Rose shivered as she stepped into the warmth of the café that was just a few blocks from her uni. She'd just finished her last final exam, and was eager for the winter holidays. She hadn't seen much of her boyfriend these last few weeks, what with her being busy studying, and him being busy with running the coffee shop that had a never-ending influx of harried students and professors.
But now that her semester was over, she and John agreed to celebrate by going out to lunch together during John's break.
Though, as Rose glanced around the bustling shop, she had an impression they wouldn't make it out for lunch. No matter. John's shop sold perfectly lovely sandwiches.
Rose flashed John a bright grin when she spotted him behind the counter. He threw her a lazy salute before turning his attention back to the line of customers in front of him. She meandered to the only open table at the back of the shop and settled in, knowing John would join her when the immediate rush ended.
Ten minutes later, she heard him call her name. She glanced up to see him jogging towards her, shedding his work apron as he moved.
"So sorry, love!" His cheeks were red and his eyes were bright and his hair was sticking every which way. He was the epitome of a hot mess. Emphasis on the hot… Rose allowed herself the pleasure of enjoying the way his shirt stretched tight over his chest and the way the muscles of his forearms flexed, on display from his rolled-up sleeves. "Didn't expect to be so busy today. And we're short-staffed, what with two of my part-timers having got the flu and three others busy with final exams."
"No worries," she assured, leaning up to peck a kiss to his cheek. He smelled distinctly like coffee and spice, the combination of which always made Rose think of him even when he wasn't with her. "We can eat here. I don't mind."
"You sure?" he asked, sticking his hands into his pocket and fiddling with whatever he happened to have in them today.
"Absolutely. Tell you what, you can make it up to me by making me one of your fantastic peppermint caramel lattes."
His eyes brightened, and he nearly tripped over his feet in his hurry to make her drink. She shook her head at him. Her daft John.
Her heart tripped in her chest as she watched him move across the shop with ease and confidence. He was the most beautiful person in the world, and she still had trouble believing he wanted her.
Her mind wandered back to the day they'd met, in this very coffee shop. They'd both been on a break, him from work, her from class, when she'd managed to knock her latte all over him. Luckily for him, he'd still had his apron on, so his unreasonably tight clothes hadn't gotten ruined. But she had been so mortified and had been about to sprint out of the shop and never return, despite it being the only decent coffee house within walking distance of campus, when he had smiled at her and told her he'd make her a fresh cup, on the house, and stuttered out a dinner invitation as well.
Rose watched him move with his usual frenetic energy as he added the steamed milk to her drink and worked on the design for the froth. She enjoyed seeing the designs he came up with; they made her feel so special and loved by him that he took the time to create a picture for her, despite the fact it would be gone within minutes as she drank it.
But today, John seemed to be moving with more energy and nerves than normal. She saw the co-owner of John's shop, Donna, touch his shoulder and whisper something to him.
Red flags were suddenly raised, and she was suddenly nervous that something was wrong with him. That maybe he had some bad news to tell her. Oh, God, what if he was trying to break up with her?
Before her panic could escalate, she watched him set two mugs and two pastries onto a tray and spin back around towards her. He grinned that goofy grin she loved so much, and the butterflies in her stomach settled.
"Right then, Rose Tyler!" John set the pastries in the center of the table before reaching with a trembling hand to give her her drink.
Rose Tyler. She glanced at the froth curiously. He was usually more creative than that, but she shrugged. The shop was incredibly busy after all. She was about to take a sip when John cleared his throat.
"Ah, that's actually mine, love," he said sheepishly. "A bit misleading, what with your name and all. But… this one's yours."
Rose set the cup in her hands down and moved it across the table to his spot, before she accepted the mug from John's trembling hands. She gave his fingers a reassuring squeeze and a smile, hoping to calm whatever nerves he was feeling.
She took the mug from him and set in on the table to look at it.
Rose felt lightheaded as she read those two little words, brown letters surrounded by white foam. Her ears were ringing and she barely realized that John had called her name.
She looked at him and realized with a start that he was down on one knee and had her hand tightly clasped between his clammy ones.
"What do you say?" he asked faintly, his eyes darting from her face to her drink and back again. "I was intrigued by you from the moment you upended your caramel latte in my lap, besotted with you from the moment you agreed to have dinner with me, and in love with you from the moment you became my girlfriend. I love you with every fiber of my being, Rose, and will continue to love you for as long as our forever lasts. Marry me, love?"
Rose squeezed his fingers and could hardly speak through the lump in his throat. She nodded frantically to wipe the look of nervous uncertainty off his face. His eyes lit up in excitement, and her answering smile unleashed the sob in her throat and she felt the first tear trickle down her cheek.
John exhaled raggedly and stood up to scoop her into an enthusiastic hug. Rose giggled into his shoulder as he spun her around wildly.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," he murmured into her hair, holding her close. "Oh, Rose, thank you!"
"You daft man," Rose hiccupped. "Of course I'd want to marry you!"
John suddenly set her back on her feet. He kept one arm around her waist as he dropped his other hand to rummage through his pockets.
Rose's breath hitched when she saw the black velvet box. He flicked it open to reveal the most beautiful ring Rose had seen. A circular diamond was set in the center of a platinum ring and was flanked on either side by slightly smaller sapphires. The ring glittered in the soft yellow lights from overhead and Rose unthinkingly reached out and hovered her fingers over the precious gems.
"You can put in on, y'know," John teased hoarsely, looking at her with a tender expression that made her feel like the most important person in the universe.
"Put it on me?" she requested.
He took the ring out of its soft velvet cushion and cradled her left hand in his. He brought her fingers to his lips and pressed a lingering kiss to her knuckles before he slipped the ring onto her finger. It fit perfectly.
Rose admired it for just a moment before she reached up and took John's cheeks in her hands and stretched up on her tiptoes to press a long, languorous kiss to his lips. He sighed into her mouth and wrapped his arms around her shoulders to hold her closer.
Rose was just about to suck his bottom lip into her mouth when the sound of applause caught her attention.
She pulled away and glanced around at the shop. Everyone was watching them and grinning as they clapped for them. Her cheeks and ears heated, and she smiled shyly at the crowd as John beamed brightly and waved at them all.
"D'you want to get out of here and grab a bite to eat?" he asked, slipping his hand into hers.
"I thought you were busy?" Rose said, nodding to the full shop.
"Nah, most of these are Donna's friends and our regular customers," John said. "I, erm, well, I needed a bit of help to get the proposal right, and these lovely folks agreed to stop by at noontime. I may or may not have bribed them with a free drink, but that's beside the point."
Rose giggled at him and pressed a kiss to his red cheeks.
"I appreciate the effort," Rose told him. "I love you."
John hummed happily deep in his throat. "I love you, too. So, lunch?"
"Lead the way," Rose said, bundling up in her coat and scarf.
She glanced down at her surely-cool latte, and smiled at the melted, amorphous letters of his proposal.
"You forgot the peppermint stick," Rose tease, bumping her hip against his.
"Ah," John said. "Blimey. I'll have to have a word with that barista."
"Hmm, I'm sure the boss'll understand," she mused.
"Well, the boss is in a rather good mood today. I suppose I could let it slide."
Rose grinned up at her fiancé—God, she loved that word— and slipped her mittened hand into his, feeling weightless with love for him, before they walked outside into the chilly December afternoon.