Bubblegum by DearDiary
He only got into detention because she would be there, too.
John honestly didn’t need any more trouble that would go with another detention. He clearly imagined the disappointed frown on his grandfather’s face upon receiving the phone call from his form tutor. He knew Donna would roast him for upsetting their grandfather, too, and that he’d get a tongue lashing all the way to his room until he’d slam the door in her face.
If he tried to explain the reason for his actions, grandpa would certainly understand. Maybe he wouldn’t have approved of John’s chosen tactics and offered advice on how to execute his plans better, but he would have understood and forgiven John’s behaviour nonetheless.
Donna would have laughed, clutching her sides, and called him a smitten fool.
John didn’t want Donna to know. They were only his, these feelings he felt for Rose. He wanted to suffer because of them and cherish them at the same time privately.
That said, these feelings for a certain blonde girl from his year were the exact reason why he was stuck after lessons in the stuffy History classroom.
Truth be told, John was impressed by what got Rose into detention. She managed to lead twenty something choir participants on a strike against the musical they all didn’t want to perform, and she told the snobbish choir teacher that her French accent was as fake as her Prada shoes.
John genuinely regretted not being there to see Madame Poisson’s face at such blatant (even if true) accusation. Honestly, the woman deserved it for her haughty behaviour towards students. He wondered what the hell Madame Poisson was doing working at a state school - according to her, she was rich enough and certainly highly educated enough to lower her standards for a school like theirs.
Which only meant that Rose was right, of course. The woman was as fake as her accent, and he wondered what led her to working with the nonachievers like them.
John looked at Rose who was sitting behind him diagonally, twirling her pink pencil’s tip over the assignment she was supposed to finish. John smiled when he saw that she was drawing flowers and hearts all over the margins of the paper. Her face was obscured by the curtain of her warm-blonde hair, and so John felt brave enough to take her radiant beauty in without being noticed.
He couldn’t see her face, true, but it was obvious by her body language that she loathed to be sitting still at the class, being forced to do more school work than she usually had to, and that she’d rather be out and about with her two friends instead of staying in a nearly airless room with nothing to do but study.
John had been sporting a crush on Rose for about two years now, since the first time he’d seen her by Jimmy Stone’s side on that fateful September morning when they both were fifteen. He remembers the hot-white hatred towards the sleazy, good-for-nothing boy for how he treated such a treasure of a girl as Rose Tyler. John also recollects the long weeks of Rose’s depression after she was dumped by Jimmy in November, and John will never forget the worry that gnawed at him when Rose was missing at school for ten rainy days in late October.
Really, it was a miracle that Rose was allowed to stay at school after skipping it altogether for weeks at a time. Jimmy wasn’t as lucky and got thrown out on his arse for being caught groping an all too willing girl in the janitor’s closet a couple of weeks after Rose returned to school.
Even now, two years later, the shadow of Jimmy’s betrayal was evident in Rose’s everyday life. There, in the dimly-lit classroom adorned with numerous maps and posters about the attacking strategies of World War II, two of Jimmy’s sidekicks were sharing the detention with them. There was little intelligence visible on their faces, and John cringed when he saw one of the boys sticking a chewed gum to the underside of the desk. The other one was tearing a sheet of paper as quietly as possible, and, before John knew it, a tiny saliva-covered ball of paper was shot at Rose through an empty shell of a ballpen.
He saw Rose roll her eyes in irritation and flip the boy off carelessly. John nearly choked at the brazen gesture, but, luckily, the myopic History teacher was too busy perusing the unreadable writings of other student’s assignments.
A series of paper balls was fired at Rose then, and while she stayed seemingly unbothered, John felt anger boiling beneath his skin.
Rose kept on drawing hearts on her sheet of paper, ignoring the disgusting attack, but John could see the harsh lines of her jaw clenched in annoyance. He let out a low growl and flexed his fingers in a manner that promised a ruthless fight behind the school and saw how the paper-spitting boy had the decency to drop the pen on the table, averting his eyes with a scowl.
John smirked in satisfaction.
Not many would mess with him at school. Certainly not snivelling, girl-attacking cowards like Jimmy’s friends.
John’s proud smirk all but disappeared when he saw Rose stare up in surprise at him.
John baulked. What if she found his actions unwanted? Too aggressive, pushy or out of place? He felt himself blush, and his habitual leather jacket felt too heavy and too thick all of a sudden, pressing on his shoulders in a room full of stifled air.
He wanted to look away but couldn’t, captivated by her wide, astonished gaze.
John had always been fascinated by Rose’s eyes. Whiskey-brown with yellowish flecks closer to the pupils, they changed their shade from caramel to light amber depending on the lightning in the room.
Right now, the colour of her eyes was almost invisible because of the hugeness of the pupils, with only small rims of colour seen around them in the darkened room.
John swallowed, mesmerised. Rose Tyler didn’t look scared, angry or irritated by his behaviour. If anything, she looked pleasantly surprised, and then she made John’s heart stutter by giving him a luminous, flirty smile.
He nearly jumped out of his chunky boots, giddy with happiness.
John knew that he must have gone tomato red, and it wouldn’t do lots for his tough reputation. So, he returned Rose’s smile timidly, still not believing her reciprocating his affections, and turned away to face the blackboard.
John chuckled when he noticed the History teacher snore quietly into the book he was holding in front of his face.
The detention went on.
An hour went by, time crawling impossibly slow, and all of the students sighed in relief when the supervising teacher stood up from his desk and walked to the door languidly to open it to allow some of the draft to permeate the classroom. John turned to look at Rose and was surprised to see that she swept her hair up in a high ponytail. Her bangs were plastered to her sweaty forehead, and it seemed that she couldn’t be bothered to put them out of her face anymore.
John couldn’t blame her. He lost the fight with the heat about forty minutes ago, shedding his jacket and trying to un-plaster his jumper from his back. The spring was capricious at best: it was chilly and windy in the morning, and people bundled up before going out. Yet the hours of the afternoon were unnaturally hot, and the closed-off atmosphere of the dusty History classroom didn’t help a bit.
Rose caught John’s stare and gave him a soft, tired smile. He couldn’t help but return it eagerly, and they both chuckled nervously at the exchange.
Another half an hour went by. This time, the now-awake History teacher was sitting proudly in his chair, observing the misbehaving teens trusted in his care. His glasses sat lowly on his nose, and his moustache twitched every time a page was turned too loudly or when a chair scraped on the floor.
It was a torture altogether because now all of them had to pretend they were actually doing something.
When the hands of the clock moved fifteen minutes further, John noticed the teacher looking behind John’s back.
‘Excuse me, sir, may I go out?’ Rose’s voice jarred the oppressive silence of the room, and John was amazed at how a softly-spoken question could sound so loud.
The teacher took Rose’s sweet, polite countenance in and, upon deeming her caught in the detention for the first time (and definitely repenting about what she did to get it), he nodded without thinking long. Rose stood up from her chair and strolled to the exit.
John’s eyes were glued to her form.
When she was at a safe distance from the door and from the teacher’s watchful stare, Rose stopped in the hall and stretched deliciously. John’s jaw went slack at the show presented to him. The hem of her dusty-pink long-sleeved shirt crawled up her back, and he was granted the unobtrusive view of the dimples on her back.
The daringly short jean skirt rose up her thighs, too, allowing John to see her well-toned legs clad in neutral-coloured tights, her calves’ muscles flexing as she stood on the tips of her bright pink trainers.
All in all, Rose was a picture of playful seduction and various shades of pink.
As if he already didn’t love the rosy shade of her cheeks when she blushed.
His throat felt drier than it was before, and his heart began galloping wildly in his chest, and the reason for this physical reaction wasn’t the heat.
At that moment, as if sensing his jumbled, confused thoughts, Rose turned to John and gave him a toe-curling, tongue-touched smile.
He stared back dumbly for a long moment before snapping his mouth close and grinning at Rose as sweetly as he could (he was not exactly trained to be successful at the flirting games, after all).
It seemed that the grin was enough for Rose. She gave him a slight wave of her fingers, then turned to where the girls’ bathrooms were.
When John turned to face the History teacher, the bespectacled man said nothing. He raised his eyebrows and shook his head slightly at the boy’s behaviour but said nothing.
He was a history teacher, and in the end it was his job to know and remember the past after it was long gone.
And Mister Andrews remembered all too well what his first love felt like.
It was twenty five minutes after Rose’s impromptu walk that John heard the roaring grumbling of her stomach.
The dimwits at the other side of the class snickered at the sound. When John turned to look at Rose, he saw her going red at the cheeks and the neck, and she tucked the stubborn fringe behind her ear in a gesture of insecurity.
John frowned. Had she skipped lunch? She probably did, come to think of it, and it’s not like she planned on getting detention to bring something to snack on in advance. She must have been stuck in the principal's office, being scolded by the ever dramatic Madame Poisson, and she didn’t have an opportunity to eat with the rest of the students.
The teacher - try as he might, John couldn’t remember his name - was hiding behind a newspaper, having fallen asleep again, no doubt. John could hardly blame him, the boredom of sitting and looking after a bunch of wayward teens would do that to a person.
Rose mouthed ‘sorry’ at him, and he waved his hand at her with a tight smile as if saying ‘not your fault.’ One corner of the blonde’s lips moved up at his antics.
As Rose faced down her unfinished sketch of the sleeping teacher (she was honestly so talented, Rose Tyler was, marvelled John), John sent a scorching stare at the two idiots sitting by the window.
They both looked at him with barely hidden contempt yet chose not to make an enemy of him this time, too.
Thing was, John had the reputation of a mercurial, easy to anger and explosive person at times when his patience was tested.
And his patience was tested enough today, thank you very much. He’d rather walk Rose back home than follow Jimmy’s goons behind the school to intimidate them away from bothering Rose.
John was desperately trying to remember how much money he had in his wallet, and whether the amount would be enough to take Rose Tyler for an impromptu dinner.
He hoped he had enough for an evening at the nearest chippy.
Provided that Rose agreed to his proposition.
The timer on the teacher’s desk went off with a tinny, repetitive signal, yet no one at the classroom apart from the teacher himself was surprised.
He flinched, rousing from his catnap, and looked at the teens, who were packing their bags. Finally, his bleary eyes caught on with the events, and he clapped his palms on his hips with a cheery ‘That’s it, kids, now go home and don’t cause trouble again!’
He was rewarded with an uneven chorus of goodbyes and was left alone in the classroom mere moments after the timer’s signal. Mister Andrews smiled at the kids’ rushed exit and started packing his case to hurry home to his dear wife.
John felt a thrill of joy when he saw Rose standing by the school’s entrance alone. It seemed that Jimmy’s brainless friends had something more interesting to do than harassing Rose and skedaddled away into the dusky evening.
‘Thank you for standing up to me,’ Rose said as John stopped opposite of her. There was only a foot or so left between them, and he could sense the smell of Rose’s perfume wash over him again with new force after leaving the classroom.
Something sweet and bubblegum like, no doubt coming from a pink bottle.
‘’S no trouble,’ he answered hoarsely, his voice lost to the booming of his heart.
‘I mean it,’ Rose pressed as she kicked the tip of his black boot lightly with her foot. ‘Thank you,’ she repeated. ‘But just so you know, I can take care of myself, and they don’t bother me more than mosquitoes do in summer.’
John chuckled at the assured way she spoke. There was so much fire in Rose’s words. He loved that.
John still couldn’t tear his eyes off their feet so close to each other. The bright pink of her smaller trainers should have made him cringe but it only made his stomach swoop funnily when he saw them near his own.
He refused to admit that he found the picture somewhat adorable.
But then again, this was Rose Tyler they were talking about.
He needed to get a hold over his ridiculously romantic thoughts. John didn’t do romance! Although, for Rose Tyler, maybe he did.
He had to muster courage to ask her about that dinner.
John raised his eyes from the ground to look at Rose. She was peering back at him with a puzzled look on her face.
John realised that he’d been silent for too long.
‘Sure you can,’ he agreed hastily.
Rose shook her head, bemused. John decided that it was then or never.
‘Would you like to have dinner…with me?’
Rose’s eyes widened as her lips formed an ‘o’ in surprise.
Then, the pink tinged her cheeks and her neck once again. John felt like he’d never get enough of that particular shade of pink.
‘You don’t have to, I just forgot to bring lunch today,’ Rose chuckled anxiously as she tucked a strand of her hair that was now left loose behind her ear. ‘I’ll be alright, mum should have something cooked for tonight before she goes off to her shift.’
‘What if she hasn’t?’ parried John. ‘I won’t be responsible for Rose Tyler dying from hunger.’
It was a lucky, lucky day for him because he had enough money for a simple meal at a chippy.
A whole twenty pounds was given to him by his gramps (it would have been thirty but Donna confiscated a tenner when he accidentally broke two of her nail varnish bottles last week). Still, it was enough for two portions and two sodas, nevermind a tip to the waiters.
Rose’s amused voice alerted John to real life.
‘You know, a jail sentence might do a world of good to your dark and broody appearance. Imagine Tommy and Dylan scarpering away once you’re out early for good behaviour? They’ll be afraid of your shadow,’ she drawled.
John huffed out a laugh and rolled his eyes.
Rose was nice, pretty and funny.
A deadly combination if you ask him.
‘Do you want to, though?’ he repeated the question, feeling a bit unsure of the propriety of his offer. ‘Have a dinner with me?’
The gleeful expression of her face melted away, replaced with a soft, perceiving look in her eyes. He felt like he was under detailed examination, like his soul and his intentions were looked at through the magnifying glass.
‘D’you really mean it?’ Rose asked.
John nodded eagerly, probably looking too desperate. Rose tilted her head to the side, and the feeling of being exposed grew exponentially.
John realised that his intentions were being examined for sincerity.
He couldn’t blame Rose for being extra careful after she was burned by a man’s betrayal once.
Without realising, he blurted out as a last resort:
Suddenly, Rose threw her head back and laughed, the sound of her voice ringing in the stillness of the school yard.
He felt the corners of his lips rise in response to her mirth.
‘Well, why didn’t you say so before? That totally changes the game!’ Rose exclaimed, then rolled her eyes and poked him in the ribs lightly. ‘Chips it is, and you can pay.’
And so they went to the nearest place to the school that John favoured.
‘How did you land in detention?’ Rose asked in-between savouring hot, crispy chips.
John certainly knew places with delicious food.
Unexpectedly, she saw John’s face go crimson. She marvelled at how even the tips of his prominent ears reddened, causing him to look like a picture of sharp contrasts. Steely-blue, piercing eyes and a warm, inviting smile. ‘Dangerous boy’ leather jacket, bulky boots and an adorable blush on his cheeks.
He didn’t hold her gaze at that moment, looking at the salt and pepper shakers on the white plastic table.
‘Nothing too serious,’ he muttered, rearranging the chip pieces in his plate.
Rose frowned, perplexed at his behaviour. It was quite some time since she’d last seen him in detention - hell, it’s been a while since she herself received one. She thought that he’d shaped up and dropped the rebellious act, she’d even heard the teachers praising his steadily rising grades and the fall in his disciplinary trespassings.
John still avoided her eyes even though he resumed eating.
And then, the realisation dawned. Rose’s eyes grew bigger as the proverbial light bulb switched on above her head.
She sputtered ungracefully, half-afraid of assuming wrong and being called silly.
‘Did you…did you do something to land a detention because I did?’
If anything, John’s face became redder, and Rose wondered half-heartedly if he was overheated in that patent leather jacket of his. The fork froze next to his mouth as he replied:
‘Shut up and eat your chips.’
It could have been rude had he said it with bite and with his eyes blazing at her angrily. As it was, John was still alarmingly red, and he didn’t hold her eyes for more than a fleeting moment.
A genuine, joyful laugh bubbled in her chest, and Rose cupped her hands around her lips to hold it lest poor John decided to die from embarrassment.
Oh, what a sweet one he was, Rose mused as she wiped the tears of mirth surreptitiously.
She took her glass of soda and slurped the remains of it with a paper straw, causing John to grin at her manners.
‘Thank you, John,’ she said, lacing her voice with sincerity.
Finally, he raised his eyes to hers.
Rose gave him a saucy wink and giggled at the disbelieving expression on his face.
She already adored him.
In the end he walked her home, and while the silence between them was charged (not unpleasantly so), they both chose to not break it with meaningless words. They were staying close to each other, her denim jacket’s sleeve brushing his leather-covered one. John felt the warmth of her body acutely through the layers of his clothes, and it spurred his foolish heart into a maddening rhythm.
At one moment of time John felt Rose’s pinky finger curl into his. He blessed the poorly-lit streets for concealing his blazing cheeks as he looked away shyly from Rose’s glistening eyes but held onto her tiny finger tightly unless she thought that her advances were unwanted. He heard her giggle, then laughed himself as she developed a skip in her steps.
That night, that blessed, lightless and magical night, Rose murmured her thanks and bid him goodbye before she stood on her tiptoes and gave him a sweet kiss on the cheek. The ever-present scent of her bubblegum perfume teased his nose, and John allowed himself to inhale the playful scent of her hair as he bent a little, accepting the sentiment.
He hoped the pink-tinted scent would stay on his jacket for days afterwards, reminding him of that blissful evening with the girl he fancied for years.
He sauntered down the street, his hands hidden in his jacket’s pockets, humming a cheerful tune of one of his grandfather’s favourite songs after he saw her safely enter her flat.
There, in the pocket of said jacket, laid a heart-shaped piece of paper with Rose’s phone number on it.
John held it in his fingers like a treasure, grinning like a man smitten.
P.S. the link to the art the fic was inspired by because I've no idea how to put a link in notes.
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