Thirty-nine

The next three weeks passed in a happy haze for Rose. Her days were spent at the shop but she didn't mind it nearly as much. In the evenings the Doctor was waiting for her outside, and while he declined to talk much about his work or the university, Rose did not let it upset her. There were so many, many things he would not discuss with her, and she was unwilling to mar what was the happiest time they'd ever spent together. The thrill she felt when she saw him hovering about on the street as they locked the shop's door more than made up for his keeping secrets.

And it was so much more fun to walk home hand in hand with him now that she enjoyed the knowledge that she might kiss him whenever she wanted to.

In the evenings he would join her in her bed, both of them still amazed and delighted that their relationship had led to this. He didn't stay with her the entire night - for someone who didn't sleep that would be torture - but he usually waited until she fell asleep before getting up again.

Rose was kept busy at work as they neared the grand opening date, but there was one thing she had not forgotten about, something that had been hanging over her head for days now. After some calling around when she was alone - this was not something that Iris would understand - she had found a doctor who would see her on short notice.

She had heard awful stories about old-fashioned doctors refusing such things, about long, inappropriate lectures and shameful responses. Luckily this clinic was professional, and the doctor working that day examined her, gave her a script, and wished her a good day. Rose went home that night feeling an immense relief that she no longer had to risk an unwanted pregnancy.

It wasn't until after dinner that she excused herself to be alone for a few moments. The Doctor mumbled something in return, and she eyed him closely before she decided that he was thinking of something but wasn't up to something, which was a nice change.

She slid the packets of birth control pills into the small drawer under the bathroom sink, where she'd remember to take one each morning as she brushed her teeth. The drawer held all of her makeup and the Doctor never touched it. They might be stuck here for the moment, but at least she could prevent their lives from becoming even more complicated. Lying in the same drawer was her mobile phone. She still switched it on sometimes, always hoping for the impossible. The impossible hadn't happened last week, and she'd dropped the phone down and left it there.

She switched it back on now, and dialed the familiar number. She heard her mum's voice, telling her to leave a message. She always hung up before it started recording.

Sometimes she was tempted to call a girlfriend, Shireen or Keisha maybe, just to hear them say hello and then hang up. But she was supposed to be dead, and if the caller ID showed her number there would be confusion, and she didn't think that would be fair to them.

And while she was supposed to be dead, she knew nothing about them. She prayed they were all right, after the Cybermen invasion. She did not want to find out otherwise. And so she put the phone back down and gently closed the drawer.

Out in the main room of the flat came sounds of thumping. She'd already cleared their dinner dishes away, and couldn't imagine what the Doctor was doing now.

The Doctor was setting a large brown typewriter onto the table. Next he unpacked a large pile of white paper. As Rose walked over to stand beside him he unwrapped a brown package and carefully took out a sheaf of dark blue paper, shaking it out and setting the pile on the table.

Rose wrinkled her nose when she saw the blue smudges left on his fingers.

"What is that?" she asked.

He glanced up at her. "Carbon paper."

"What does it do?"

"It makes copies. Carbon copies."

Rose continued to look at him with a blank expression.

The Doctor sighed and shook his head, as though to express his sorrow and disappointment in her lack of knowledge.

"Look. You put the carbon in between two sheets of blank paper, and it makes a copy of whatever you write. See?"

He proceeded to write her name on the top page, the separated the sheets and showed her the copy.

"Wow," Rose said, looking impressed, and hid a smile when he rolled his eyes. She knew what carbon copies were, of course. Iris was always using them at the shop when she wanted copies of certain letters or billing statements, and Rose had made carbon copies of paperwork once or twice herself. Sometimes it was just too fun to mess with him. "So what are you doing with all that?"

"Well, I wrote my dissertation a while back and asked one of the secretaries to type it up for me. Apparently she's disappeared and the manuscript is lost." An ordinary man would sound rather upset at such a turn of event, but the Doctor just sounded resigned.

"Your manuscript is gone? How could that be?"

He scratched his head. "I don't know, unfortunately, but I need to have another one typed out so I can defend it and leave Cambridge."

"Is it really that bad?" Rose asked. "I mean, I know the travel part is awful, and I'd love it if you worked closer to home, but I thought you were having fun there."

The Doctor started to say something but stopped. He shrugged. "Perhaps it's just time for a change." He busied himself with the papers as he spoke, so he wouldn't meet her gaze.

"Well, it's your career," she said lightly.

"I don't suppose you'd care to, er, help out?" He looked at her now, hopefully, indicating his handwritten notes and the typewriter.

Rose laughed and walked out of the room. "No way."


Helio's grand opening was thrown the day before Guy Fawkes day. Streamers in yellow and blue were hung up, special pricing had been posted, and handwritten invitations to all their most important customers had been sent. Iris had arranged for catering, and Rose was glad to be finally be finished with the cleaning, setting up and seemingly endless folding of apparel.

"Think everything looks all right?" Iris asked anxiously. She was dressed in the prettiest outfit that the shop sold, a beautiful yellow wool dress with a blue scarf tied as a belt.

"It's all gorgeous," Rose assured her as she ran a duster over a shelf she had just emptied of brightly-colored cardigans. "So are you!" She dropped the duster and quickly replaced the cardigans back where they belonged.

Iris smiled. "Thanks. This has been such a long time coming. I want it to be a success. Then I can..." She stopped, and Rose nodded to prompt her to continue.

"Then you can what? Ask for a pay rise?"

"No. A good reference. I was thinking it might be time to move on."

"Has your mum been nagging you again?" Rose knew that Iris's very well-to-do family did not approve of her working in a shop.

"No. Well, yes, she has, but that's nothing new."

"You need to do what you want, not what someone wants for you." Rose glanced around the shop. The guests hadn't begun to arrive and Mr. Troy was in the back. She snagged a small canape from one of the food tables.

Iris sighed. "I know."

"Iris! Do I hand out the thank you gifts to people or do I just put them in the bags when they buy something?" Melissa, the Saturday manager of the shop, hurried up to them in an absolute panic.

"As they get ready to leave. Ask Julie to stand by the table." Iris glanced around for Melissa's weekend co-worker and waved her over.

Julie appeared as nervous as Melissa. She couldn't stop fiddling with the sunburst pin she wore on her shoulder.

"I've never even met Mr. Troy!" she said in a near whisper. "What if I do something wrong and he sacks me?" She looked behind her shoulder as though expecting her employer to appear.

Rose hid a smile as Iris tried patiently to calm them both down.

"We'll be just fine, girls. Be polite to the customers, ring up the sales."

"And watch out for an old woman with blue hair," Melissa added. Julie giggled despite her nerves.

"Who's that?" Rose asked.

"She comes in on Saturday at least twice a month," Melissa explained. "Always tries to pocket a scarf or a pair of earrings."

"And she was invited to the grand opening?" Iris was aghast.

"Her husband always comes in with her," Julie told her. "And he pays cash for all the other stuff she buys."

Iris suddenly nodded in understanding. "I've seen the receipts. Their name must be Collins."

"It is. Make sure you watch her closely and just add on what she nicks to the bill." Melissa smiled and helped herself to a cheese straw off the refreshment table.


The grand opening was a success. People came in to browse and buy. Melissa and Julie helped ring up sales. Rose circulated and answered questions, and Iris kept a nervous smile on her face the entire time. Mr. Troy kept himself aloof from his sales staff but mingled with the crowd, most of whom appeared to be on very good terms with him.

It was almost time to close when a tall woman with tanned skin and a blonde updo stopped Rose as she was straightening up a clothes rack.

"I'd like this dress in a size twelve," she said, holding it up to Rose.

Rose looked behind her at the clothes rack. "Oh, we don't have that size out?"

The woman raised an eyebrow. "I didn't look."

Rose mentally rolled her eyes. She loved the customers who couldn't be bothered to do anything for themselves.

"Let me," she said through a false smile. She checked the rack and there were four size twelves in a row. She pulled one out and handed it to the woman.

"Here you-" She stopped, because the customer had snatched the dress and stalked off.

"Rude witch," Rose muttered, rehanging the unwanted dress back up. As she finished that she happened to look up. The afternoon sun was coming in through the windows. Mr. Troy was standing under the skylight, talking with a small group of people. They all seemed to be very impressed with the skylight.

Rose would never understand rich people.


"And then she just walked away without saying anything," she complained to the Doctor that night.

"Some people aren't very friendly, unfortunately." The Doctor spoke as he typed, slowly pecking away at the typewriter's keyboard.

Rose watched him with affection. At night he would join her in the bed, making love and cuddling and laughing softly together. After she fell asleep he would leave her, and sometimes when she awoke in the middle of the night she would hear his slow typing. It had been four nights now, and he was finding it slow going.

"I thought you'd be better at typing by now." She took a sip of her drink and settled more comfortably into her chair.

"Me, too," he responded ruefully. He finished a sentence, rolled out the papers, and set them carefully down on the table so he could draw a diagram out by hand. "Oh, how I long for a computer."

"You could build one, couldn't you?"

"Believe me, I've thought about it."

She watched him work in silence for a while. "Why don't you just show them the psychic paper?"

He glanced up at her. "Show it to who?"

"The university. Just tell them it's your dissertation."

"That would be a lot of passing around for it. And a lot of people have to read it and agree on certain points and that's just too many people for it to influence. What they expect to read wouldn't be the same for all of them." The Doctor sighed. "I really, really do not like being human and ordinary."

Rose smiled mischievously. "I can think of one aspect you like. Meet you in the bedroom in ten minutes."

She could have sworn he blushed. But he was there in five minutes.


The next week was a quiet one at the shop. Winter was coming and the days were getting shorter and colder. Rose put away her short skirts and forced herself to buy warmer clothing. It was an admission that they were staying put for a while longer, and it wasn't easy to do.

"I feel like I'm giving up," she explained to the Doctor one night after showing him her purchases.

"Who says you're giving up?" he asked her in surprise. "We haven't given up at all! We're still fighting the good fight, we're still keeping on keeping on. It's just taking us longer than anticipated to reach our goal."

He was sitting at the kitchen table, his glasses perched on his nose as he looked over some student papers. Rose was torn between the urge to snog him senseless and knock the glasses off his nose.

"How long have we been here now?" she demanded, piling her new blouses and skirts back into the carrier bags.

"Seven months, three weeks, two days and fifteen hours," he answered automatically.

"And that's a long time! Maybe not to you, but it is to me. All we're doing is sitting here, waiting around for time to pass."

"That's all life is, Rose," he pointed out without looking up from his paper. "Siting around as time passes you by."

The statement was so ludicrous that she was nearly rendered speechless. "Is that all you have to say?" she demanded. "900 years of time and space, everything you've seen and experienced, and 'time passes you by' is all you've got?"

"I'm not saying it's a brilliant bit of philosophy, of course," he started, but Rose had already swept her bags up and stormed off to the bedroom.

Well. Clearly something was wrong. He took off his glasses and followed her.

"Rose?"

She was angrily shoving her new clothes into the wardrobe.

"Rose?"

"What?" she bit out.

"What's wrong?" Even as he spoke the words he knew that he ought to know what was wrong, but perhaps he'd been paying too much attention to the exams he'd been grading.

"There. Is. Nothing. Wrong." She spoke through clenched teeth as she closed the wardrobe up and turned to face him. "Is there?"

"Is there?" he repeated uncertainly.

Rose forced herself a steadying breath. "Doctor."

"Yes?" he asked eagerly.

"Doctor, are you happy here? Are you honestly happy here right now?"

"No," he said baldly. "I want the TARDIS back. I want things back to normal. That may happen at any moment. It may happen later. I'm not happy about pretending to be an academic. Certainly I'm not happy about you having to work in a shop."

"Then why are you so calm about it all? I want to go back!"

"We can't go back, Rose. Not yet. But at least we're together." The gently tone of his voice broke through her anger, and she sighed. He stepped closer to her and drew her into a hug. "At least we're together like this. I would have gone mad if I were stuck in this flat much longer and couldn't touch you."

She sighed again as she rested her head against his chest. "Standing still is so much harder than running, isn't it?"

He kissed her hair. "Oh, much, much harder."

The grand opening was deemed a success, at least by the large amount of sales that were done. Mr. Troy pronounced himself satisfied and disappeared, leaving the shop to Iris once more.

"Where does he go, when he leaves London?" Rose asked Iris out of curiosity. It was nearly closing time, and she was tidying up the store. Christmas was in a little over a month, and people were already starting their holiday shopping, which left the shop and the stock looking rather more picked over than usual.

Iris was adding up the cash in the till and writing it on a bank slip. "Oh, he has a few other business ventures all over England. It's not just this shop."

"Does he run things all on his own? Someone so important should at least have an assistant." Rose took a quick peek into the dressing rooms to make sure they were empty. A smudge on one of the mirrors had her huffing in annoyance. She grabbed a nearby scarf and hastily rubbed the smudge out, replacing the scarf before Iris could see what she'd done.

"He's very hands on." Iris paused and frowned. "That last customer you took care of. Did she pay with cash?"

"On her account."

"I thought so! Where is - oh, here it is."

"Five o'clock!" Rose said happily. "I'll lock the door."

"Thanks."

Rose took a quick peek outside, risking the cold wind that was currently blowing around. The sky was dark but thankfully it didn't look like snow. She shut the door and turned the lock.

"Is John waiting for you?" Iris asked. "I can finish up by myself."

"He's not here yet. Sometimes the weather makes things run late."

A quick rap on the door seemed to belie Rose's words, but it wasn't the Doctor.

"Oh, it's Jim!" she exclaimed, letting him in.

"Hello there!" Jim entered quickly so that Rose could lock the door behind him again. "How are you?"

"Good! And you?"

"Fine, thanks." He swept a dark cap off of his head and looked around. "Hello, Iris."

She smiled over at him, a faint blush spreading across her cheeks.

"Hello, Jim. What brings you by tonight?"

He shoved the cap into the pocket of his black leather jacket.

"I just came to pick up the rest of my tools," he explained. "I left some in the back office in case there was a problem the night of the grand opening. Did everything go all right?"

"It did," Iris said.

"It was fun!" Rose put in with more enthusiasm. "Yummy food, and the customers weren't nearly as uppity as usual. Well," she amended honestly, "some of them were."

Jim chuckled. "I bet. Do you mind if I go get them? I've got another appointment in a bit."

"You know where they are." Iris went back to tallying up the cash. "Done!" She glanced out the window. "It's too cold to go to the bank. I'll lock this up and take it all in in the morning."

"I don't blame you." Rose followed her to the back office. Jim was checking through his tools.

"I have your final payment, as well, Jim." Iris unlocked the office safe, set the day's receipts inside, and took out an envelope. "Mr. Troy was very happy with your work."

"Thanks." Jim opened up the envelope and raised his eyebrows. "He clearly was."

"You do good work," Rose teased him as she slipped on her new winter coat.

"The other checks are for your men," Iris said as she locked the safe back up.

Jim tucked the envelope into his jacket. "Thanks again. He picked up his toolbox. "Shall I walk you two out?"

Iris was just walking by the till when her foot caught on the edge of the rug.

"Not again!" she said in annoyance as her bag tilted and spilled all over the floor.

"I hate that rug," Rose said sympathetically.

Jim set his toolbox down on the counter and knelt to help Iris recover her things. Rose handed Iris the dropped bag and knelt as well, but her attention was caught by something else.

She reached out and lifted the edge of the rug.