then she literally fled the Village Bookshop.
Dark clouds were gathering in the sky, but Donna and Rose were enjoying the last of the afternoon sun, having tea outside the village's only tearoom, when Donna spotted John Smith walking towards them across the village green. She just had enough time to warn Rose before John stopped by their table, keeping a more than respectful distance. He tipped the brim of his hat in greeting. “Miss Noble, Miss Prentice, what a pleasure to see you.”
Rose smiled. He was standing with his back to the sun so she had to squint to see him properly, which was good, because she didn't want to meet his eyes.
“Would you like to join us, Mr Smith?” Donna asked. She had to, there was no way around it, although Rose had told her about what had happened in the bookshop.
“Actually, I was hoping to talk to Miss Prentice,” he said, his tone both cheerful and hopeful. Rose wondered how long it took him to gather the courage to come talk to her. In contrast to the Doctor, John was a bashful man. She sighed and studied her hands as they rested on her lap. It was only fair that she talk to him now.
“I think I owe you an apology,” Rose said, shielding her eyes with her hand. John looked nervous, and tried to cover it up with a smile. “Shall we take a walk?” They had wanted to go for a walk on their next date, but because of Rose's hasty escape, it had never happened. After both she and Donna had reassured him that Donna would be fine, they set off.
As soon as they'd left the village behind them, Rose took a deep breath and began. “I'm sorry for being so rude the other day,” she said.
“Was it something I said?” he asked.
“No, no it wasn't.” It's everything about you, Rose wanted to say, but that was something she really didn't want to do. “It's me.”
“You?” he asked in surprise.
“It's so hard to explain,” Rose said, kicking herself. John didn't deserve polite but meaningless phrases. “I think I'm falling in love with you.”
John stopped dead in his tracks. Rose, realising what she'd just said, stopped a couple of steps away from him. She covered her mouth, her treacherous mouth, with her hand. Then she felt his hand on her elbow as he closed the distance between them, catching her attention. Again, he looked like the amazed little boy, hopeful and struggling for words. “But...” he spluttered. “I... you... you're falling in love... with me?”
John dropped his hand from her elbow. “Gosh, that's... oh Marianne,” he faltered.
She looked at him, raising her chin a notch higher than necessary. He didn't return the sentiment. Good. That made things easier. She'd misread him, she'd just go back to the TARDIS and wait for the six weeks — five weeks and four days — to pass quickly. No more trips. “I'm sorry, Professor. I didn't mean to embarrass you. But there, I've said it.”
“There's nothing to be sorry about, Marianne,” he said, taking her hand. Again, that jolt of recognition and the unusual warmth of his skin shot through her. And for a moment she thought he felt it too.
You have no idea, she thought. “I don't want to... break your heart.”
“I... I'll have to leave soon. We won't see each other again, ever,” she said. Please, please, let him accept that.
“But where are you going to?” he asked, completely taken aback.
“New Zealand,” Rose said. It was the remotest place she could think of.
Rose looked at their hands. She had wrapped her fingers around his hand without thinking, so she loosened her grip. “Please don't make it any more difficult than it is.”
“What if I... what if I told you I loved you in return,” he said, drawing a deep breath, “I don't suppose that would make you change your mind?”
Rose's heart was hammering in her chest. He had just declared his love for her, in a manner of speaking, and she found herself shaking her head. It was the right thing to do. “I just can't, John.” Tears were making her nose tickle and her throat constrict. She let go of his hand. “I'm sorry.”
She hurried on. The sky had darkened rather more quickly than she'd thought it would, and she hoped she could get back to the TARDIS before it started to rain. The wind had picked up and the air was full of brown leaves. They were dancing in the air in eddies or swirling around as gusts caught them and swept them up for one last time. There was no need to look back — she couldn't hear him following her.
She reached her hideaway shortly after it had started to rain. The wind drove the rain against the greenish wall of the building, and she fumbled with the key in the wilful lock. Her fingers were numb from the sudden drop of temperature. All she wanted was a shower and to curl up in her bed on the TARDIS, deep within the ship, sheltered from the world.
Rose had just pushed the door closed in the face of the driving rain, avoiding the worst of it, and was fumbling for her TARDIS key when someone knocked, rather violently, on the door.
“Marianne! Marianne, please, open up!”
It was John.
Rose squinted in the dim light, making sure that the perception filter was working, before she unlocked the door. Normally, Donna would have locked her in, securing the old padlock, but she would certainly not leave where ever she had found shelter; neither would anyone else.
She slid back the bolt and opened the door for John. His coat was soaked already as he squeezed through the gap in the door. He helped her close and lock the door. “Thank you,” he panted, taking off his limp-brimmed hat and running a hand through his hair.
Rose didn't reply. She found the box of matches and lit the lantern. “You should take off your coat,” she suggested, gesturing vaguely at the sodden garment.
He draped his coat over a wooden box close by the door. He didn't even so much as glance towards the dim corner sheltering the TARDIS. “Where are we? Clark's farm?”
“I think so. He won't mind, will he?”
“Nah, I don't think so. This looks a bit neglected. Good thing the padlock is broken.”
He took off his suit jacket. The rain had soaked the heavy fabric of his coat and it was wet as well. Rose had hardly ever seen the Doctor in his shirt-sleeves, and seeing John like this, in his waistcoat, sent a shiver of delight through her. The intimacy of the scene unsettled her.
“Marianne,” he began with the bravery of the desperate.
“Please, John. Don't,” she whispered, turning away from him.
“I love you.”
Rose's heart felt as if it were breaking through her chest, and the sensation made her light-headed. She wrapped her arms around herself. “I'm sorry,” she said, trying to stifle a mad giggle at the irony of it all.
“I love you.”
“You love the idea of me,” she said. The words were harsh, and so was her tone, but it was the the only thing she could do. It was beyond mean, and she felt ashamed.
“You're lying,” he said after an awkward silence. The rain was pelting the grimy windows, was washing their outsides down. Before she knew what was happening, he was facing her, reaching out for her, unsure, despite his bravery, where to touch her. He brushed the backs of his knuckles down her cheek. “I love you, Marianne.”
“What about... Matron?” she asked. “Miss Noble told me about her.”
“I... she isn't you.”
“What if I'm not who you think I am?”
He uncurled his fingers to touch her cheek with his fingertips. “Who are you?”
Rose swallowed, tempted to answer him honestly. Instead, she took his hand and pressed a kiss in his palm, then found his other hand and did the same. She'd always wanted to kiss the mole nestled in it, to inhale his scent. “I...” she began, but couldn't bring herself to even finish the thought. She leaned up and pressed her lips to his in a gentle kiss.
His whole body stiffened at the gesture, and he rose to his full height in response, withdrawing from her. “I'm sorry,” she muttered, letting go of him. There was a bed in the far corner, an old iron bedstead with a lumpy mattress on it. There were blankets, too. She'd run them through a cleaning cycle on the TARDIS so she could snuggle up in them when she wanted to be outside the ship for a while, when its song reminded her of who she had been missing for so long. She went to the bed and sat heavily.
After a while, John followed her, and the mattress dipped as he sat next to her. He set the lantern on the box next to the bed, right where she always put it. He made her turn her face towards him with a gentle touch, and she gave in as he brushed his lips over hers. She'd been strong for so long. She opened up to him at once, inviting him in as his tongue began to explore her mouth tentatively.
Rose moaned both in pleasure and encouragement. He grew a little bolder then, and she felt confident to return the gesture and explore his mouth. His taste was nothing like she'd ever imagined, and he was warm, so warm. Was this just his human taste, she wondered, scolding herself for thinking too much.
Eventually, they had to come for air. “I've never...” he began, breathless.
She met his eyes, truly gazed at them for the first time since she'd realised she'd fallen in love with him. She cupped his cheek, kissing the corner of his mouth, then along his jaw. “It was wonderful. Kiss me again?”
And he did.
They kissed for a long time, sitting on the iron bedstead with the peeling paint and the lumpy mattress, in the dim light of the late October afternoon on a tempestuous day. “I love you, Marianne,” he said when they separated to regain their senses.
Rose smiled. She reached for his bow tie and pulled it loose, then unfastened his collar. He looked at her as she unbuttoned his waistcoat. “Marianne,” he began.
“I'm sorry,” Rose said, sitting back. “Is this too much too fast?” There was still a rushing in her ears.
John's tone was serious when he said, “I'm just a bit surprised.”
“We could just stop,” she offered, and part of her even wanted him to say the words.
“Shush,” he said, kissing her gently.
She pulled up her skirts and shifted to make herself more comfortable, smiling as his gaze travelled along the exposed length of her leg. She stood, undoing the fastenings of her skirt and dropping it to the ground, then she did the same with her blouse. She was wearing a silk camisole and her 21st century kickers along with hold-ups, which she'd only chosen because all her other tights had ladders or were in the wash. “Do you like what you see?” she asked.
John merely nodded.
She sat down facing him, one leg tucked under, and brushed his waistcoat over his shoulders and down his arms. His eyes never left her face as she undressed him, and he let her, helping her only with the cuff links. They tinkled and shone in her palm. “They're nice,” she said before putting them on the box with the lamp. She then moved on to remove his shirt and vest, smiling to herself. He was still a man of many layers. He shivered when she laid both her hands against his chest. There was only one heartbeat, frantic, single, but oh so warm. She curled her fingers into the smattering of hairs there.
“You're beautiful,” she said, surprised at the toned muscle she found. He blushed in the golden light. Finally, he plucked up the courage to touch her, and he ran his fingertips along her collarbones.
“Liar. You, Marianne, are beautiful.”
Afterwards, Rose drifted her fingertips down his torso and she smiled as he shivered and gasped. Her fingers came to a rest on the top fastening of his trousers.
John sucked in his breath.
“It's been a while for me too,” Rose whispered. Thus encouraged, he trailed his fingers along the thin straps of her camisole, along its very top, just above her breasts. Sighing at the gentle touch, Rose closed her eyes. His hands travelled along her bare arms then, and Rose remembered what she'd wanted to do.
She scooted away from him a little and began to undo the buttons on his trousers. Her fingers invariably brushed against his erection in the process, eliciting a gasp from him.
“I know,” she said, pushing him back a little. He leaned back on his hands and raised his hips so she could pull his trousers down. His gaze darkened and he groaned when she took along his pants in the process. There was a brief awkward moment as she fumbled with his boots and socks before she could pull off his trousers.
She just looked at him, at his trembling stomach as he fought to control his breathing, and the glistening tip of his cock.
“Aren't... aren't you... can I undress you?” he asked.
Rose gazed up at him. “Not just yet.”
“What... what are you... oh!” he gasped as she closed her fist around him. His eyes fluttered shut and his mouth fell slightly open as she started to massage him gently. “Marianne, you... you... oh, dear me,” he managed to whisper.
Rose smiled and leaned forward for a kiss, trapping her hand between them, sighing as she felt him through the silk of her camisole. She was about to take his virginity. “Just enjoy.”
Then she kissed her way down his chest and stomach, caressing him before taking him into her mouth. He groaned, pushing his hips towards her. She set a gentle rhythm until he tentatively touched the side of her head.
“You don't... you don't have to do this,” he said.
Rose let go of him, glistening now in the light. He shivered at the cold. “Don't you like it?” she asked. She wanted to be gentle and make this wonderful for him because her own first time had been quick, painful and altogether disappointing. She'd wondered for a long time after, and the second and third and several more times what it was that made it so desirable for people.
“Yes, I... I do, but...”
“Then enjoy. I certainly do,” she whispered. She wanted to kiss him, but stopped herself. It might be a bit much for him. “It's not something dirty, you know. What I'm doing.”
Rose pushed him gently back so he could give himself over completely to the sensation of her mouth around him. Cupping his hipbone for support, she used her free hand to get to the places she couldn't reach with her lips and tongue. She worked him gently but steadily, picking up the rhythm she'd resumed to bring him close to completion.
“Marianne!” he gasped, and she stopped. A fine sheen of sweat had sprung up on his pale skin, and he was breathing heavily.
“Sh, relax,” she said, taking off her camisole and lying down beside him. To her surprise, his lips found hers immediately for a kiss. She could feel his groan reverberate against her chest. The feel of his skin against hers, the roughness of his hair, sent a rush of desire to her core, and she became aware of how wet she was already.
Rose let him take over then, let him roll them over so he could explore her body, which he did. After being so close to orgasm she thought he'd just sheathe himself within her, but instead he took his time to roll the hold-ups down her legs, revealing inch after inch of skin and kissing and stroking.
“It's so soft. Your skin,” he marvelled, trailing his fingers up and down her knee and shin, wrapping his fingers around her ankle.
Rose closed her eyes and purred to encourage his ministrations, to let him now he was doing everything right.
“Help me with these?” he said, his fingers following the line of the elastic of her knickers. “They are... tiny.”
“From abroad,” she commented, raising her hips. After a beat or two, he slid them down her legs. The cold against her damp curls made her shiver in pleasure. She opened her legs a bit to make the most of the sensation.
“May I...?” he asked, his fingers hovering above her curls.
Rose took his hand and guided it between her legs, showing him where and how she enjoyed being touched. Soon she let go and raised her arms above head. His movements became bolder, and eventually he closed his lips around her nipple, something he hadn't done when he'd caressed her earlier. His tongue sent jolts of pleasure through her, and he had quickly learned how to touch her. With one last stroke of his fingers against her clit and a flick of his tongue around her nipple, Rose came with a hoarse cry, arching into him.
“That was... Marianne, you're so beautiful,” he stammered, still surprised at what he had just done to her.
She smiled at him, panting. “That was you.”
He moved to cover her with his body, claiming her lips for a kiss. His erection was pressing into her stomach, and when he shifted, she took him and guided him towards her folds. His eyes fluttered shut at the sensation, and he held very still before he slowly pushed into her.
Rose opened up to him, arching to find the perfect angle. It was asking a lot that first time, but she was eager to explore and enjoy. Finally, he was buried within her. It took her a while to get accustomed to the feeling of him inside her. It was perfection, it was home-coming. It was right.
“Oh, that is...” he breathed, seeking her lips for a kiss.
She smiled. “Yes. And it... oh!” She gasped as he slowly withdrew, leaving her missing him. But then he pushed back in, and withdrew, and back in, establishing a gentle, lazy rhythm. His hands cupped her shoulders, holding her to him as she wrapped her arms around his back and dug her heels into his bum.
Slowly at first, then more powerfully, he drove them towards completion. They kissed and Rose moved one hand to his hair, exposed the line of her neck to him as the mattress disappeared from beneath her head with the movement. His lips and tongue grazed her skin there as his breath brushed over it. He moaned with every thrust, the tendons in his neck and shoulders straining beneath his glistening skin.
And then he stopped.
Rose looked up. He hadn't come, and she was so close. “What...?”
“I... we can't... I mean, what about babies?” he panted, propping himself up on one hand. She gripped his upper arm for support. He was worrying about that?
“That's... sweet, but there's no need. Trust me,” she said, wiggling her hips for him to resume.
With a few more thrusts he drove first her, then himself to completion. He collapsed onto her with a groan and shudder, then rolled them so she came to lie half on top of him, and both of them could lie on the mattress. Rose was sorry that he slid out of her in the process, and she snuggled up close to him.
“That was...,” he said, kissing her gently as he came down, caressing her lovingly. Already, she could already feel the drowsiness overcome her, and she smiled, raking her fingers through his damp chest hair.
“Yeah,” she mumbled, kissing his chest just above his nipple.
She had found a couple of tissues in her coat pocket with which she had cleaned them both a little. The outhouse was cold, and she'd covered his dozing form up with one of the blankets. She'd meant to lie back down with him, but the cold had awoken her senses. What had she been thinking? She'd betrayed both the Doctor and John — she tried not to think of the man sleeping in the makeshift bed as either of them. He looked so peaceful and innocent, curled up on his side, the warm light of the lantern casting his face in the sharp contrast of light and shadow.
Should she leave? She could just disappear into the TARDIS, never to leave her again until the watch is opened and the Doctor comes back, to await his reaction. He would remember this, surely?
He chose just that moment to wake. Blinking into the soft light, he looked a bit disoriented at first. “Marianne?”
Rose smiled. “I'm here.”
Sitting up, he reached out for her. “Come to bed. It's freezing. I'm freezing.”
Rose swallowed. “I can't.”
He looked crestfallen. “I... I see. I'm sorry if this wasn't quite what you expected it to be,” he said softly, sitting up and running his hands through his hair. It looked messy now, much like the Doctor's, not neat and a lovely shade of brown like the Professor's. For a moment she was tempted to protest, but maybe it was best not to. But then she realised that she was still naked.
“It's not that,” she said so softly she wasn't sure he could hear her over the din of the torrential rain.
“What then?” he asked.
“New Zealand?” he asked, bravely attempting a smile.
“Yes. Now that I know what I'll miss, it'll be all the harder,” Rose said. At least she didn't have to lie about that.
“You're probably right,” he said. Then he rose onto his knees, completely at ease with his nakedness, and reached out. He caught her by her wrists and pulled her down to him. Despite herself, Rose snuggled up against him as he pulled the blankets over them. “But how bad is dreaming of it, knowing you might never be able to enjoy it?”
“Yeah,” Rose whispered. “Yeah.”
They didn't speak for a while, and eventually Rose noticed that John's breathing had evened out and he'd fallen asleep. She slowly extricated herself from his embrace and rolled away from him, curling up. The room was chilly, and the rain was still pattering against the windows, albeit not as powerfully as earlier.
She'd better leave before he woke and things became even more complicated. She felt horrible for what she had done. For four long years she'd been faithful to the Doctor although goodness knew she had been tempted a couple of times to let go. She considered those her darkest moments, and once she'd managed to overcome them, she'd felt stronger for it. And now that she had finally found a way back to him she went and fell hard and fast for John Smith, a man who had nothing in common with the Doctor but his looks.
The mattress dipped as he moved in his slumber, and Rose flinched as his hand brushed her back in the process. She really ought to get up, collect her clothes and hide in her bed on the TARDIS.
She froze as he whispered her name. Donna had told her about his dreams. Apparently, the watch didn't hold his entire consciousness. What if the intensity of the afternoon had brought the images from his dreams closer to the surface? Would the family be able to find him after all? If her appearance hadn't attracted their attention in the first place, of course.
She moved away and turned to look at him. He was still asleep, his face relaxed and peaceful. It was all she could do not to touch his pouty bottom lip. But she would treasure that image for ever. She had never seen him sleep before.
“Rose,” he mumbled again.
He was dreaming of her.
Of Rose, she corrected herself. Not of Marianne Prentice. He was dreaming of the Rose he remembered. What if she had changed so much that he didn't love her any more when he was Time Lord again? Would he love her if he discovered that she had seduced John, that she had taken advantage of him?
All those years without him she had repressed that thought lest she lose heart and not go through with the plans for the Dimension Cannon.
He sighed again, and Rose moved to get up. She mustn't push her luck. She tucked him in, unlocked the door — to cover her tracks — , gathered her things and padded to the TARDIS. The springs of the old bed squeaked as he shifted and Rose froze. He couldn't see her in the dimly lit corner that hid the blue box. The room remained still, however, and she quickly rooted through her things for the key and let herself in.
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