Disclaimer: No shops/brands/people/characters belong to me.
Author's Note: This is it. The last chapter! Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has read this. To everyone who has reviewed: your words of encouragement have meant more than I can possibly say! This is the chapter that I've had planned since 2008 so I can't believe I'm posting it in the vestiges of 2013! I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and I shall see you on Christmas Day! We're all going to sit down together and watch Matt Smith regenerate, aren't we? *sniffs*
"Rooney...Rowlind, Scanders. There's no 'Rowling,'" Rose called over to the Doctor, letting her fingers dance along a row of pristine books in Waterstones.
They were back in 1997, for what the Doctor said was definitely the last time, as the time stream was 'as flimsy as a paper bag in the rain.' Considering that all the Doctor had wanted to do was buy a copy of the first Harry Potter book before all of this commotion with Sherbet Fountains and nasty boys, Rose had insisted that they nipped into the bookshop. How often was it that he got to do something he wanted, really?
So, here they were in a Waterstones that loomed over three storeys with a massive wrought-iron staircase and bright red, patterned carpets. There were books lining every wall, piled right up to the domed ceiling. It was warm and cosy; like being in someone's living room and it smelled of brand new books and freshly-cut paper.
Rose wasn't fussed about books, really. She had never been much of a reader as she'd always preferred making up dance routines and playing hairdressers. The Doctor was in his element, though, like a kid in a sweet shop.
"Smell that, Rose!" he beamed at her, spinning around with this arms outstretched. "New books! All these words, all these worlds! All this potential!"
"Yeah," she said, not paying attention to him as she craned her neck, looking for a till. There were tables of books everywhere and the long room seemed to stretch endlessly in every direction, like a maze.
"Come on," she said, tugging at his arm. "Let's go and wind up the shop assistant."
They made their way over to a desk in the corner, cluttered with the Book of the Week, cardboard bookmarks with silky tassels and plasticine models of characters from The Tiger Who Came To Tea.
The middle-aged woman behind the desk was...oh dear, wearing a scrunchie in her hair, a long checked sun dress, a plastic choker and a waistcoat. Rose had to bite her lip to stop herself from giggling. She could remember when people used to dress like this but from her own future-influenced point of view she had no idea why. Not a good look.
"Excuse me," she said politely, with a wide smile, the Doctor grinning madly at her elbow. We're looking for a book called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone."
The woman, who had greeted them with a rather false smile, looked blank.
"Harry Potter and the...what?" she asked, looking from Rose to the Doctor.
"The 'Philosopher's Stone,'" put in the Doctor, helpfully. "It only came out recently," he said with a slight smirk at Rose.
"I haven't heard of that one," the woman said, still looking nonplussed. "I'll have a look on the system for you."
Rose raised her eyebrows at the Doctor; hearing someone say they had never heard of Harry Potter was fairly amusing.
"Who's the author?" asked the book-seller, after clicking something on her large, bulky computer screen.
Rose couldn't take her eyes off the monitor. It was exactly the same as the one she used to use at school. It was the only computer the school had, so getting the chance to go on and having a go on Paint was like...the Holy Grail when she was 12.
"J.K. Rowling," said the Doctor promptly, enunciating clearly.
"J.K," replied the Doctor and Rose together, making a conscious effort not to look at each other. "Like J.R Tolkien," explained the Doctor.
The lady hit her keyboard a few times.
"Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," she announced, with a sort of satisfied finality. She kept reading whatever it was on her screen and her eyebrows shot up.
"It's a children's book," she said doubtfully, looking them up and down, and then peering over the counter to Rose's right, to check to see if she had a child with her.
"That's the one!" the Doctor chirped brightly, leaning his elbows on the desk. "Where might one find such a book?"
He gave her his most Doctor-ish smile. Rose snorted then tried to turn it into a cough.
The lady looked decidedly frosty.
"The children's section," she said shortly. "Downstairs. Junior Fiction; ages nine to twelve."
She half-stood and pointed in the direction of the stairs, her mood bracelets clanking on her wrist
"Thanks," Rose managed, still trying to keep a straight face. They trooped down the stairs; the Doctor leaping off the last four, managing to keep their laughter in until they got to the corner of the shop filled with tiny plastic reading chairs with brightly coloured Quentin Blake illustrations all over the walls.
"Ahhh," Rose sighed, still giggling feebly and gasping for breath. "One of these days you're gonna get us chucked out."
"I'm looking forward to it" retorted the Doctor, dryly.
It was a good job the shop was quiet, Rose thought to herself. Two adults doubled-over laughing in the middle of the children's section might look slightly odd.
Once he'd calmed down slightly, The Doctor bounded towards the Junior Fiction and made a beeline for a row of multi-coloured Famous Five books.
"AHA! That Enid Blyton," he marvelled. "Remarkable woman. Excellent at chess but did you know where she got the idea of giving Noddy that little yellow car?" he said, his voice going slightly high-pitched, looking over his shoulder at her. "Me! I had a yellow car when I met her and she took it, and stuck her little elf-friend in it with a silly bell on the end of his hat," he grumbled, looking affronted at the mere memory.
Rose, who was looking through the pre-school books on the table next to him, closed the Spot the Dog book she had been reading with a slap and frowned at him.
"You had a car?" she repeated slowly, totally thrown by this new information.
"Yeah, a yellow car," said the Doctor casually, pulling on his ear lobe. "Called Bessie."
Rose blinked. The Doctor's lunacy apparently knew no bounds.
"You called your car Bessie?"
"What's wrong with Bessie?" he asked, looking wounded.
"Hang on." Rose shook her head, trying to process all of that. Why a yellow car? Why' Bessie' and most importantly...
"Doctor, who the hell let you drive?"
"No one," he said proudly. "I still haven't got a driver's license. Can't see the need for one really," he said airily, turning his attention back to the books under his nose. "Ah, excellent The Five Find-Outers and Dog," he murmured to himself. "Tally-ho!"
Rose stared at his back and at his hair sticking up, defying gravity and was entirely lost for words. She cleared her throat, pointedly.
"Hmm?" he said absently, reading the first page of a book called The Mystery of the Invisible Thief.
"You were looking for Harry Potter?" she reminded him.
"Oh yeah...What sort of madwoman calls her main character, 'Fatty,' anyway?" he tutted, pushing the book back neatly into it's place and then moving to a different shelf.
"What sort of madman calls their car, 'Bessie'?" she retorted under her breath.
A low table with stuffed Peter Rabbit characters at each end caught her eye and she decided to have a look at that whilst she was waiting. It was piled up with shiny picture books for slightly younger children. They were all vaguely familiar to her; they must have been in the Reading Corner in her classroom in primary school; The Hungry Caterpillar, Little Red Riding Hood, Funny Bones, Mystic Mog...
Oh, The Hungry Caterpillar! She flicked through it, marvelling at the pictures which were exactly the same as she remembered from when she was little, with a nostalgic smile on her face.
As she went to put it back, a woman's hand reached out to grab the next copy of The Hungry Caterpillar on the pile and Rose accidentally almost knocked it out of her hand.
"Ooh, sorry!" she said, quickly, moving to the side so that the lady had full access to the children's picture books. She looked up and smiled at her apologetically. " I'm not really looking, I'm just waiting for..."
Rose trailed off, the thumb that she had jerked in the direction of the Doctor, dropping slightly. Because the lady was staring at her in utter surprise and...complete recognition.
Now, it had been a bizarre three days. She had witnessed the Doctor being knocked out with a heavy tray by a waiter at a party. The Doctor had given her a piggy-back to the TARDIS. She had gone back to 1997 and seen her past self. She had pretended to be a police officer. Again. She then had had breakfast with her mum and the Doctor.
So, of course there was now a strange woman in the middle of Waterstones in 1997 who apparently knew her even though she had never met her in her entire life. Why wouldn't there be?
The woman was young-ish; in her early thirties, perhaps with mousy, dark blonde hair. She was holding the hand of a small girl wearing pink dungarees.
"Errr. Hi. Great choice, by the way," she said brightly, gesturing at the book in the lady's hand and smiling kindly at the little girl. "You'll love it."
The woman looked taken aback for a second, then a look of realisation crossed her face.
"Ah. You haven't met me, yet have you?" she asked, looking positively delighted to see her.
"No," admitted Rose. There really was no polite way of telling someone that you had no idea who they were.
The lady was looking Rose up and down, smiling shyly, like she was meeting an old school friend she hadn't seen in years.
"I..oh. This is Jess," she said quietly, motioning to her daughter and swinging their joined hands. "She was just a baby when you...well." The lady faltered and she looked like she was struggling with her words. "Last time I saw you."
The little girl hid behind her mum's arm.
Rose nodded awkwardly but was saved from having to think of something to say when the Doctor appeared at her shoulder.
"Got it" he said triumphantly, waving a hard-back, purple and maroon book with yellow lettering on the front under her nose. "Isn't it beautiful? First edition! "
Rose caught a glimpse of a cartoon boy with a striped t-shirt and round glasses but she was far more interested in the stranger who knew her name, for as soon as she saw the Doctor, she paled.
"Doctor! Oh...look I'm sorry but I really shouldn't be talking to you both. Timelines and all of that," she said cryptically, waving a vague hand at the Doctor. "Just...you'll see! I think! I shouldn't be here!"
The woman, looking almost dazed, rushed towards the other book shelves but then she paused and peered back over her shoulder at the Doctor.
"'Awful things happen to those who meddle with time,'" she said to him, thoughtfully. "That's what you said the last time."
The Doctor's grin faded and he raised his eyebrows, waiting to see what she was getting at.
"Quite probably, yeah."
"Would you mind if I used that?"
Rose was stretched out in the blazing sunshine, using her denim jacket and the Doctor's suit jacket as a makeshift blanket, her eyes shut tightly against the sun. The Doctor was propped up beside her, leaning on his arms with his sleeves rolled up.
They were sitting on a lawn in Hyde Park, surrounding by families with picnics and frisbees and students with cheap wine and shop-bought meringues. There was an ice-cream van nearby with a queue of very hot Londoners snaked right back along the footpath. Rose's skin felt hot to the touch and her t-shirt was slightly damp at the back. It was the height of British Summer and for once...not raining.
"I still can't believe that was her!" said Rose, awed. "She's like, one of the most famous writers in the entire world but she's just...normal. Tell you what, though," she said excitedly, using her hand to shield her eyes and squinting up at the Doctor.
"J.K. Rowling knows my name!"
The Doctor chuckled and they had a clumsy high-five.
Beside her, the Doctor was fidgeting with his jacket, trying to find something in one of the pockets.
"Here you are!" he said proudly, passing her a pair of pink sunglasses. She recognised them as the ones she had been wearing when they had ended up in 1953 during the Queen's Coronation. She had no idea he was still carrying them around with him.
He slid his own normal glasses on and nonchalantly gave them a buzz with his sonic screwdriver. The lenses darkened into sunglasses and Rose could see her own hot and bothered reflection in them.
He looked ridiculously pleased with himself and raised an a eyebrow at her, waiting for her approval.
Rose tutted at him and bit her lip, smiling.
"Ta. Very flash."
Now that the sun wasn't getting in her eyes and making her frown, and that she could do so without being caught, she had a good stare at the people sprawled out around them.
She couldn't take her eyes off the familiar fashions and hairstyles of the nineties. It was so strange, yet comforting at the same time. It was recent enough that she felt like she could still belong here if she wanted, but dated enough that she felt like she was intruding.
Most, no, all of the men had their tops off. All of them looked decidedly pasty and blubbery;unused to the sun. The women were wearing shorts or pedal-pushers and bright trainers. They all looked so happy and relaxed.
She watched a girl who looked about two or three years younger than her whip her boyfriend's book out of his hands, hit him gently on the head with it, throw it away and then kiss him determinedly.
Well, the hot weather could do strange things to people.
Feeling a bit embarrassed, Rose turned her attention to a set of grandparents sitting on a tartan blanket with a toddler who had ice-cream all over her face, whilst a baby slept in his pushchair beside them, in the shade. She decided that they must have landed on a week day because there were hardly any kids about.
This was it. A Good Day, but there was something about it that was bothering her. It was too good. Too perfect to last but she couldn't put her finger on what it was...
"It's rude to stare," pointed out a quiet voice beside her.
Rose tore her attention from the perfect little family scene to see the Doctor looking at her, his eyebrows raised with a half-smirk on his face
"Stop looking at me, then," she quipped back, putting on a dopey face and smiling at him.
"Nah," it's just...," Rose sighed, softly and used the Doctor's knee to pull herself into a sitting position, suddenly solemn. "All of these people. Everything that's going to happen in the next few years. This is the summer Princess Diana dies and they just have no idea...it's awful."
"I know," said the Doctor, heavily. "The country comes to a stand-still and goes into mourning. That's the trouble with time-travel. Knowing what happens next."
The pair of them were silent. Rose brought her knees to her chest and rested her head on her forearms, gazing subdued, into the distance. She thought back to news footage she saw when she was little of a blanket of flowers covering the ground outside Buckingham Palace; of strangers consoling each other in the street. Her mum, June, her teachers...all the adults she knew had talked about nothing else for weeks on end.
"I think I feel...guilty?" she said at last, peering at the Doctor, over her arm, trying to voice the bitter-sweet, heavy feeling that was clawing at her chest.
"Welcome to my world," he said humourlessly, but he gave her a sad smile and reached for her shoulder.
At first, Rose thought he was merely going to give her a reassuring squeeze and so she was surprised but thrilled when she felt him pulling her towards him.
"It's not so bad," she told him, leaning back against him and letting her head loll lazily against his shoulder. "You can't be happy all the time otherwise you'd never be able to appreciate it. That's why I feel sorry for the Queen," she mused, her mind wandering.
"Oh yeah? Why's that?" asked the Doctor, sounding intrigued.
"Because the best feeling ever is going to bed with fresh sheets on. You know, when they smell all clean and like washing powder?" she burbled happily, aware that she was sounding uncannily like her mum. "Well, she's never going to know what that feels like, is she? She's the Queen; she probably gets fresh ones every night!"
Rose felt the Doctor's chest vibrate as he chuckled.
"That's either the most profound or most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," he admitted, sounding awed and rubbing at the corner of his eye in amusement. "You know, in 900 years that has never even crossed my mind!"
Oh, she liked this; just lying back in the blazing sunshine, laughing and just being near him. She really had missed him when she had been at her mum's. Much more than she cared to admit, actually.
She knew that he would want to be heading off, soon. That he never stood still in one place for too long; he was always on the look out for their next adventure. If their mysterious encounter with a strange blonde lady in Waterstones was anything to go by, then they were clearly going to end up meeting a very famous children's writer at some point.
Her mum had also given her that postcard of herself and the Doctor at the opening night of My Fair Lady, too so it looked like they would be heading back in time fairly soon and that was all very exciting but for now, she didn't want to be anywhere else in the universe other than right here in Hyde Park, with her t-shirt sticking to her and her scalp burning, sitting next to the Doctor.
He looked down at her, his chin grazing her hair.
"Where are we going from here?" she asked, with child-like wonder, gazing up at the intense blue sky.
"That way," said the Doctor, confidently, pointing slightly to their left.
"That way?" giggled Rose. "What's that way? 1991?"
The Doctor pushed his sunglasses down his nose slightly so that he could stare at her.
"Erm...no," he said awkwardly, looking slightly deflated. He ruffled up his hair and sniffed, pointing again.
"The ice-cream van's that way."
Rose looked over at the squat little ice-cream van with a pink roof and a giant cartoon of Mickey Mouse on the side and grinned back at him.
"Well then," she said, her eyes sparkling mischievously as she got to her feet and held her hand her hand out to him. "Allons-y!"