"It's not fair, you know."
"What's not fair?" John asked, glancing at her over the top of his glasses before looking back to his task.
"How you can get full marks without even trying," she huffed.
He chuckled. "I'm just a genius."
She scowled at her friend. "It's not fair," she reiterated. "You sit there and you make your weird robot toy thing - "
"It's a dog, Rose. A robot dog."
"Whatever. You get to do that sort of thing — all your techy experimenty stuff, and I have to sit here for hours reading the same few chapters of this textbook for any of this stupid chemistry stuff to go in." She sighed heavily. "I can't wait 'til next year, when I don't have to do science anymore. Dunno why you thought it was a good idea to carry on with all three sciences."
"Because I'm clever," he sniffed, setting aside the robot he was working on perfecting. He grabbed the chemistry textbook out of her hand. "And science and maths comes easy to me. Right, I'll test you, help you revise, how's that?"
Rose huffed. "You always end up boasting when you test me, when I don't know the answer and you do."
His brow furrowed. "Do I? Oh. Sorry."
She gave a sulky shrug and flopped back on her bed with a dramatic groan. "I'm never gonna pass these things."
"Yes you will. I got through my GCSEs all right, and so will you. And actually, I only got high grades in the stuff I carried on. You know how rubbish I was at the humanities side of things. Remember, you used to edit my English essays?" he grinned, lying down next to her. He elbowed her in the side and she dutifully budged over.
"So when you're doing you're A-Levels next year - "
"If I do them," she grumbled.
" — you'll be fine! Because you'll be doing the stuff you love. French and Art and English and — what was the other one?"
"Music. And don't you dare scoff; it's hard, all right?"
"But you're good at it. Excellent, in fact. So you'll do great."
"Meanwhile, you'll be acing your stupid sciences and getting a scholarship to some posh uni."
He rolled his eyes. "Right, come on. What are you stuck on most?" he asked, gesturing to the textbook he was still holding.
"All of it."
He laughed. "Right. Well, I can stay for a while, so we've plenty of time."
"Mum said you can stay for dinner, by the way."
"Excellent," he smiled. "Come on then, let's get started and then we get the treat of consuming your Mum's top quality nosh."
He'd been helping her revise for nearly two hours, lying there on top of her bed, when she decided she'd had enough. She shoved all her books off the bed and insisted they took a break. He was inclined to agree with her, because she'd been getting an increasingly adorable pout on her face whenever she got something wrong, along with a beaming smile if she got something right, and both expressions were doing things to him that they really shouldn't be doing.
They lay there in silence for a bit, a content and companionable silence, until Rose broached a subject with him that she being meaning to talk to him about for a while.
John smiled, as he did every time she called him by his nickname. He turned his head to look at her. "Yeah?"
"You ever…" She waggled her eyebrows a bit, but John continued to look at her blankly. She sighed and tried again. "Have you…you know…done it. Before. Ever?"
The corner of his mouth curved into a grin. "Did you just ask me what I think you just asked me?"
"Yeah. Don't laugh at me."
"I'm not going to laugh at you. I just can't believe we're having this conversation."
"And you're seventeen. So what?"
"Well, I just…"
"I just want to know what it's like," she said, propping herself up on her elbow. "I've read all the articles and racy books but — it can't really be like that, right? It can't possibly be that good. Is it?"
"Oh, come on. Tell me. Be a mate."
"I — I - " he floundered. "Look, you'll find out for yourself sooner or later."
"Hmph, yeah, if I ever get the chance." She flopped onto her back, sighing heavily.
"Dunno why you act like you're gonna struggle with that," he mumbled.
"Well. You're quite sexy, you know," he said, sniffing casually. "Considering."
"Considering what?" she laughed, nudging him with her elbow.
He turned onto his side and looked at her, smiling softly. "Considering you're my best mate."
"And why would being your best mate mean that I couldn't be sexy, anyway?" Rose wanted to know.
"Because I shouldn't look at you like that, is what I mean."
A slow smile crept onto Rose's face. "But you do?"
His blush was immediate, and he reached up a hand to tug on his ear. "I, er. Um, I — well, I," he stammered.
"Yeah?" she prompted, trying not to giggle.
"Hormones!" he blurted out.
Her eyes widened. "Pardon?" She couldn't resist laughing, then, and broke into giggles at the look of alarm on his face.
"I just meant — it's not - " He cleared his throat then huffed petulantly, "It's not you, it's just hormones. Not my fault." He rolled onto his back again and Rose rested her head on his shoulder, still laughing. "Stop it. Stop! Roooose."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she said, as she recovered. She placed her hand on his chest, and felt his heart pounding rapidly beneath her touch.
"I feel so humiliated," he muttered.
"Tell you what," she whispered, her fingertips gently stroking his t-shirt. "I'll tell you something embarrassing, yeah? And we're even-Stevens."
His lips twitched at her thoughtfulness, and his hand went to her head, combing through her hair absently. "Okay."
Her fingers trailed down the thin fabric, feeling his abdominal muscles jump under her hand when she rested it on his tummy. "I've thought some pretty extra-friendly things about you, too." She lifted her head, then, smiling at him with that tongue-touched grin of hers.
John's eyebrows lifted up his forehead, but he was convinced she was just teasing him. "Don't, Rose."
He glanced away, but kept his fingers in her hair. "You don't have to pretend - "
"I'm not pretending," she interrupted. She lifted the hem of his t-shirt quickly and touched the skin of his belly directly. Her fingers danced along his happy trail and she heard his breath hitch.
"Rose?" he murmured, eyes darting back to hers in confusion.
"I…" Suddenly bashful, Rose bit her bottom lip. "I just thought maybe…"
She withdrew her hand, letting his t-shirt fall back into place. "Well, I thought that maybe you'd realised that already."
She rolled her eyes. "That I fancy you."
"You — you fancy me?" he squeaked.
She tilted her head up and pressed a kiss to his jaw line, then nuzzled his neck softly. "Yeah, kind of do."
"Kind of," he said flatly, wondering again if she was just pulling a cruel trick on him. It didn't sound like something she'd do; she was never cruel, she didn't have a bad bone in her body. But the idea that she might think of him in similar ways to how he thought of her didn't really sound like something she'd do, either.
"A lot," she amended with a cheeky grin, her mouth hovering over his.
Her eyes were very dark. He gulped. "Would it - " he started.
"Would it what?" she whispered.
John let out a long breath. "Would it ruin our friendship if I kissed you right now?"
She shook her head gently. "Nope. I'd like to kiss you too."
Their mouths met gently, cautiously, in a brief, chaste kiss. When they pulled back, they just stared at each other.
"Was that too weird?" she murmured, unable to read his expression.
His brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"
She fiddled with her earring nervously. "I just mean…we're friends, and, like…I wouldn't want you to think that us kissing wasn't right. Mum mentioned once that you were like the, er, older brother I never had but I really don't agree with that so I'm a bit — you don't — you don't see me as a sister, do you?"
"You think I would tell you you're sexy and kiss you if I thought of you like a sister?" he asked, his tone conveying his dismay at the idea.
"Nooo," she said slowly, fighting back a grin. "I suppose not."
"Good. I'd like it if you got rid of the incest notion pretty sharpish, please. We couldn't be less related, all right?"
Rose giggled. "Right." She paused. "So it didn't feel weird, then?"
"No," John assured her. "But I mean, we'd better double check." He pressed his lips to hers again and Rose responded instantly, exerting a bit more pressure than last time. He didn't deepen the kiss; he wanted to start out slowly to make sure this was really what she wanted. So, when he pulled back again, he whispered, "Definitely not weird for me. Weird for you?"
"No. I like it," she confessed, smiling that cheeky grin again.
"That's — that's good," he grinned in relief. Then, with a little trepidation, he asked, "If we — if I, um, took you to the cinema tomorrow. And if we got chips, and stuff. Would you — would that be okay?"
"We do that stuff anyway," Rose pointed out.
"I know, but what if — what if it was a date, this time? And, um, what if I got to hold your hand?"
"You really want that? You want to go out with me?" she asked in disbelief.
"Why do you sound so surprised?"
"Because — well, you're in the year above and everyone in my year at school knows that Lana from your maths class and all three of her friends are competing for your affections," she said, shrugging a shoulder.
"Really?" he laughed. "Why?"
"Because they've realised that puberty did wonders for you. You have to know, when you look in the mirror in the mornings, that you've turned out - " Rose let out a whoosh of breath. "It's — you're gorgeous, really."
"You really think so?" he murmured.
"Yeah! Duh." She rolled her eyes. "And what I'm saying is, Lana and that lot, they think so too."
"So what's your point?"
"Well, wouldn't you rather go out with one of them?"
"Why would I want to do that?"
"Because they're all prettier and taller and Lana's a lot cleverer, and - "
"Hey, stop," he said softly, interrupting her. He cupped her cheek in his hand, his thumb stroking softly. "They're lovely and all that, but…"
"Well," he mumbled, dropping his hand and looking embarrassed again. "They're not you."
Rose smiled. "Thought you said earlier that it was the 'hormones' that made you notice me, not me."
"Yeah, that was a lie," he admitted. "I mean, obviously the hormones play a part, because Rose I am just — it's ridiculous, quite frankly, how, er, you know, I get, these days, but I only phrased it like that 'cos I didn't think you liked me back. But if you do, then, well, I've got no problem admitting that I think you're the prettiest girl I've ever seen."
"Sweet talker," she laughed, but she was blushing.
"I mean it, Rose. I've been trying not to tell you that for a long time."
"Why?" she wondered.
"Well, because you're too young, really, and - "
"You're only one year older than me, don't play the Age Superiority card on me," she huffed.
"No, it's not that. It's more the whole legal thing, actually," he said pointedly.
"I'm sixteen now. It's fine," she said.
"Yeah, I know. Believe me, if you'd asked me in March I would've denied all this."
"Good job it's May, then," she grinned.
"Anyway, there are other reasons."
"Like, your GCSEs are what you should be thinking about these next few weeks. And I need to concentrate on my AS exams."
She arched an eyebrow. "You're not gonna take back your offer of a date tomorrow, though, right? 'Cos although I suggested Lana as an alternative partner in your…proposed date, I'd rather you took me instead."
He grinned wickedly. "Ah, but having said that, I do have a maths exam on Monday that I need to study for, and - "
"And Lana is super smart at maths, yeah, I know," she interjected quickly. "But, you're ridiculously good at it. You don't need her help and you don't even really need to revise, not tomorrow. It's a Saturday, and that's your day off from revision, okay?"
"And what about your revision?"
Rose rolled her eyes, and wrapped her arm around him. "You can test me on my French verbs over chips if you like. But my exams don't start 'til the end of next week, anyway. Plenty of time."
"Earlier you didn't sound too keen on a date. Almost thought you were brushing me off, encouraging me to see other girls. Now you're really into it."
"Yeah, 'cos you keep complimenting me," she teased. "And you owe me some chips, anyway. And I haven't been on a proper date with a boy before. I'm curious."
"I know for a fact that James Stone asked you out last month."
"It's Jimmy, and yeah, he did, but then for some reason he backed off," Rose said, eyeing him pointedly.
"What?" John replied, a picture of innocence. "I didn't say anything."
"I didn't! I just…um. Might've asked him not to hurt you under any circumstances otherwise I'd get the whole of sixth form onto him. That's all," he sniffed.
"And so he chickened out. He was gonna be my date to the end-of-year-11 prom, you know. But you scuppered that. I thought it was just 'cos you were looking out for me, and Jimmy's got a bit of a reputation, ain't he? But now I'm thinking maybe you just wanted to take me to the party yourself."
"Well, you're not completely wrong about that," John admitted. "I would like to do that, yeah. But James — sorry, Jimmy," he said, pulling a face, "Is a no-good bass player with delusions of grandeur."
"He's gonna be a rock star, apparently," she added.
"Everyone has dreams, Doctor," she tutted.
"Yeah? And what are yours?"
"Your dreams? What do you want to do with your life?"
"Dunno. Travel. Be fantastic," she grinned. "Get a job somewhere decent. Get seven cats."
"Eugh, seven? No way. One's bad enough."
"It was a joke," she said, poking his chest. "Anyway, why do you get a say in how many hypothetical cats I have?"
"Well I assumed you were going to uphold our agreement."
His eyes sparkled mischievously and he leant in close. "When you were ten, you told me that I was gonna be your flatmate and that there was nothing I could do to prevent it." He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. "Apparently you couldn't live without me, even back then."
"Liar. You're the one who suggested it, and it was 'cos we were in your treehouse - "
"Not 'treehouse,' Rose," he huffed. "Call the den by its proper name."
Rose rolled her eyes heavenward. "Fine, we were in the 'TARDIS,' and you had pissed off your mum so you decided that you were gonna live in there, and that I had to keep you company forever."
"Well, whichever account of that conversation is correct - "
"Mine," Rose interjected firmly.
"- I believe we signed a contract, so. No getting out of it now. And there'll be no cats. Just you and me."
"And one of your many girlfriends that I'm sure you'll have queued up," Rose muttered.
"Or just you and me," John repeated.
Rose laughed, her cheeks flushing a pretty pink. "You really want to go out with me?"
He shrugged. "If you want." But his arms came up to encircle her in a hug, squeezing her tightly to him, a gesture belying his casual words.
"And you reckon that'll still be the case in five years' time, when you're off doing your Doctor-stuff at uni and I'm folding clothes at the local department store?"
He tilted his head back, frowning at her. "Hey, what happened to all your hopes and dreams?"
"Well, it's the decent one I'm after; Henriks. Good discount, there, and - "
"And that's perfectly fine, of course, but you could do something else, you know. You could get a job you really love, if you wanted."
"Don't think I'm smart enough, really."
"Rubbish. You've just got to believe in yourself."
She smiled at him tenderly. "You really are a great best friend, you know that?"
He resumed their tight hug and said into her ear, "Likewise, Rose Tyler."
Her Mum called out to them, then, telling them that dinner was ready. They released one another and stood up, making their way downstairs. Just before they reached the door to her kitchen, John murmured, "So, lunchtime tomorrow, meet in the park?"
Rose smiled shyly. "All right. Yeah."
"And then we'll go on our date?" he checked.
She nodded, then stood up on her tiptoes to peck his cheek. "Sounds good."
The pair of them didn't stop grinning the whole way through dinner.