Never Quite Normal

By: Jessa L'Rynn & Olfactory Ventriloquism

This work is a collaborative effort. If it had been just me, this story wouldn't be right at all, so big round of applause for my co-author, Olfactory Ventriloquism. -Jessa

Epic and Revealing Disclaimer: We don't own Doctor Who. We have abducted him and are trying to get him to sign himself over. Jack is actually on his knees thanking OV for getting "It's a Small World" out of his head. In his extreme gratitude, he reached through Jessa's hole in time and brought OV the gift of a Pair-o-Docs. After she pistol-whipped him for the pun, which seems to have impressed him in a way that is making the Doctor cringe, she noticed they are both in velvet. Jessa rescued the red one, but the green one's a lost cause. OV likes his hair, as soft things are good. The curent Doctor has risen to address the assembled group. "Now you're just pandering for attention. Aren't you done yet? Maybe when you're finished with this, we can talk. Until then, I don't think this is enough of a sample of your work. Get a portfolio and come talk to me then." At this point, he has rounded up Jack and the velvet pair-o-Docs and... oh, dear... stepped into that hole in reality Jessa just had to open. Jessa and OV are staring in horror as our contracts flutter to the floor, unsigned.

At this time, the Authors would like to apologize to the users of the local Kinkos and other copy shops for the vast amounts of time spent waiting in line behind them.

Please note: This story carries an "M" rating for a lot of very good reasons.

Chapter 47:

Jackie Tyler was being slowly driven up the steep slope of Insanity Mountain, and was beginning to suspect she might enjoy the ride down the other side. It felt as if this whole arrangement had been constructed to rub in the fact that her eighteen year old daughter insisted on going around with a forty year old man. Since that man had come back, Jackie practically never saw Rose anymore. She'd thought it was bad enough when Rose spent every minute on the phone to him while he'd been gone. She'd been wrong.

That first weekend, Rose hadn't come home once as far as Jackie knew. Since she knew that Rose hadn't taken so much as a pair of more sensible shoes, Jackie had to assume that they hadn't left his flat once. The first time Jackie saw Rose was when she got home from work on Monday, and she still had an absent, almost dreamy smile on her face.

Jackie had tried to be happy for her daughter, really she had. After all, she knew very well that Jimmy Stone had never managed to make Rose smile like that, and Rose deserved the best in everything. But, no matter how she tried, a small voice kept whispering to Jackie, "He better be good. He's had forty years of practice." Of course, this wasn't fair. He'd probably had closer to twenty years, twenty five if he'd been precocious, but even that meant he'd been at it longer than Rose had been alive, the randy old bastard.

It had surprised Jackie to learn that she'd actually had a small hope in her that he wouldn't be able to satisfy Rose, and that would be the end of that. Jackie was a little disturbed that she could be so uncharitable, but, dammit, this insanity was going to collapse sooner or later, and it would be better for everyone involved if it were sooner.

That Monday night, with that smile still slapped on, Rose quickly changed and blew out again saying she was going to meet the gang down at the coffee shop of all places. Jackie didn't think it was healthy for Rose to be changing for that man. Okay, so it was coffee, but what did that herald? All too soon, it would be only leaving the house with permission and popping out babies.

With that smile that was rapidly getting on Jackie's nerves, Rose asked if Jackie wanted to come with them. Jackie tried not to seem bitter when refusing, but she wasn't sure if she succeeded.

Since then, for the past two weeks, on the nights Rose did come home, it was at only semi-decent hours, and her clothes were always in disarray, which, if Jackie didn't know what was causing this, would be curious, since Rose put such effort into her appearance before going out.

If Jackie was up when Rose came in, she saw her daughter stumble in as though drunk or as if something had made her weak at the knees. Her hair was invariably mussed. Often, Rose would giggle to herself. If she realized her mum had observed her, she would blush and say goodnight and sway into her bedroom, often with another giggle or a contented sigh as she went.

Jackie couldn't help being repulsed.

Then there were the nights that Rose didn't come home at all. Oddly, Jackie preferred these nights, though she suspected that she shouldn't. It was likely, after all, that whatever they were doing was exhausting Rose to the point of being unable to come home.

Still, Jackie enjoyed not having the evidence of that man shagging her daughter shoved in her face. And, though she would never admit it aloud, Jackie liked having free reign of the flat without worrying that Rose might catch her with the bloke she was currently seeing. Jackie had taken back up with Jim, and Rose had taken an instant dislike to him for no readily apparent reason the first time Jackie had gone out with him. There was nothing particularly wrong with him, Rose said, she just didn't like him. So they were on an even footing there, because Jackie didn't like Rose's boyfriend, either.

All the same, Jackie Tyler was no exhibitionist, not when she was sober and thinking. She just wasn't very good at being discrete. Subtlety was no survival trait on the council estates.

Tuesday night, Rose said she was going down to the pub to humor her friends. Jackie was perversely amused at the thought of Himself having to do without his favorite to for an evening. She asked if there'd been a row, and Rose laughed as if that were and absurd suggestion.

"Joshua knows my mates are important to me, and that he'll have to make concessions for them on occasion." Rose told her with an irritatingly patient expression. Jackie stared at her daughter in a manner that clearly said that she believed he knew no such thing, but held her peace.

Rose came home from the pub early, and angry. Jackie could guess what might have been said, what Rose might have heard, but she couldn't bring it up or say anything about it since she sort of agreed with parts of it, anyway. Even though Rose seemed strained over the next week, the disgustingly cheery smiles and out half the night behavior continued anyway. By the weekend, the strain was gone, and Jackie wondered silently at that as well.

Several times over the next two weeks, Rose would invite her mum down to the coffee house. Every time, Jackie refused. There was something very wrong about a girl inviting her mum to tag along on a date, even a group date.

On her fifth invitation, Jackie decided to put a stop to this absurdity. She accepted. In surprise, Rose lowered the shirt she had been holding up to examine.

"Really?" she asked, staring wide-eyed. Jackie smiled, ready for the invitation to be retracted, and nodded. "That's great!" Rose enthused. Sighing, Jackie went to find her shoes.

The coffee house was comfortably furnished, and a few couples occupied corners, giving most of the room to the exuberant group.

Mickey was preening, having managed to fix a car his boss had given up on. Shireen was alternately stroking his ego and popping his inflated head. Keisha and Rose were talking animatedly; Joshua lounged on the couch with Rose, his arm wrapped easily around her as he chuckled at Shireen's treatment of Mickey. Jackie watched in fascination.

"S'right here," Shireen exclaimed, bringing the paper over and wedging herself onto the couch between Joshua and Keisha.

"Oi, some of us have ta breathe here," Joshua protested, but the smile never left his face. "Go put yer elbows in someone else's ribs."

"Ah, give over, you know you love it." Shireen blew him off casually and he turned a sad expression, not quite a pout, on Rose. (Jackie was glad he didn't actually pout; she was certain that would have made her sick.) Rose shrugged and shoved at him until he gave up and fetched a chair to perch in. Rose immediately decided he was a foot rest, apparently.

"Right here, Pale Horse is touring for their new album, Crimson Vindication."

"Who're they?" Keisha wondered.

"What's with a name like Pale Horse?" Mickey wanted to know.

"Ooh, I know that one!" Rose exclaimed gleefully, and proceeded to explain something about the Four Horsemen of the Acropolis or some such, with that ridiculous bloke of hers adding commentary, puffing up her head, and grinning at her like she was an undiscovered genius.

"Zed'll've come up with that one," the old man added. Shireen squealed like the star-crazed teenager she sorta was and demanded details.

Jackie sat back with her cappuccino and shook her head, almost unable to believe that this clever little thing who sounded so knowledgeable was her fashion-magazine wielding baby girl. Rose didn't sound completely alien like this - she sounded like Pete Tyler, in a lot of ways, all bouncing and random brilliance.

In the past, thoughts of Pete and his eventual fate, their eventual fate, had been all it took to remind Jackie to keep both her own head and Rose's out of the clouds, their feet on level ground. Looking at Joshua and Rose together now, though, she wasn't so sure the level ground, the sensible way of doing things, was what was needed.

They were comfortable. They were happy. The acted like a single cohesive unit while, at the same time, being completely independent entities. They were constantly aware of each other while simultaneously including their friends effortlessly. They supported each other. It occurred to Jackie, albeit reluctantly, that she may have been unfair. Her daughter was changing for him, but he'd already changed for her. And the changing Rose was doing wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Jackie'd been afraid that this thing was a crazy love affair, a doomed romance that Rose would look back on with scars and regret, but now, she didn't know. Rose wasn't becoming smaller or hiding herself in the man's shadow.

Reminded by her own thoughts, Jackie realized she had seen a relationship like this once before. She'd been part of that relationship. Yes, it had hit the rocks and yes it had been so difficult some times, being in love with a dreamer, but Jackie knew deep in her heart, even knew back then before death had colored her perspective, that she would never have traded one minute of it, fighting, loving, or Rose. Jackie didn't get her happy ever after with Pete. And maybe Rose couldn't get hers, what with Joshua being forty already, but they could have a happy ever now.

Jackie was done interfering. She didn't have to like that man, but her daughter was happy. So, it was time to stop impeding them.

When Rose came home that night, Jackie wondered if maybe it was Rose who needed to stop being an impediment. For whatever reason, she loved him and it was obvious that she wanted to spend as much time as possible with him. That man acted like he would very happily be surgically joined at the hip. Jackie remembered the damage that moving in with Jimmy Stone had done, but Rose needed to get over it and get out.

First thing in the morning, Jackie made a phone call.

When Rose was told that Cousin Mo would be moving in, she was surprised, to say the very least.

"It's only for a little while, love, until she gets back on her feet," Jackie assured her. She expected Rose to start packing.

"No problem," Rose said. Jackie smiled. "I'll kip on the couch so she can have my bed." The smile vanished.

"You will do no such thing, Rose Marion Tyler." Jackie snapped. "Your boyfriend has a nice flat, and he wants you to be there with him, in his house and in his bed. And don't tell me you haven't gotten to that point, because I'm not a mug. You'd just as well move in with him, because you're not staying here!"

Rose stared at her mum, uncertain what to say. Since she was met by silence, Jackie let her tirade continue with barely a hitch.

"I don't care if you've been irreparably damaged by that bastard Jimmy Stone. Joshua punched him, so I don't think he's going to do what Jimmy did, he's nothing like that little coward. And I don't care what they're all saying down the pub, and yes, of course I know about that. It's not true. You know it; he knows it. Today, you are calling up your mates and you are arranging for them to help you move, and then you are starting to pack. Understand?"

Rose was staring at her mum, obviously dumbfounded. Tears shone in her eyes, and Jackie wondered if she should start apologizing for all of that. Then Rose launched herself at her mum and hugged her tight.

"Thank you."

She could move in with Wilson, Rose knew that. He'd probably need a roommate, really, but she'd bet anything she couldn't afford half his rent, never mind groceries or anything else. Electricians could ask for and get good money, and ones with the licenses and stuff Wilson had could do well freelancing on weekends, too, which she knew Wilson did.

She and Shireen had always talked about getting a place, but they'd never done it. No idea where either one of them would come up with any of the money they'd need to do it, though, really.

Truth be told, Rose wanted to move in with Joshua. Even if he tossed her out on her arse again next month, it would be worth it to her to have this month. But she'd been terrified of what her mum would say, her moving in with another bloke not six months after moving out on the last one. She'd been terrified that Joshua would hear the rumors that she was only with him for his money and believe it. She'd been terrified that she was being stupid for even wanting to move in with him, since he was such a solitary creature with everyone but her. She'd been terrified that she was so in love with him that it physically hurt some times to think about it, and she didn't want to do anything to mess up what they had.

Joshua had laid the money fears to rest himself, and the fears about wanting her around. Her mum had settled the issue of her opinion on the matter, even if Jackie still didn't like Joshua. Of course, it wasn't like she would be moving to Ireland with him or something, and Jackie could still see Rose practically every day if she wanted.

There was only one person who could settle her mind about messing things up with Joshua, though, and that was Rose herself. She had to decide, had to choose within her own heart if she was willing to take the chance of losing him by letting him see her day to day when she wasn't at her best.

She worried at it so constantly that she hardly slept that night, but she woke in the morning with a clear conscience and two conclusions.

The first was that she had seen him at something that was very probably his rock bottom worst and she didn't think any less of him for it. He deserved the same chance that he had given her - to see the whole her and choose for himself. She trusted him enough to trust him with that.

The second was that she wanted to be with him, as fully as she could be for as long as he would have her. Whether that was days or months or ages, she didn't know now, but it was a risk she really needed to take.

No matter what happened, never knowing was a lot worse than finding out.

"Problem?" Wilson asked, taking in Rose's dazed and befuddled expression. It was different than her usual morning expression of, "Give me caffeine if you want to live," so he figured something was up.

"I'm being thrown out," Rose said. "My mum is throwing me out." She looked at Wilson and a grin like sheer lunacy lit her pretty face. Her eyes danced. "My mum is throwing me out of the flat so my cousin Mo can move in an' have my room."

"O... K." Wilson reached over and held a hand to Rose's forehead. She didn't seem to be feverish, so why was she smiling over something that was probably heart-breaking news? "Are you... gonna need a place to stay?"

Rose giggled. "That's just it. Mo don't really need a place. She lives with her mum, and they never got on is all. Plus it's way out of the way, no chance to get a good job, but she could easily find work in London. She's not got her A-levels, either, but she did fine on her GCSE's, same's me. Mum's been saying she needed to come stay with us for years, but she also said we could maybe get a bigger flat or bunk beds or something. Never actually considered tossing me before. She let me leave most of my stuff when I moved in with Jimmy, even. This time, she says I gotta pack."

"Oh, Rose, I'm so sorry," said Wilson.

Rose laughed merrily. "Don't you get it?" Incredulously, Wilson shook his head, almost afraid the shock had gotten to her. Rose waved a friendly hand to Joseph as he strode briskly across the store in a serious managerial fashion. Then she set to folding t-shirts on a display so she could talk quietly and not be noticed too much. "Joshua asked me to move in with him two weeks ago. I've been stalling, because... well, a lot of reasons."

"That stupid ex of your's," Wilson observed. "Wanna help me set him up with Alex?"

"Jimmy's in jail," Rose reminded Wilson. "An' he's staying there, remember?"

"Oh, right. Pulled a knife," Wilson remembered.

"But, the thing is, Mum don't like Joshua, right. An' she knows he'll take me in any time. So why's she throwing me out, if she's so dead set against us together?"

"Are you saying this is your mum's way of being clever?"

"Devious, int she?"

Wilson shook his head in utter amazement at the weird brilliance that was Jackie Tyler. "She should stand for Parliament," he decided.

Rose chortled merrily. "So, you gonna come help me move?"

"And meet this strange woman and see your lovely lover again? You bet."

"Hey!" Rose exclaimed with mock severity. "No ogling my boyfriend."

"Fine," Wilson said. Then, he leaned in close. "But he's got such a lovely arse."

"Don't have to tell me that," Rose agreed, and rolled her eyes. "Tell ya what, though, Mick'll probably be there, an' no one'll tell you off for ogling him."

Wilson grinned and affected a soft moan. "And another lovely bum. I'm in."

Rose slapped him playfully on the arm and then they both got to actual work.

"We'll have to delay the trip to France just a little longer," Rose said apologetically. She and Joshua were currently running through the park, indulging in the habit they'd taken up three nights a week at least. Actual joggers always gave the pair of them annoyed glances as they sprinted past and more than once Joshua had threatened under his breath to bring a camera to take pictures of people who actually stopped and stared at them.

Joshua frowned, his grip on her hand tightening reflexively. "What's wrong, love?"

"Not wrong, as such. Just... I think I'll need some time to get settled into your flat, if that's ok?"

Joshua stopped still as a statue. His grip on her hand jerked Rose up short, too, and she glanced up at him nervously, almost afraid to meet his eyes. This was why she wanted to be casual about it; she was afraid he'd change his mind. "You're... you've... you're gonna... you've decided?"

Rose smiled shyly at the look of incredulous wonder on his face. "Yeah," she said softly.


"Yeah," she agreed. Grinning, she swung their bound hands and bounced at him cheerfully. "You're stuck with me."

Joshua's eyes were bright and glowing, a pair of brilliant sapphires in the June twilight. His face shone suddenly with that broad, ecstatic grin she had come to love so much in the months she had known him. He snatched her up, laughter like music tumbling from his lips as he spun her around under the London sky. "Fantastic!" he exclaimed grandly, only seconds before his mouth covered hers.

Rose had to agree, as he snogged her cross-eyed, that fantastic was really the right word for the best occasions.

It was like a bloody mad house in there, Joshua thought, leaning against the building and staring up at his flat in a sort of train-wreck-observer fascination. Rose's hyperactive, gabbling girlfriends, Mickey, and the effete and charming Wilson (or did he count as one of the girlfriends? Tough call, that.) had descended on the place first thing this morning. Then they all trooped across to the Estate to submit themselves to the will of Field Marshal Jackie Tyler and her marching orders.

Joshua had spent a great deal of that time imagining Jackie and Uncle Alistair trying to shout each other down across a parade ground. The picture in his mind had kept him entertained for hours and he graciously followed directions with a smile on his face that was only suspicious enough for Rose to notice.

Speaking of which...

Uncle Alistair's car pulled up in front of the flat and Joshua leaned his head back and groaned. Aunt Doris would want to feed the entire pack of them, just watch.

"Hello dear, what are you doing out here?" Aunt Doris asked, as Uncle Alistair let her out the passenger side. "You don't mind us stopping by, do you?"

Rose and her entire entourage came tumbling out the front of the building. To Joshua's surprise, she was hugging and saying goodbye to three of the four, leaving just Shireen hanging back on the stairs. Mickey and Wilson both came over and shook his hand. Keisha graciously accepted a ride to somewhere with Mickey, and they were all three gone like that. Joshua blinked.

"My goodness," Aunt Doris said, while Uncle Alistair looked at Joshua and smirked.

Rose had leaned back against the wall, looking about like Joshua felt, but started when she heard Aunt Doris's exclamation. She shoved her hair out of her face, scuffed a toe on the pavement and smiled shyly. "Hi," she said.

She was sweaty and looked tired and rumpled and a bit red in the face from more than just the embarrassment. Joshua grinned and decided she was still completely beautiful.

Introductions were made and the new party of five all trooped back upstairs. Joshua looked at the transformation of his flat and sighed. There were boxes everywhere, really, but he'd be willing to bet most of them were very likely redundant.

"Sorry about the mess," Rose apologized.

Doris chuckled. "Everything's at least stacked neatly," she said cheerfully. "This place has been known to look like the kitchen exploded, remember."

"It wasn't that bad," Joshua protested mildly.

Shireen went into the loo for a bit while Rose looked around and seemed to be trying to decide the fastest way to make all the boxes vanish. When Shireen came out again, she was laughing. "What in the world is all that chicken scratch on the mirror?"

Joshua and Rose looked at each other and they both started laughing. "I really need ta clean that up," Joshua said ruefully. "But it's permanent ink, so it's gonna take a razor blade or something to get it off."

"How about some lunch?" Doris suggested, as Joshua knew she would.

Rose went with her into the kitchen, dragging Shireen along, and Joshua sank into the sofa and sighed. "Are you all right, son?" the Brigadier asked.

"Eh, 'm fine," he said cheerfully, remembering how he had spent his morning. "Was just wondering how much more company to expect is all."

Apparently, he'd said exactly the wrong thing if he wanted fate to let him off the hook. The door buzzer sounded. He stared at the door, remembering he'd meant to dismantle that. Rose came in, looked at him quizzically, then went to see who it was.

She looked, from the sudden set of her shoulders, as if she was strongly considering slamming it shut again when the door opened to a quick, "Rose, you forgot... oh."

Odds were, really, that Jackie Tyler had been lying in wait for exactly this moment. Joshua was almost certain of that. "Come in, Mrs. Tyler," he said as he stood up and went to take the box she was carrying.

Even after the door had closed, even after the box had been taken into the bedroom and left there to be unpacked, even after Aunt Doris had been informed there was one more for lunch, Rose stood staring at the doorway in undisguised horror.

The kitchen, Rose decided, was too small at the moment. While there was plenty of room for two people working on the same topic, the crowd of five in there at the moment was far too many. Since Doris was cooking something, and Joshua was trying to convert her mum to the religion of proper tea preparation, Rose and Shireen were probably just getting in the way, so she caught her friend's arm and led her off.

The introductions had gone, much to Rose's surprise, shockingly well. She was reasonably certain that the Brigadier and her mum would have it out some day, because they'd both stood there looking polite and as intimidating as possible. Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart might impress his men, the entire secret agency he'd once worked for, alien menaces, his formidable nephew, and even the Queen of England. He still wasn't anywhere near big enough to tower over Jackie Tyler, even though he was very nearly tall as Joshua, which put him head and shoulders over Rose's mother, easily.

Doris had charmed them both into reasonable behavior, not that Joshua's uncle would ever let on that he was behaving in a manner that was anything different from usual. Only Jackie would give herself away in that manner. She didn't like Joshua and, apparently, she had already decided she wasn't going to like his uncle, either.

Said uncle was in the music room muttering into his mobile, so Rose and Shireen decided to go into the living room and start unpacking. Rose set her small, rather embarrassing collection of books down next to the book shelf - she'd let Joshua decide where they went. Her dog-eared and redundant Harry Potter paperbacks were going to look ridiculous next to his hard bound copies. Her handful of Mills and Boone novels were never going to fit in with his Shakespeare and Tolstoy. She didn't even want to know what he'd think of her collection of children's novels.

"Hitchhiker's Guide!" Shireen teased, and dragged that book out to wave it distractingly in front of Rose's face.

"Oi, careful with that one," Joshua said, reappearing in the kitchen doorway. "S'a classic, an' I've not got a copy."

"Rose loves this thing," Shireen said over her shoulder while Rose buried her face in her hands. "We were always afraid she was gonna run off with an alien."

Joshua chuckled at this, his expression bright and gentle as he considered her. Rose dove into the box to find something, anything, to change the subject. The answer came to her almost immediately as she located her small collection of DVDs and found one her gran had given her a couple Christmases ago. "Robin Hood!" she exclaimed cheerfully, holding it up for Joshua to see. "You seen this one?"

Joshua migrated over and took the DVD from her hands. "Yeah, I have. Completely forgot about it, though."

Shireen looked at the DVD and shrugged. "I don't much care for that one. The love song's weird, an' it doesn't have Kevin Costner's bum in it."

"The other one doesn't have Kevin Costner's bum in it either," said Rose, exasperated. "How many times do I have to tell you? Americans use body doubles."

"She's right," Joshua said. "What's wrong with the song?"

"It doesn't make sense," Shireen said.

Rose nodded emphatically. "What's it mean, grown up inside of her?"

"It's literary," Joshua said blandly, giving them both his best "I pity you uncultured souls" expression. "You know, poetry?"

"Ohhh, poetry," Shireen said sarcastically.

Rose snorted, and grinned up at her boyfriend, watching him start to smile again in response. "What is he, like a watermelon seed?" she asked cheekily.

Joshua chortled with mirth and folded his lanky frame down next to them. "Watermelon seeds don't grow inside of people, Rose."

"Neither do boyfriends," she insisted promptly.

If the look on Joshua's face had been any more wicked, Rose was reasonably certain her clothes would have crawled off of her and hidden themselves in shame. His eyes sparkled with the suggestion of utter filth. Unable to help herself, Rose blushed the exact same color as his burgandy jumper. Shireen fell back on the floor and hooted with laughter.

For the first time ever, she was happy to hear her mum's voice while she was with Joshua.

"Lunch, you lot," Jackie called. Shireen scampered immediately, giggling and shooting looks back at her friend to see the blush get worse.

"You all right there Rose?" Joshua asked with entirely faked politeness.

"Oh my God," was all Rose could say. She was never, ever going to be able to watch that movie again.

Joshua leaned in close to her ear. "Later, love. Let's get this lot gone, an' I'll make you call me god all night."

She batted at him ineffectually and he helped her to her feet anyway. Rose tried to compose herself before she entered the kitchen, but Shireen started laughing at them again the instant they entered the room.

"Are you all right, love?" Jackie asked. She was used to Shireen's random outbursts for no readily apparent reason so she didn't even give the girl a suspicious glance, unlike Doris who seemed to decide almost immediately that she didn't want to know. Jackie reached for Rose's forehead. "Not coming down with anything? You look a bit flushed."

"'M fine," Rose squeaked. "Jus' all this movin' and unpacking and stuff."

"I thought you were asking Joshua about Robin Hood," Shireen teased.

Rose shot her friend a dirty look, which bounced harmlessly off Shireen's armor of evil-and-loving-it. Everyone, even the newly turned-up Brigadier was looking with interest, so Rose said, "That thing, where Prince John's always yelping for his mummy, right? Was she really that bad?"

Joshua grinned and tapped her nose, admiration in his eyes as he winked at her. "Eleanor of Acquitane," he said. "Oh, yeah. Related by birth or marriage to four kings, five if you count her son Henry the Young King, who was crowned by his father as a kid but didn't live to get his throne. Duchess in her own right, actually convicted of witchcraft an' lived ta tell about it. Original inventor of the trashy romance novel, patron of the arts. Signed a document once - 'Eleanora, Irae Dei, Rex Anglorum: Eleanor, by the Wrath of God, King of the English. She wasn't claiming to be Queen Regent, you understand, nor Dowager, but claiming the throne of England for her own. Died at the age of 82, after successfully defending a besieged fort at the age of 80. One of the scariest women in human history. Completely fantastic."

Rose was delighted when her mother spoke up, looking reluctantly impressed. "Who's the scariest then?" she asked, completely fascinated.

Joshua grinned at her. "Dunno, Jackie Tyler, what're you gonna do next?"

When the couple were finally left alone that evening, they exchanged a look of utter satisfaction before collapsing on the sofa, unable and unwilling to move. "Domestic," Rose complained.

Joshua laughed lightly and brushed her hair back from her face. "That's my line," he said.

"Yeah, but you didn't say it yet, an' somebody had to. Besides, whose bright idea was Mum and Uncle Alistair in the same place, anyway?"

Joshua shrugged. "Had to happen sooner or later," he said, and lowered his head to kiss her gently.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Rose observed accurately when he broke the kiss.

"I know," Joshua agreed. "And a lot of things to do together an' learn about each other. Domestics and a little adventure too, if we find it or it finds us."

"Wouldn't trade it," Rose said fervently. "Even if we aren't normal."

"The interesting people are never quite normal, really." Joshua reached around her and took her hand. "So what do you say, Rose Tyler? Not a bad life?"

She laughed and squeezed his hand tightly. "Better with us."

Their story, Rose thought, had seemed to take such a very long time to get to the happy part. Now she realized, as she looked around their flat, at a new chapter that lay spread out around them, that their story, the true story of the two of them together, was only just now getting started.

Authors' Notes: This fic started out to be a single story of reasonable size. It has already exceeded that mark and all our hopes and expectations as well. We are therefore ending the first story here. Look for the sequel after the first of April. Another important development that you need to be aware of is this: all future stories in this series will be published under the username Pairadox Timeline. There's a link on Jessa's page if you'd like to add it, and further developments will also be posted there. Tune in next time for the continued adventures of Rose, Joshua, and the whole wacky gang. The silent partner says 'hi', but only because she's been told to do. She's going back to her cave, now. To write, yes? Good.

We want to thank you all so much for reading, reviewing, favoriting, or silently enjoying "Never Quite Normal." Hope to see you next fic around. Thank you and good night.