He resisted for as long as he could. Really, he did.
The fact that the length of time he managed to resist was only a week and a half, not long in the grand scheme of things at all, didn’t matter in the slightest. It was long enough. In fact, he was rather proud of himself for not marching straight into Bad Wolf Coffee immediately upon spotting the sign in their window.
John scoffed just thinking about it. The best cuppa in London, his arse. It was a coffee shop. People would be lucky to get a cup of tea that didn’t have the faint taste of roasted beans. Hardly the best cuppa.
He was offended at the very thought.
A little bell above the door jingled as he entered. There were patrons sitting at most of the tables in the small store but no queue, so John walked straight up to the till. There was a blonde woman with a dynamite smile waiting for him there.
“Hello, what can I get you today?”
John put on his most charming smile. “Hello, Rose,” he started, flicking his eyes down to her nametag. “Might you know how I could get in touch with the owner of this establishment?”
“I might. Do you have a reason I should share that information with you?” Her smile didn’t slip an inch, but John watched her gaze harden as she assessed him.
His charm was apparently failing him today and he could tell that lying would get him absolutely nowhere with this Rose.
“My name’s John Smythe. I’m the owner of Blue Box Tea House down the way.”
Rose raised an eyebrow. “And you want to speak to the owner here?”
“I do, yes.”
“Alright, mate, I’ll see if I can get you some time with the boss lady. Would you like a coffee or a cuppa while you wait?”
John almost curled his lip at the mention of the disputed cuppa but refrained. He ordered a coffee at random off the handwritten house specials board instead.
Rose waved him off when he got out his wallet and moved away to start making his drink. Once the hot concoction was in his hands, he found an empty table and settled down to wait.
Rose disappeared into what he assumed was the storeroom so John took the chance to take in the shop. This was the first time he’d been in Bad Wolf Coffee, despite the fact that it had opened over a year ago and was only a block and a half away from his tea house. He’d just never felt the need to check out what was potentially his competition.
The shop was cozy and comfortable, decorated in warm colors and unique artwork. The smell of coffee permeated the air and the acoustic music playing low through the speakers complemented the atmosphere perfectly.
It was no wonder the place was doing well, he thought, whoever was running it obviously knew what they were doing.
John took a sip of his coffee and hummed in pleasure. They definitely knew what they were doing with their coffee and Rose had made him a damn good drink, that was for sure.
The woman in question stepped back out of the storeroom and flashed him a smile before starting on the cleaning work that always built up behind the counter.
He was halfway through his drink and still watching the barista when the bell over the door signaled a new arrival. John turned, hoping it was the woman who owned Bad Wolf Coffee but it was a sandy haired man instead. He headed straight for the counter and stepped behind it, conferred with Rose for a moment, and then stepped into the storeroom. He reemerged a few seconds later, tying on a Bad Wolf apron.
The new barista took over Rose’s cleaning tasks and she clapped him on the shoulder with a smile before rounding the counter and heading towards John.
“Sorry,” she said, sitting down opposite of him. “Rory wasn’t due in for another half an hour but he agreed to come in early. Are you enjoying your coffee?”
“I am,” John said. He leaned forward across the table. “Were you able to get in touch with your boss? I’d really like to speak with her.”
“I was,” she answered, a mischievous smile tugging at her lips.
“What can I do for you Mr. Smythe?”
He gaped at her. “You’re the owner?”
“I am.” She extended her hand over the table. “Rose Tyler.”
John shook her hand, still slightly shocked at this turn of events.
Rose kept talking once she let go of his hand. “I love your shop, by the way. I stop in whenever I have the chance.”
“Thank you. And your place here is lovely.”
“Thanks. So, what did you need to talk to me about?”
“Yes, about that…” John cleared his throat, suddenly a bit nervous about delivering his complaint now that he was faced with the reality of Rose Tyler. He’d fully intended to give the owner an earful about the sign and the audacity of a coffee shop claiming such a thing but Rose had been nothing but wonderful to him thus far.
He still had to bring it up though.
“I wanted to talk to you about the sign in the window.”
Rose scrunched up her nose in puzzlement for a moment before her face cleared and she broke into laughter. “Oh my god, I offended you with the sign about having the best cuppa in London, didn’t I?”
Her laughter raised John’s indignation almost back to where it was when he entered the shop. “This is a coffee shop!” he exclaimed. “Coffee is your specialty, not tea!”
Rose couldn’t stop laughing.
John couldn’t stop watching her, a bit entranced despite his irritation.
Finally, Rose got a hold of herself, winding down with a deep breath. “I promise I wasn’t trying to insult your shop, Mr. Smythe.”
“Then what were you trying to do, Miss Tyler?”
She made a face. “Call me Rose. Miss Tyler always makes me start looking for my mother.”
“Then please call me John.”
“Alright then, John, all I was trying to do was remind people that despite being a coffee shop, we do make an excellent cuppa. Just because the name says coffee doesn’t mean we only serve coffee.”
“But the best cuppa in London?” he pressed.
Her smile seemed to get brighter, almost blinding. “Tell me, have you even had a cuppa here to see how it is?”
“No,” he admitted reluctantly.
“How do you take your tea?”
“Black, two sugars,” he responded. “Why?”
“Because you’re going to try my tea. Give me just a few to get it ready. You should at least taste it before you start disparaging my sign and my tea making abilities.” She winked at him and grabbed the almost empty coffee cup from the table before heading back towards the counter.
He watched her move around behind the counter, preparing a pot of tea with quick, efficient movements. Before long, she was on her way back to their table with a tray.
“Here, drink some of this while the tea brews,” she said taking a glass of water off the tray and setting it in front of him before placing the entire tray on the table.
She quickly unloaded the entire thing and set it on an unused chair. She fussed with the position of the teacups and double checked the cream and sugar containers.
John smiled at the little tells of nervousness and decided to break the silence. “What made you decide to open a coffee shop?”
Rose glanced up at him, clear brown eyes almost the same shade as a perfectly brewed cup of tea. “Decided I didn’t want to work for other people anymore,” she said with a shrug. “I’d spent years working in a variety of different coffee shops as a barista so I thought I’d make a go of it on my own. It’s worked out pretty well so far.”
“Yes it has,” he agreed.
“How about you? How’d you end up with a tea shop?”
John waved his hand vaguely. “I’ve always loved tea and I got tired of not being able to find my favorite teas from my travels abroad anywhere here.” His smile slipped towards something more like a smirk. “It’s much cheaper to import in bulk.”
Rose laughed, which had been his aim. “I don’t believe you!”
He gave her an earnest look. “I drink a lot of tea!”
“You really started a business to save on shipping? That’s a new one.
“I do like to keep people guessing.”
“I bet you do.”
Rose shook her head, still incredulous over his claims, and reached for the teapot. She poured two cups and stirred two sugars into one of them. The other received one sugar and a healthy splash of cream.
“It’s nothing fancy,” she said, pushing his teacup over to him, “just some regular ol’ black tea, but I like to think that we make it well.”
She flashed him another smile. “I figure people can always head down to your shop if they want the fancy stuff.”
John picked up his tea, inhaling the comforting, familiar scent of strong English Breakfast. Cautiously, he took a sip, very aware of Rose watching his every movement.
His eyes fluttered shut as the tea hit his tongue and flavor bloomed. A pleased sound escaped the back of his throat involuntarily.
“Good then?” Rose asked, taking a sip of her own.
John could feel the way his cheeks were shading towards pink. “Very good. In fact, I think you missed your calling by opening a coffee shop instead of a tea room.”
“You saying my coffee wasn’t good?” she teased.
“Your coffee was excellent, but this,” he raised his teacup in a salute, “this is phenomenal. Is it really just English Breakfast?”
“It is. The secret’s all in how you make it. Learned it from my mum.”
John took another sip and it was just as good as the first. “Really quite wonderful,” he murmured.
“Best cuppa in London?” Rose asked, tucking her tongue into the corner of her grin.
“You just might be able to persuade me to say that, at least for this variety of tea,” he admitted.
They were silent for a few moments, savoring their cups of tea while a comfortable silence lay over the table. John couldn’t stay quiet for forever though, his mind was already racing ahead to figure out how he could have more of these comfortable moments with Rose.
He took a deep breath and issued an invitation. “Perhaps you should come down to Blue Box to try some of mine sometime. See how the fancy tea holds up to your exacting tastes.”
John wasn’t sure she’d accept. She’d been very nice to him but she seemed like a generally nice person, and it certainly didn’t mean she’d like to spend more time with him. He hadn’t exactly been at his most charming and polite during this entire interaction. The fact remained though that he’d like to see more of Rose Tyler and her brilliant smile and he rather hoped he hadn’t completely mucked it up with his complaint about her sign.
“It’s a date,” she said.
His heart skipped up to double-time and he desperately hoped she meant that literally, started to wonder if he’d be able to parlay a tea tasting into dinner if he played his cards right.
“Deal. Come down to my shop any day after six and you can try as many teas as you’d like.”
“You do know how to tempt a girl. How’s tomorrow sound?”
John and Rose lingered over their pot of tea, chatting about their shops and getting to know each other. Eventually though, John had to leave, but his smile lingered long after he left Bad Wolf Coffee.
Best cuppa in London indeed.
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