John had nodded off beside her, his head bent towards hers, and she was pretty sure he'd drooled in her hair a bit. Rose rolled her eyes. This was typical behaviour from her best mate. She looked across to her other friends, who were sprawled over various sofas and bean bags in the flat she shared with Martha.
"Sylvia's visiting on Friday, isn't she?" Rose asked Donna, who nodded.
"Yeah, think she's staying at John's, thank god."
"Ha, that'll be a lark. Will you and him be able to keep your hands off each other for five minutes while she's there?"Jack asked, waggling his eyebrows.
"What are you talking about?"
Martha rolled her eyes. "We know, Rose. We've always known. You don't have to be all secretive about it anymore, you might as well tell us."
Rose frowned. "I genuinely have no idea what you're going on about."
Donna piped up, "He's not even told me! But it's just been an unspoken thing, right? That you two are seeing each other."
Rose snorted with laughter. "Don't be daft, no we aren't. We're just friends." She nudged him with her elbow, jolting him awake. "Here, listen to this! They think we're dating!"
He squinted at their friends, who were staring at them with their mouths hanging open. Rubbing his eye tiredly, he replied, "What? Dating who?"
"Each other!" Rose collapsed into giggles again. "Hilarious, well done you guys, needed a laugh."
"But - but - " Jack spluttered.
"You aren't?" said Martha, with wide, disbelieving eyes.
John seemed unfazed as he replied, "Nope. Can I go back to sleep? I was having a nice nap - "
"No no no," said Jack, as he waved his finger between John and Rose. "There's been some mistake. You can't be listening to us properly."
"No, you've made a mistake," countered Rose.
"But - "
"Just look at you!" Donna exclaimed.
Rose looked down at herself, then at John. "What?"
"He's got his arm around you!"
"So?" John replied.
Donna put her hands on her hips. "'So!' he says!"
"I don't get it," he replied. He looked at Rose. "Do you get it?"
"No," she answered, shaking her head. "It's hardly like he's got his tongue down my throat, guys."
"But - "
"An arm…touching my shoulders…ooh, scandalous."
John chuckled. "You'll have to let me know, Rose, if this is too arousing for you to handle."
"Ha, I will, don't worry." They giggled together, then noticed how silent everyone else was and looked up. "What?" she demanded.
There was a knock at the door, and Martha jumped up to answer it. Mickey came in, waving a six-pack of Fosters at them with a grin, then picked up on the odd tension in the room. "What's going on?"
Clara and Jenny followed Mickey into the room, racing each other to get to the only free armchair left. Once Jenny had settled on Clara's lap with a huff, they both glanced at Mickey. "What did you say? Why are they all silent?" Clara asked.
"I didn't say anything! I just came in and they were like this!"
"Are you guys all right?" asked Jenny, clicking her fingers to see if any of them would blink.
"Yeah, yeah, fine," Donna said absently, still staring at John and Rose.
"It's just that we found out some shocking news," elaborated Martha.
Clara's eyes lit up. "Oh? What's that, then?"
Jack apparently couldn't hold it in anymore. He jumped to his feet, and placed his hands heavy on Mickey's shoulders. "I hate to say this, I really do, but Mickey the Idiot was right."
"Oi! Wait, right about what?"
"They aren't sleeping together!" he exclaimed dramatically, pointing at John and Rose.
Clara and Jenny gasped.
"Hey, woah, hold on," Rose said, shaking her head in disbelief, "All of you, apart from Mickey apparently, thought we were? Seriously?"
Her friends, excluding John, collectively replied, "Yes!"
John adjusted his tie. "Clearly they assume I'm irresistible."
Rose snorted. "And clearly you aren't, because I've resisted just fine."
He stuck out his tongue at her.
"I know what we should do," Clara said, leaning forwards excitedly. Jenny yelped with the movement and looped her arm around Clara's neck to secure herself. "Let's play a drinking game!"
"What? Why?" asked John.
"Because it's fun!"
"We're not teenagers anymore," Donna said reproachfully, keeping a straight face for exactly two seconds before hurrying on, "Let's do it! What about Never Have I Ever?"
"Oh god," Martha groaned. "I hate that game."
"I agree with Martha, let's just talk - " said John.
Clara huffed. "No, come on, don't be boring. Jack, you'd like to play, right?"
"Of course!" He started handing out shots of vodka.
"Okay good, you go first!"
Jack grinned. "Never have I ever…slept with Rose Tyler."
Rose narrowed her eyes, selecting a piece of popcorn from her bowl and throwing it at his face.
Mickey took a shot, and to everyone's surprise, so did Clara.
"Clara!" Rose hissed, slinking down in her seat, blushing bright red.
"Oh, sorry!" Clara winced. "Forgot that was a secret!"
"Tell. Me. Everything," said Jack. Rose ignored him, but Donna whacked the back of his head with a cushion.
John tugged on the hem of Rose's t-shirt to get her attention. She turned to him with a sheepish smile, and he grinned at her. "How come you never told me about that?"
"Because I've never been drunk enough to talk about it." She looked back at Clara. "You promised you'd never bring it up."
"Oi, it's not like it's anything to be ashamed about," Clara replied, tilting her chin up. "And it wasn't like you didn't have a good time."
Rose rolled her eyes as Mickey and Jack both went, "Oooh!"
"I know, but…" Rose shifted awkwardly. "It was our thing. And now this lot are just gonna take the mick. And use the knowledge for their own personal gratification." She glared at Jack as she said this.
"How many times did this happen, exactly?" asked Martha, propping her chin on her hand, curious. "And when?"
Rose flopped her head back against the sofa, groaning.
"It was about four years ago, and it only happened the once," Clara answered. She wrapped her arm around Jenny's waist and rested her head on her shoulder. "Way before I met you, don't worry."
Jenny laughed, stroking Clara's arm. "I know. I wasn't worried."
"Didn't know you had it in you, Rose," Jack said, his eyes alight with mischief.
"Oh, shut up."
John tucked her into his side in a half-hug. "Don't listen to him, he's just jealous."
Rose smiled at him gratefully, then looked back at the rest of the group. "Anyway, can we move on? Donna, why don't you go next."
Later, Jack cornered John in the kitchen.
"You and Rose."
"There isn't a me and Rose, weren't you listening?" John replied mildly.
"Then what's with all the touching? If you're taking advantage of Rose's good nature, Doc, I swear to god - "
"What?" John stood up straight. "Just because we hold hands occasionally - "
"It's more than that and you know it. It's not just tonight - you're always cosying up on the sofa together."
"Yeah. Together. I'm not taking advantage, Jack. Rose and I - we just - I don't know, we're just the sort of friends who do that sort of thing. We've spoken about it. I know that she doesn't mind. More than that, she wants to. So what's with the third degree?"
Jack folded his arms, affecting a protective stance. "Just checking."
"Right. Good." John tugged on his ear. "So can I go now?"
"One more thing."
He sighed. "What?"
"You and Rose aren't shagging."
"I just told you - "
"No, I wasn't finished. If you two aren't like that, why haven't you dated anyone else since you've known her?"
John opened his mouth to retort but came up short.
"That's just a coincidence."
"Sure." Jack rolled his eyes. "Two years, Doctor. What's going on?"
"Just because there's a correlation - " John started, but Jack cut him off.
"- stop kidding yourself. How many people has Rose dated in that time?"
John ran his hand through his hair, contemplating that question. "Um. Well, she was with Mickey when I first met her. And then there was that fling with Adam. You remember him?" He sniffed. "He was an idiot. And then…I don't know. Did you and Rose ever have a thing?"
"No." Jack tilted his head to the side. "More's the pity." John levelled a glare at him and Jack held his hands up. "Hey, just saying."
"Anyway, I don't know why we're standing around discussing Rose's dating history, we're supposed to be getting more beer."
He made to leave, picking up the drinks off the counter and pushing past Jack to get through the kitchen door. But Jack's next words brought him to a stop.
"So, she's single. You're single. You've both been that way for a while. You already know everything there is to know about each other. Why aren't you dating again?"
John turned around slowly, and when he faced Jack again, he put the drinks back down. His hand came up to rub at the back of his neck.
"Well?" Jack prompted.
"I…" he murmured, sounding confused. Then, he scowled. "Blimey, Jack, stop confusing me. You know why. She's my best mate! It'd be - it'd be - it'd be - " He waved his hands around vaguely. "Weird! Strange! She's - no. Nah. That's not - we're not like that."
Jack raised his eyebrows. "Funny. The way I see it, you're perfect for each other."
"No. No, no." John shook his head, and let out a little laugh. "Anyway, you saw how she reacted earlier! She'd never see me like that. She thought it was hilarious!" Jack's eyebrows got even higher up his forehead, so John hurriedly added, "And it was! Ridiculous. The idea of - ugh, no. Nope. Not interested."
"You don't think she's attractive?"
"What? Of course she's - objectively speaking, of course I can see that she's a beautiful young woman. But that's not - she's Rose."
"It's just - it would be wrong."
"It's Rose," John stressed again.
"Oh my god, not more drinking games, please."
"Don't be a spoilsport. Truth or dare?"
Rose sighed. "Fine. Dare."
"I dare you to snog the Doctor."
Glancing over at John, she shrugged. "That okay with you?"
He nodded. "Sure. What's a friendly kiss between best mates?"
She smiled, and crawled over to him. "All right then. You guys ready for this? This is how not together we are - we can share a casual kiss and have it not mean anything. Right?"
"Correct," John replied.
"Yeah, believe it when I see it," Jack smirked.
She knelt between his legs and leant up, closing her eyes as she tilted her head. His mouth met hers in a slow, measured kiss, and as she pulled back, she sucked a little on his bottom lip. Releasing him, they stared at each other for a second, and then Rose was scooting back to her previous position on the bean bag.
"There, happy?" she said.
The friends looked back and forth between John and Rose, who both had masks of indifference on their faces.
Jack whined and sighed and huffed and puffed but eventually, he dropped it, and they went back to playing the game with no further mentions of what was or wasn't going on between them.
For the rest of the evening, Rose kept catching John's eye. Every time their gazes met, they both involuntarily smiled.
"Shall we order some takeaway?"
"There are some leaflets in the kitchen," Rose said, pointing vaguely in the direction of the other room.
John jumped up and went to take a look, but called out after a few moments, "Where are they, Rose? Can't see 'em."
Sighing, Rose got to her feet and went to show him. "They're just - oh, you've found them."
He had the pile of takeaway menus on the counter and was flicking through them idly as she walked in.
Turning to look at her, he said, "Yeah, sorry. Just wanted to get you on your own for a second."
"Oh?" Curiosity piqued, she leant against the door, closing it with a firm click so that they were away from prying eyes and ears.
"I just wanted to say - earlier, that kiss - "
Rose twisted her earring between two fingers, lifting one shoulder. "Yeah, it was nice."
He exhaled. "Yeah? I thought maybe you didn't - "
"You're a very good kisser," she assured him, smiling wide. Her tongue touched the corner of her mouth and he grinned back.
"Ah. Thanks. Well, so are you."
She laughed, and gestured to the menus. "Should we take them out to the others?"
"Right, yes, of course."
Neither of them moved.
Rose stepped closer, and patted his arm. "Let's talk about it later, when the others aren't around."
His eyes widened. Nodding quickly, he then asked, "Wait, is there - is there even much to discuss?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. Is there?"
"I mean, it was part of a game. It wasn't - "
"Yeah, I suppose…"
He took a step towards her. "It's not like it was some spontaneous thing. Now, if I, say, kissed you in your kitchen, out of the blue. That would warrant some conversation later. Right?"
Rose reached up and fiddled with his lapel. "I think it would."
"Because, out of the context of a harmless game, a kiss - that would make us need to talk about things."
"I reckon you're right, yeah."
"So I mean, as it stands, we don't have to talk about it, because it wasn't - real. But if, just for example, I kissed you right now - or if you kissed me - that would be different. There wouldn't be an excuse, so it could - it would raise questions."
"Mmm." Rose's tongue darted out to wet her bottom lip. "Absolutely."
John's hands came up to rest on her waist. "Rose?" he murmured, his voice low.
As soon as his lips touched hers, he was pushing her up against the kitchen door and she was running her fingers through his hair. They kissed wetly, deeply, and Rose shivered.
She arched into him, and he groaned into her mouth, and then she was pulling back and putting her hand over his mouth. "Shh!" she whispered, fighting back a giggle. "They'll hear." Letting her hand drop back to his jacket lapel, she smiled at him warmly. "That was even better than before."
"Mmm," he squeaked, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Getting tongues involved will do that."
Rose laughed, and wrapped her arms around him, squeezing him into a tight hug.
"Right, come on, let's order this food - " she began, as they finally released one another.
"Oh, right, yeah." His eyes drifted, staring at her lips for a second before returning to meet her gaze.
"We can do that again later. If you want," she said carefully, maintaining a casual stance on the matter.
John sniffed contemplatively. "Sure, yeah, why not." Clearing his throat, he pointed at the door. "Shall we?"
"Yep, let's. Don't want them getting the wrong idea." Rose paused, tilting her head as she picked up the menus. "Well, or the right one."
As soon as everyone had left - including Martha, who went home with Mickey - John and Rose abandoned the bags of beer cans and takeaway boxes they were holding and gravitated towards one another.
"Cleaning up can wait, yeah?" Rose said, looping her arms around his neck.
John kissed her in response, guiding her backwards towards the nearest sofa. They tumbled onto it together.
"This is all right, right? I mean, best friends can do this. Yeah?" Rose said, as he kissed his way down her neck.
"Course. Yep. Best friends must do this all the time."
Rose nodded and they kissed again, but barely six seconds later she was pushing at his chest. "No, wait, they don't really, do they? I mean, I haven't, before."
He swallowed. "Well, me neither. But! First time for everything. And anyway, didn't we discover earlier that you and Clara…"
"That was different. We weren't really close friends beforehand. And we were a lot younger."
"Ah. Still. This is you and me, Rose. We're…"
"Yeah, but…what if we mess it up?" She fiddled with the hair at the nape of his neck. "What if we lose what we have by introducing this sort of thing?"
He pulled back, hovering over her. "Okay. If you're really that worried, we can stop."
She smiled shyly. "I really don't want to stop, though."
John smiled back. "Rose, our friendship means the world to me. That's not going to change just because we have a bit of a snog. In fact, it's a bonus."
Rose trailed her hands down his back and grabbed his bum. "And what if I'm already hoping for more than just 'a bit of a snog?'"
He settled atop her, between her legs, and gave her a sheepish grin. "As you can see, sort of on the same wavelength as you, there."
She tilted her hips, rubbing against him, and moaned. "Yeah, don't think we'll be getting much sleep tonight."
Chuckling, he trailed his nose along her neck and kissed her jaw. "How'd I never notice you wanted me so badly?"
"Oi!" She laughed, but her hands didn't pause their descent down the buttons of his shirt, undoing them swiftly on her way. "I was perfectly content with just your friendship 'til you showed me what a good kisser you were."
"Oh yeah?" he asked, propping himself up to look at her properly. "So, you've honestly never thought about this before tonight?"
She averted her gaze, concentrating on where her fingers were running through his chest hair. "Nah."
"You are such a liar, Rose Tyler," he decided, and reached for the hem of her top. He lifted it off her and she arched her back to help him, and then she was sitting up, on his lap, her legs around him as he sat back on his haunches.
Rose ground down on his erection with a smirk. "Did you want me, then? Before tonight?"
"No. Never. You are the complete opposite of what I'm looking for in a woman," he teased, fumbling with the clasp of her bra.
He tilted his head. "A bit."
She raised her eyebrows. "Pervert."
Her bra was thrown haphazardly behind her and then she was attacking the button of his trousers.
In the morning, as the Doctor readied himself to sneak out of Rose's flat, she asked, "How many times are we allowed to do this, then? Before it becomes something we need to worry about."
He sniffed. "Five? That's a good, solid number, right?"
"Yep. Good idea. Should get it out of our systems by shag five."
They did not get it out of their systems by shag number five.
"Let's just round it up to ten."
"Yeah. Might as well. That's - that's completely allowed. Right?"
"Do you think they know?"
"Our friends? Don't be daft. They're thick as anything. We went around not shagging for two years and they thought we were! They've no idea."
"Still, I think we should be a bit more careful. Just in case."
"You did leave your knickers at my place last time."
"Don't worry, I put them somewhere safe. You can come and collect later."
"Mmm, I might just do that."
"Why are we so good at this together?"
"I think it's 'cos we know each other so well. We're in sync. You know?"
"…do you think we should stop?"
"Are we going to?"
"I don't think the friends with benefits thing usually works out in movies."
"No. No, it doesn't."
"Maybe we should cut our losses. We've had a good run. Don't want to spoil it."
"You're just joking, right?"
"Did you know we've had…some form of sexual contact fifty-three times in the last couple of months?"
"You've been counting?"
"Yes. Good mind for numbers, I have."
"Rose? You sound pensive."
"You were joking. About stopping it, just now. Yeah?"
"Of course I was. Can't stop on number fifty-three. Such an ugly number."
"Mm, I agree."
Rose groaned. "Sometimes I think about all the sex we weren't having for two whole years. I can't believe I could've had you doing this to me all that time."
John lifted his head. "Tell me about it. Good job we realised the error of our ways, hmm?"
It was the morning of John's birthday.
Jack had stayed the night at Ianto's, so he picked up a few of their friends on the way back to the flat, planning on surprising John when he woke up. He carefully turned the key in the lock, everyone tiptoeing in after him, and they started to distribute the balloons and banners around the flat. Donna was due to arrive with the cake later. As Jenny poured out some champagne - Clara muttering about how surely it was too early for that - Mickey whispered that he was going to pop across the hall to fetch Rose and Martha.
That was when those remaining in the flat heard it. All of their eyes widened in shock, because coming from the direction of John's closed bedroom door was the unmistakable sound of two people having sex.
"Oh my god," Jenny hissed, putting her hands over her ears. He was her cousin; she didn't want to listen to that!
"No way," Jack said, shaking his head. "He never does that!"
"Maybe he went out and met someone last night," Ianto murmured, shrugging. "You never know, the prospect of turning twenty-five might've finally jolted him into action."
"But - but - " Jack spluttered.
"You guys, hadn't we better go?" piped up Clara.
"Shit, we can't let Rose hear this," Jack realised. "Ianto, go and stop Mickey from - "
"Stop Mickey from what?" said Mickey, as he entered the flat with Martha. His eyebrows went up his forehead as he registered the sound of bedsprings squeaking in the next room. "Is he - ?"
They heard John moan, loudly, and winced. "This is so awkward," Jenny said. "We need to leave." Then, she frowned. "Wait - where's Rose?"
"She left early this morning," explained Martha quietly. "Said she had to pop over to her Mum's."
Clara put down the banner she was still holding and said, "Okay, come on, let's go."
Just as they had started to file out of the flat, however, John's bedroom door opened. They all froze as they were confronted with the sight of Rose in one of his blue shirts, standing in his doorway with her mouth hanging open.
"Shit," she said, and then John came up behind her, evidently curious and completely naked.
"What's - oh!" He squeaked loudly, and grabbed Rose around the waist to drag her in front of him, covering his nakedness from view.
"This isn't what it looks like," Rose said, tugging on the bottom of his shirt helplessly.
Their friends were still just staring, until Jack finally exclaimed, "You lied to us! You said you weren't - !"
"Just - just - hold on a sec - "
John and Rose backed up, then closed the door.
The others were too shocked to utter a single word in their absence, so they just listened to the sounds of John and Rose talking and hurriedly putting on a bit more clothing.
"Where are my knickers?" Rose hissed.
John sounded affronted, as though she'd accused him of stealing them. "You weren't wearing any!"
"Here, take these."
A few moments later, they came back out, looking quite sheepish. John was wearing some pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt, and Rose had put on a pair of his boxer briefs.
"Look, before you all get the wrong idea, this is just two adults having a bit of fun," Rose said, folding her arms defensively.
Clara rolled her eyes. "You're kidding me - you're still gonna claim you're not a couple?"
Rose glanced at John, lifting one shoulder in a silent question.
He smiled at her, then looked away shyly. "Maybe we've, er." He tugged on his earlobe. "Grown a bit closer lately?"
"It was always there," Martha said impatiently, "You've just been too thick to realise it."
Rose sighed. "Okay, fine."
John lifted his head and stared at her. "Hmm?"
She turned to him and, surprising everyone, wrapped her arms around his neck. His hands clutched at her waist automatically, to steady her, and when she kissed him, his eyes fluttered closed. She released him after just a few seconds, making sure to meet his gaze steadily as she said, "Happy birthday, Doctor. Want to go on a date?"
"Did you forget to get me a present, is that it?" he teased, stroking his thumbs against her sides.
Rose arched an eyebrow. "Did you forget what we just did in your bed, is that it?"
"Ew, okay, this was sweet and now you just ruined it," said Jenny.
Jack disagreed. "No, no, please go on, tell us more."
"I think we moved on from the dating stage a long time ago, Rose." John tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and cupped her cheek.
"Yeah, it sounded like it," Jack grinned. "Didn't know you'd be so vocal, Doc."
John cast him a withering look. "I meant emotionally."
Clara clapped her hands happily. "Okay, we're gonna leave you to it for a sec. Come on guys, let the lovebirds have a moment." She pushed at Jack's back, urging him out of the flat door.
"We'll go hang out at ours for a bit, Rose," Martha said. "Let us know when you want to actually celebrate your birthday Doctor."
He wasn't really paying attention as he was too busy staring at Rose, but the sound of the door closing startled him. "Oh." He looked over his shoulder, then back at Rose. "Nice of them to do all this." He gestured at the balloons. "Feel a bit bad for wanting them to leave."
"I'm sure they'll get over it," Rose said, with a grin. She fiddled with the hair at the nape of his neck. "You were saying?"
"Mmm." He leant in and gave her a kiss on the cheek, then trailed his lips down to her neck, nibbling lightly. His hands landed on her bum, tugging her firmly against him. "Is it terribly insatiable of me to want to take you back to bed?"
"Yep, but I love it," she laughed, tugging his head up again so that she could meet his eyes. "I love you."
His breath caught, and he had to swallow hard against the sudden lump in his throat. "I love you too."
"We were never really cut out for the casual sex thing, I don't think."
"Not at all," he agreed.
"And…well, now it's all out in the open with that lot…" Rose breathed out in relief. "I feel…silly, really. For trying to deny there was something more between us, even to ourselves."
John picked her up, walking with her back through his bedroom door. "I only denied it because you did."
She gaped at him, and he flung her onto the bed. "Well, I only denied it because you did!"
"Haven't you noticed, Rose?" He grinned, peeling his boxer briefs back off her. "We can both be a bit stubborn."
Rose let her legs fall open and he kissed his way along her thighs. "Get up here. We're gonna have to make this quick, the others are waiting for us."
He shuffled up her body and she tugged his pyjama bottoms down just enough to free his erection. "Rose?"
He stroked her hair back from her face, stilling her when she tried to get him inside her straight away. "I think I've been in love with you all along."
Rose's expression softened, and she tilted her head to kiss him. "Oh, me too."