The bus journey

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Rose Tyler got the same bus every morning to work, John Smith was on the same bus as she walked past or sat behind him. This went on for months until one morning when she sat next to him with a wet umbrella. Find out what happens when he realises her manager is his cousin Donna and his old girlfriend is back in town plus a female co-worker is out to get him. Loads of O/C's involved.

An alternate reality story

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Chapter 1

AU - Rose Tyler got the same bus every morning to work, John Smith was on the same bus as she walked past or sat behind him.  This went on for months until one morning when she sat next to him with a wet umbrella. What happens when he realises her manager is his cousin Donna and his old girlfriend is back in town plus 2 female co-workers are out to get him. Loads of O/C's involved.

Rose is an ordinary shop girl.  John Smith is a human Doctor-like character who is the hapless cousin of store departmental manager Donna Noble and works at the science museum, being a total 'Geek' as Donna calls him.  Based very loosely on the song 'Bus Stop' by The Hollies.

The same routine, Rose was thinking one Monday morning as she waited at the bus stop, it was raining and all the chivalrous males were hogging the bus shelter as usual, taking twice as much room up as necessary and not one offering to make room, standing there playing on their phones or reading a newspaper.  The bus arrived to take her once again to Hendricks department store and hopefully it would have stopped raining by the time she got there though the store was only across the road from the bus stop.  She let down her folding umbrella and shook it, sticking it in an empty carrier bag she kept in her pocket, a trick she had learned from Mickey's old gran and got on and went upstairs, spotting a few empty outside seats.

Same again, all the men hogging the seats, some taking all the room up and she didn't fancy trying to hang on for twenty minutes or so every time the bus jerked or went around a corner.  She spied a tall skinny bloke who was looking at his phone and sticking some earphones in his ears and thought at least there was plenty of room.  He didn't even look up until she sat next to him, after the rain from the umbrella had soaked through to the outside of the carrier bag and it brushed up against his leg.

Rose smiled at him and muttered a 'sorry' and moved it.

He took one earphone out and grinned back at her.  "It's ok, my granny used to do the same, used to annoy the hell out of my Granddad Wilf.  Would you like to sit on the inside?"

"No, mmm fine here thanks, don't want to wet your other leg, do you?"

He smiled again.  "No, suppose not but I might have to disturb you when I get off unless you get off before me that is, then I wouldn't be disturbing you then, would I?"

He told himself to shut up, his cousin Donna was always telling him he had a big gob and talked far too much.  The young woman next to him didn't seem to mind.

"I'm getting off at Hendricks."

"Oh, well I get off after you then, science museum, that's two stops after you so no need to worry about me disturbing you."

He wondered whether to mention his cousin worked there but it was a big store, recently refurbished after a big fire nearly totalled it a few years back.  He put his earphone back in and carried on listening to his Beatles collection.  He was a massive Beatles fan, well recently after his last girlfriend introduced him to them and now he had practically downloaded every song they had ever produced though he didn't care much for the band members' individual performances or their later work after Sgt. Pepper.

He took a sideways glance at the young woman, her coat looked wet, poor girl had probably not been able to get into the bus shelter.  He had only just caught the bus so that hadn't been a problem with him.  He had only just started using public transport again after the museum withdrew its staff parking facilities and it now cost you to even take your car into the centre of London – bloomin' cheek of it and he hated the underground, it reminded him of journeys before his parents had died.

He had been brought up by his Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Geoff from the age of twelve and his rebellious cousin had kept him in check and stopped him falling apart as had his granddad and he still went round every Sunday afternoon to see them though his uncle had died a few years ago and his granddad had moved in but Donna still lived at home.  Now Donna was dating some poor bloke called Shaun and good luck to him as well.

John himself had a string of failed so-called 'relationships' his last serious one went off to work in an art gallery in New York without even saying goodbye except for a text from the airport and now, this French exchange program woman was trying to seduce him into taking her to bed but so far he had managed to keep out of her clutches and had got rather good at avoiding her, burying himself setting up the various exhibits.

When he thought back, there had only really been one woman he was really interested in, the rest had been replacements and never got into his bedroom or he theirs despite what everyone at the museum said about him having notches on his bedpost, there was only one.  Rose meanwhile was daydreaming as usual, thinking of bettering herself and getting out of the store and do something exciting for a change.  She longed to travel and although she had a passport, there were very few stamps on it.

She almost missed her stop when she realised where she was.  She smiled at the man in the blue pinstriped suit next to her.  "Sorry about the umbrella earlier."

"That's ok, maybe it will be sunny tomorrow and you won't need it?"

"Yeah maybe, it's rotten weather for May."

John chuckled.  "Well you can come and sit next to me tomorrow morning if you catch the same bus, then I won't have someone sitting next to me who takes up half of my seat."

Rose was gathering her wet carrier bag and her shoulderbag.  "Maybe, I passed all those seats back there because there was little room.  Bye."

"Bye, maybe see you tomorrow then?" he asked hopefully.

Then she was gone and he didn't even know her name.  Rose never mentioned to anyone about her brief encounter with a tall handsome and very fit bloke she had met on the bus that morning.  She always got in early, to catch up on the latest gossip, get a coffee before she started but the next morning, she missed the bus by two minutes and cursed herself that she wouldn't get her coffee and wouldn't be able to sit next to that bloke again but hey, at least it was dry and she got a seat in the bus shelter but as luck would have it, she had only missed the one before that had been late.

John had got the bus as usual that morning, last one on, as usual and gone to sit more or less where he had been the previous morning, hoping the blonde would get on further down again but she didn't.  He thought she must have missed it and maybe get on tomorrow but the bus before had been late, John missed it but Rose had made the effort not to be late and since it was slightly early, she hoped the man had managed to catch it but he hadn't.  Wednesday was Rose's day off and John was left wondering again where she was.

Thursday morning, John made a conscious effort to get to the bus stop in time but of course Donna had to call him and almost made him miss it again though he knew it couldn't be the one before being late again, that was a rare occurrence but what did he know?  He only usually made this one but he had known by how many people had been waiting the other morning one must have been late.  Rose had got delayed by the postman so she missed it again and she thought she was never destined to see the man again which she thought was a shame.

On the bus she did catch, she was daydreaming about getting on the bus and them sitting talking and holding hands until she reached her stop.  She had never once thought that he might be sitting upstairs on the return journey home for the last few nights when she had sat downstairs reading a magazine and John had never thought to ask Donna what time the store closed either.

So Friday morning, he ignored a call from Donna, knowing he would have to explain why but at least he would catch the bus, Rose had avoided the postman by going the opposite way and letting him put the mail through the letterbox like he was supposed to do and it wasn't raining, thankfully.  The bus arrived and Rose hoped the stranger would be sitting upstairs and really hoped no-one would beat her to it if he was.

A man in front of her went up the steps and Rose followed, trying to spot a blue suit and saw one and what looked like the man from the other morning but the man in front had to go and choose that seat, didn't he?  John thought the blonde had missed the bus again or she had been early but Rose had sat two seats behind him next to a woman with two shopping bags.  John just happened to turn around wishing he had at least got her name so he could ask Donna about her when he thought he caught sight of someone with blonde hair.

The woman next to Rose excused herself a few stops later and Rose moved to the inside seat, wishing she dare to let the man in front know there was a seat next to her and hoping no other moron would get on and sit next to her but John couldn't see the blonde again and sat there.  She couldn't even shout, 'hey, come and sit next to me' as there was a large woman sitting directly in front of her now and so by the time she got to her stop, someone had sat next to her and she got off, disappointed again but so was John.

Hell, when had he got so upset a strange woman had sat next to him with a wet umbrella and had not got on since?  He was going to mention her to Donna on Sunday, there couldn't be all that many blondes working at the store, could there? The day went slow for both of them, John successfully avoided Reinette again by hiding most of the day and since he didn't work weekends, he could recover.

Sunday afternoon, John pulled up outside his aunt's house, well on the corner as Donna would only tell him off for parking in front of the driveway and let himself in.

"Well if it's not the skinny spaceman!" Donna declared, giving him a bearhug.

"Let go Donna before you break something.  I've got a question for you."

"Well it had better not be some freaky science one, what's up, going on the Star Trek quiz show again?"

"Nope, nothing to do with science."

"Well that makes a change skinny arse.  Mum's almost got lunch ready, told her to give you an extra Yorkshire pudding or two to fatten you up though why I waste my time trying to put some more meat on you, I don't know.  Go on, ask away."

"Promise you won't laugh?"

"No, tell me first then see if I laugh.  Not girl trouble again?  That French tart got you in her sights again?"

"No and no, it's not about her, I think she's getting the message.  There was this woman, last Monday morning who sat next to me on the bus."

"Aw, spaceman's lovestruck!"

"Shut up Donna, I'm being serious here.  She said she was getting off at Hendricks."

"So, just because she gets off there doesn't mean to say she works there, does it?"

"Well no but why would she say that then?"

"Because that's the name of the bus stop – duh.  What's up with you all of a sudden?" She saw the look on his face.  "Go on then, what did she look like?  You know how many women work there?"

"No, anyway, she was blonde."

"And?  That's hardly enough to go on, come on, most of them come in with a different hair colour every day, she's probably gone pink or blue since then."

"Yeah, well, never mind, forget it if you can't help me."

"Sorry John but there isn't much chance she even works there.  If you have an hour to spare tomorrow, come in and have a look around, you might spot her, you never know.  She'll have a name badge on, well a first name."

"Thanks cus, where's granddad?"

"He'll be back in a minute but he can't help you with your problem - spaceman."

John had his Sunday lunch, a family tradition he hated to miss since his aunt was a decent cook and even when he had been with Sophia, they had gone round most Sundays but his aunt didn't like the woman, saying she was too stuck up and that Christina he'd gone out with for a month or so, well Sylvia always counted the silver when she'd been around, Lady or no.  She'd had less airs and graces than that Sophia.

Rose was poking at her Sunday lunch, Jackie was eyeing her and so was her friend and one-time boyfriend Mickey, who was now having to be content with having Rose as his friend, only because he had done something really stupid and asked her to marry him.  She had told him in not so many words he had to be joking and said she'd be his friend if he wanted.  Mainly it was to keep the peace with Jackie Tyler, notorious face slapper extraordinaire and champion of the estate.

"Come on Rose, you've hardly eaten, what's wrong?" her mother asked, hating to see good food go to waste.

"I'm twenty seven and still at home."

"So what?  You want to fork out for room and board somewhere with a stranger?"

"No, suppose not.  I met this bloke, Monday morning on the bus and I've not seen him since."

"So?  You met a bloke, big deal," Mickey commented.

"Shut up Mickey.  He was nice and we talked a bit, my wet umbrella caught his leg and he didn't seem to mind and I saw him again on Friday morning but someone else sat next to him and I couldn't get his attention to come and sit next to me when someone got off."

"Rose, it's no use pining if you only met the bloke once," her mother told her.  "Maybe he'll be on tomorrow morning.  If you want to sit next to him, get to the bus stop early and don't let anyone get on in front of you."

Rose got up and gave her mother a hug.  "Thanks Mum, you're a star."

Back in the Noble household, Donna was giving her hapless cousin similar advice.

"So if she gets on a few stops after you, sit on the side the bus stop is and when it gets to her stop, tap on the window to get her attention then she'll know you're on there and sprawl out on the seat so if someone else is heading your way, they'll pass you and don't offer to move then when you see her, wave to her again."

"Hey thanks Donna, you're a star."

So John made it to the bus stop with a minute to spare after telling Donna before he'd left he wouldn't answer her call and Rose got to the bus stop a few minutes early and got a seat in the bus shelter and when the bus pulled up, she didn't see a bleary-eyed John waving at her furiously like a madman but as she got upstairs, she saw him peering out of the window and just as a man was about to sit next to him she nudged him and said, "Excuse me, that's my seat."

John turned back and said "Hi, wondered where you'd got to" that the man huffed and moved on.

"Hi again, I thought you'd stopped getting on this bus," Rose smiled.  "Look, no wet umbrella today!"

"Yep, definitely not umbrella weather today though it said it might rain a bit later on.  I thought it was you who had stopped getting this bus.  Did you know that from the weekend, they're taking these buses off and putting the front entrance ones on, can you believe it?"

"No, I'd not heard though we must have the only route in London that still uses them but I love them.  It's a shame really."

"Still, they've outlived their purpose really, modern age takes over.  I'd use the Tube but I hate it, all packed in like sardines, it reminds me of something."

"Oh.  No Tube station near me, would have to get the bus to it, might as well stay on!"

John smiled.  They talked all the way until they got to central London and it was the stop before Rose got off.

"So, see you tomorrow then, I'll try not to miss the bus."

"Yeah, me too unless the postman catches me, he's prone to using me as a letterbox," Rose laughed.

"Well that's just rude," John declared, smiling.  "See you tomorrow then?"

Rose got off, a smile on her face and held it there all day.  John was so caught up thinking about the beautiful stranger he'd had a twenty minute bus ride with that morning, he forgot about hiding from a certain Frenchwoman.

"John, you've been hiding from me you naughty boy," Reinette chastised him and put her arm in his.

When had he ever encouraged her?  Just because he was a fit bloke in a tight suit. "Ah Reinette, I haven't been hiding anywhere, been busy, you know, with the exhibits.  This museum doesn't run on its own you know."

"Ah but you have been doing it deliberately.  Why don't you take me out to lunch today?  I can re-arrange my lunch break and swap with Claire."

"Yes, well, about that, well I already have a lunch date."

"Oh, well another time then.  How about dinner?"

"Blimey," he thought, "How am I going to get out of this one?"  Then to Reinette, who he thought spoke excellent English with hardly an accent, he added,  "Sorry, pub quiz with my cousin Donna tonight, can't miss it, my favourite subject, Sci-Fi series, I've been swotting up on the questions they may ask.  Donna would kill me if she missed it, we're on the same team, me, her and her bloke.  We won last week."

"Oh well, there's always tomorrow."

"Ah, got a full diary sorry, have to go see Donna at work tomorrow and well, I'm all full up, sorry."

"John, if I didn't know better, I would think you're a little scared of me."

"Me?  Scared, nah!"  He was terrified and besides, talking to his new friend this morning had made his day, hell, she had made his week.  Then he had an idea. "Besides, I don't think my girlfriend would approve."

"Really John, you don't have to invent a girlfriend to get out of taking me to lunch or dinner.  Ok, I'll let you off the hook – for now on one condition."

"Really?" he managed to say, quite relieved she had given up so easily.

"Yes, if you bring her in to meet me."

"Right, yes, well, she works so it'll have to be on her day off but maybe not until next week then."  He had no idea when her day off was.  Then he remembered what Donna had said, go into the store and find her, she had to be there somewhere, didn't she?

Reinette looked like she wasn't going to give up until he produced his invisible girlfriend and even if he managed to find her, he had then to convince her to pay a visit to the museum then pretend she was his girlfriend.  Yeah, nice one John, you put your big feet in it again.
Chapter 2
So he left for his lunch and took a cab to Hendricks department store and wondered where to start.  He couldn't very well go around asking if a five foot something blonde worked there, security would throw him out for stalking so having no luck on the ground floor, he took the escalator to the next floor, the ladies and children's department and had a quick look around.  Rose had gone for her lunch with her friend from babywear and was just coming back when she could have sworn she saw the very man she had talked to on the bus that morning but John had stepped on to the down escalator and never saw her.

"Ok Rose?" Mary asked her.

"Yeah, thought I just recognised someone."

"Well you know what Miss Noble would say if she caught you talking to customers, unless they're buying something.  She'll be out of her hole in the wall like a shot if she saw you."

"I've still got two minutes, chill out Mary."

"Has to be a bloke."

John had to take another expensive cab ride but he was going to go back the next day to try again, maybe she had been on her lunch.  By Friday, they were talking more on the bus but no nearer actually saying where they worked but he had learned her name – Rose.  She had told him when getting off the bus on Tuesday morning that she was off the next day and he thought it a bit soon to be asking her to visit the museum, let alone pretend she was with him.

Reinette was tormenting him all week with every chance she got and he had to pretend she had changed her day off so Saturday, he was planning on going into town and trying again and not get eyed by the store security cameras hanging around to see if he could find her.  He kicked himself as she was getting off the bus on Friday morning for not asking what department she worked in, not that he had been in nearly every lunch time looking for her and it had cost him a fortune in taxi fares.

They were two stops away from where Rose got off.  "So, are you working tomorrow Rose?" he asked innocently.

"Yeah, worse luck.  My friend's meeting me and we're gonna go sit by the fountain in Trafalgar square and have hotdogs and soda."

"Sounds like a good friend then."

"Yeah, we've known each other forever, it's the only chance we get.  He works as a mechanic during the week."

John's mood changed.  "Oh, your boyfriend?"

Rose laughed. "No, ex boyfriend."

John felt rather relieved.  "So that's every week then?"

"Yeah, unless there's a match on so I suppose it's really every other Saturday, are West Ham at home this week?"

"No idea, not into football."  He was one stop away of being able to ask her.

"So what time do you meet then?"

Rose considered.  "Just after twelve, this is my stop coming up."

He knew.  "Bye Rose, see you on Monday?"

"Yeah.  What time do you finish work then?"

"Five, you?"

"Half five, just get out in time to catch the bus if I don't get delayed, it's surprising how my manager finds me something to do ten minutes before closing time.  I mean, she sits in her fancy office all day then rushes around when we're leaving. Bye then John."

John smiled as she got off.  Well now he had two options, find her before twelve or be in Trafalgar Square for around twelve fifteen but did he really want to see her with this bloke, ex boyfriend or not?  He almost called out to her as she was making her way to the back but she disappeared down the steps.  Idiot, he thought, she must surely catch the same bus home most nights and he hadn't noticed.  She must sit downstairs then.

By the time he got out of the museum building and crossed the busy road, he had five minutes to wait and the bus got outside Hendricks just turned half past five but since he'd been looking out of the window in the mornings and she had started waving back, he'd not bothered in the evenings.  So opting to eat in today for his lunch, careful the French black widow didn't have the same time as him, he thought about Rose again and planned to sit downstairs and tap on the window and hoped she would see him.  Of course she would see him, unless for some reason she went straight upstairs to look for him and it got busy at that stop and the downstairs filled up quickly.

He told himself to snap out of it, if she got on and went upstairs he could easily go back up but it did get rather busy, he might have to fight his way up but it would be worth it.  Donna had never really associated Rose Tyler with the blonde her cousin had mentioned last Sunday, how did she know how many of the female staff had blonde hair so as usual, before closing time, she was clucking round like a mother hen, getting the girls to tidy the displays and picked on Rose, again to do something that would take a bit longer but Rose had decided to be a rebel that night.

"Rose, that display looks bare, move something around will you for tomorrow?"

"Excuse me Miss Noble but I was hoping to get out on time tonight, I have to be somewhere."

"Well if you get on with it now, you'll be finished on time, won't you?"

"Yes Miss Noble."

Donna shook her head.  What had got into Rose?  At least since that fire she hadn't been roped into taking the lottery money down to the chief electrician after Rose complained she swore some shop dummies had moved and Wilson had gone missing.

"Ok Rose, do that pile instead and you can do that one in the morning.  New bloke is it?"

"Not yet, just a bloke on the bus I fancy.  I didn't know what time he got out on a night until he mentioned it this morning but I'm still not sure he actually gets the same one."

"Good luck then and next time, don't be so cheeky."

"Yes Miss Noble."

Donna was smiling, Rose was never really that cheeky, at least she didn't nickname her 'The General' behind her back like most of the other girls did.  So when the store bell went, Rose rushed to her locker in the staffroom and hurried downstairs and was out of the door to see her bus already at the stop but people still getting on.  She thought she would go straight upstairs, feeling like a schoolgirl with a crush as she prepared to get on and suddenly heard a tap on the window.

She waved back to John but a woman came and sat next to him so he pointed upwards, indicating for Rose to go upstairs and excused himself to the woman next to him.

As he got up, the woman muttered, "How rude young man" but he didn't hear her. There were a few more getting on but Rose had found an empty double seat right at the front and was holding off a man behind her so John could get there.  The man huffed and sat behind next to someone and John got to the front, allowing Rose to go in first.

"Hi, glad you got my little message," John smiled.

By the time they were approaching Rose's stop, most people were getting ready to get off out of those that were left.

"So, see you Monday then John?" Rose asked as she gathered her things.

"Yeah, unless, well, if you are free for lunch tomorrow?"

"Well I should be meeting Mickey, no match this week but I can put him off, if you want?"

"Really?  Well how about near the hotdog stand then, by the fountain, twelve fifteen or earlier?"

"Yeah, I'd like that.  Won't have a lot of time though."

"Well, you'll have enough time for a hotdog and soda."

"Ok, see ya tomorrow then.  Bye John."

With that, he let her pass and turned around to watch her then back to the window as she waved when she got off.  He had himself a lunch date.

Donna noticed Rose had fled out of the store like a bat out of hell when the bell had gone and couldn't help being amused.  She wished she could get her hapless cousin interested in dating again after that stuck-up Sophia had ditched him but all the girls she knew either worked with her or weren't into science.

John had smiled all the way back home and nearly missed his stop.  Tomorrow, he would get over his hatred of the underground and get the Tube into the centre of London.  Now at least, he didn't have to go look for Rose in the store and maybe run into his cousin.  He'd had a few narrow escapes when she had nearly caught him but she hadn't yet called him and chewed him out, he was certain she hadn't known he was there.

When he got up the next morning, he felt like a teenager again on his first date.  All the other girlfriends he'd had lately were nothing compared to Sophia but she was fast fading from his memory until he was getting ready to go out when he got a message.  'I'm back in town, I'd like to see you.  Sophia.'

He read the message twice – why had she had to choose to come back now?  He had taken two weeks to get to know the woman on the bus and had plucked up the courage to ask her out to lunch, albeit to a place where there would be hundreds if not thousands of other people there on a Saturday afternoon but still, it was a date, of sorts.  Come to think of it, Sophia had been the one to leave him without even a proper goodbye and one of the reasons he'd been put off Reinette was because she looked a bit like his ex and they could easily be distant cousins then there was that Martha who worked part time to subsidise her medical studies who was always smiling at him.

It was Rose that had got his attention and Reinette had reminded him again he was supposed to be bringing his girlfriend in.  He ignored Sophia's message and walked down to the Tube station, he had always loathed using it after his parents had gone and wondered why they still called it the underground when technically it was still above ground where he got on.  He used to love it as a kid when his Granddad Wilf used to take him and Donna on it, down to the Thames and looking around on the embankment and the shopping trips with his parents until they had been involved in an accident picking him up from school one afternoon to go visit Aunt Sylvia.

It had been her that had informed the school and asked for him to be taken into the medical room until she came to collect him where he had been told what happened and the nurse had to calm him down.  Then he had been given the spare room at his aunt's house and all his things brought to him and he would still ask when his parents were coming back for him months later.  That was when Donna had taken him under her wing, barely older than he was and had made him laugh and get into all kinds of trouble.

He was waiting by the hotdog stand just before twelve and wondering which direction Rose would come from.  He'd had another message from Sophia but he had ignored it.  He would have to write one back sooner or later but he wanted to see how things went with Rose first.  He saw her making her way through the crowds feeding pigeons and fussing over screaming babies and toddlers in pushchairs.

"Hi Rose," he shouted as she looked around.

"Hi, blimey, it's busy.  Hope I didn't keep you waiting?"

"Nah!  Shall we eat?"

They joined the queue and were soon finding a place to sit down and Rose relaxed and laughed at his jokes until he offered to walk her back to the store.  There were five minutes before she had to be back on the floor and it would take her two to put her purse away and she could always pretend she had been doing something and had been back on time as they stood by the staff entrance.

"Thanks for lunch John but if I'm late back, my boss will go nuts, she's a right slave-driver, you should hear what the other girls call her."

John smiled as she laughed and poked her tongue between her teeth.  "I can imagine, she should meet my cousin then, the two would get on well together.  It was nice Rose, really nice having lunch with you, was your friend mad with you for cancelling?"

"No, he'll get over it.  I really have to go now."  She reached over and kissed his cheek.  "See you on Monday?"

"Oh yes Rose, brilliant!  See you then."

With that she was gone, to which department he didn't know but now, he could tell Donna her name, she might know her and he heard the message tone on his phone and looked at it.  'Where are you?  I'm on my way to your place'

Sophia Giles was not pleased when she got out of her newly rented car and found John's car was parked but there was no answer from his intercom.  Then she saw him walking around the corner.  He'd had to get to the nearest tube station and change to get the right line back to Chiswick and on a Saturday, it had been rather stupid of him.

"Sophia, I just got your message."

"Which one?"

"Erm, well all of them, I was out in town."

"And you didn't buy anything?"

"Couldn't find what I wanted, may as well have gone local."

"Aren't you going to invite me in?"

"Well I would but what are you doing back here?"

"Invite me in and I'll tell you.  I missed you."

"For a year?  Really?  You broke my heart Sophia."

"Yes, well when I got offered the job, I barely had time to think, I had so much to do."

"You could have said goodbye you know and not by text.  Who says goodbye via text message?"

"I'm sorry, let me make it up to you?"

Against his better judgement, he let her into his apartment and no sooner were they inside when she flung her arms around his neck and tried to kiss him.  He moved her arms and held her back.

"Not so fast, first, tell me why you left me?"

"I'm back John, I've thought about nothing else since I got back late yesterday. How's Donna?"

"She's fine and she still doesn't like you much."

"Well I wasn't dating her for two years, was I?  Come on, at least you could kiss me."

"Why?  You only thought about me when you came back and you didn't come back for me?"

"I thought about you, I didn't take up with anyone else if that's what you think.  Did you?"

"Well of course I did, what do you expect?  You never even said you were going or how long for just an 'I'm going to work in New York' what was I supposed to think?"

Sophia went to sit on the chair.  "You could have called, asked me when I was coming back, if you'd wanted?"

"And wait a year?  I can't go for long distance relationships."

"I'm here now."

"How long for?"

"Does it matter?"

"Yes.  Besides, I have someone else now."

Sophia got up and stood in front of him.  "How many is that then?"

"It doesn't matter, Rose is the one I'm with now."

He was really up to his knees in it now, what if all Rose wanted was an odd lunch date and seeing him on the bus four nights a week?  It was a risk but if Sophia was only back for a few weeks, she would break his heart again and he couldn't do that to himself.

Sophia closed the gap and lunged at him, grabbing his jacket lapels and kissed him. He fought her off but not fast enough.

"Does she kiss you like that?" Sophia smirked.

"Erm, well yes, I think you'd better go Sophia."

"Your loss.  You still at the museum?"

"Nice try."  He brushed past her to the door.  "Don't lie to me, you must have had someone in New York."

"I didn't want to hurt your feelings but yes, there was someone but he left me just before I was getting ready to come home, like you said, what did you expect John?"

"So you come back and expect to pick up where we left off like nothing happened?"

"I was willing to try but if you're not?  Well you know how to find me."

"Yeah, bye Sophia."

He watched her walk out, wondering if he had done the right thing and hoped Rose wanted a bit more than a lunch date and a bus ride to and from work.

Rose got home that evening and was miles away as her mother chatted to her.

"Mickey said you cancelled lunch today Rose, any reason?"

"No, I was meeting someone."

"That bloke from the bus maybe?"

"Don't now what you mean Mum."

Jackie laughed.  "Who are you kidding madam?  You've had that grin on your face since you came home."

The next day, John went as usual for Sunday lunch and Donna collared him in the hallway.

"Oi spaceman, have you been skulking around Hendricks in your lunch break?"

"Me?  Why would I do that Donna?"

"Maybe looking for a blonde that may or may not work there maybe?"

"Do you know who she is?"

"What have I told you?  How do I know?  Got her name yet?"

"Yeah, she told me the other morning and she saw me on Friday night, we sat together upstairs at the front, isn't that brilliant!" he grinned.

"Isn't what brilliant John?" his aunt asked him.

"Oh spaceman here might have just got himself a new girlfriend, no big deal," Donna replied for him.

Now he knew he'd never hear the end of it.

"Who's got a new girlfriend?" his granddad asked.

"Shush you, set the table," Donna's mother replied.  "So who is she then John?  I hope she's not stuck up like that Sophia or a pretend ladyship like that Christina, I never trusted her.''

"Yeah we know Mum, you used to count the silver when John brought her around."

"You did?" John asked innocently and hoping they would change the subject.

"Yes well, it didn't hurt.  So who is she then?"

"He met her on the bus isn't that sweet," Donna smirked.

John was now hoping Donna would answer all the questions his aunt put to him, just like she used to do when they were kids but he was always the one to get into trouble for it while she got away with it.

"Let him speak for himself Donna.  Go on John."

"Erm, well, I only know her first name, she works in Donna's store but I don't know which department."

"You don't know whereabouts then?  Don't you know her Donna?"

"How would I know Mum?  There are tons of blondes work there."

"Well you could narrow it down a bit, have any of them bragged about a new boyfriend?" her mother suggested.

Donna thought about it.  There had been Rose, in a rush to meet a bloke the other night, she hadn't taken much notice, she had been too miffed her little ruse of keeping the staff back had been rumbled.

"Well there was one but it wouldn't be her, I'm sure of it."  She didn't even know her cousin caught a bus at that time.  "Like I said though, she could work anywhere in the store really.  Sorry spaceman, you'll just have to ask her, won't you?"

"Ask who what?" Wilf asked.

So John was none the wiser and set off home.  The next morning, he was anxiously waiting for the bus, forgetting the new ones had started over the weekend when it hadn't been so busy and everyone looked when the new one pulled up and were thankful their passes had been upgraded when they had been renewed and John went upstairs, the opposite way as he was used to but it meant he could sit near the steps and watch for Rose getting on instead of guessing.

Rose had forgotten as well until it approached the stop and two older women were complaining and making the driver lower the platform for them.  Rose looked upstairs but the new design made it awkward to see anyone and she just hoped he was on.  She spotted him as she neared the top of the stairs and since they were now bigger buses, she didn't have to fight to get to him.

"Hi Rose, here, sit on the inside."

He got up and just sat down as someone almost bumped into him.  "Hi, see we got the new buses then, I nearly didn't get on."

John smiled.  "Me neither.  Had a good weekend?"

"Yeah, Saturday was a brilliant day."

"Really, what did you do, besides work?  You didn't get into trouble for being late back for you?  Did the dragon lady catch you?"

Rose giggled and nudged his elbow.

"No you plum, I had lunch with you."

John let out a laugh that had people staring at him.

"Dragon lady?  That's a new one, everyone else calls her 'The General 'cos she's always barking orders and she makes you do things to make you late out but I appealed to her better nature on Friday night and I got out to catch the bus, with you."

He hadn't realised but she had slipped her arm in his and was sitting a bit closer but then he realised who she was talking about.  The 'Dragon Lady' was non other than Donna and that was what he called her when she wasn't within hearing distance and granddad called her The General.  He didn't think he should say anything so they chatted until it was her stop and said she would do her best to catch the bus tonight and he said if she didn't, he'd see her in the morning.

Donna had a change of heart and made them all late out, she had no reason to suspect Rose was the one meeting John on the bus every morning so Rose missed it. When Rose didn't get on, John's heart sank and it never occurred to him to get off and wait at the bus stop for her until she arrived until he was halfway home and it got to her stop and he could slap himself silly for not thinking sooner.  Rose was fuming she was late out and missed the bus.
Chapter 3
Tuesday morning, John was determined to get a seat near the top of the steps and got to the bus stop two minutes early, wondering what had ever made him almost miss it every morning previously.  Maybe he now had a better incentive to catch it. Rose said goodbye to her mother and grabbed her keys and hurried for the bus, avoiding the postman who was scowling at her as she shouted "Gotta bus to catch" as she headed in the opposite direction.

She climbed the bus stairs, John had not mastered the art of successfully peering down from the top deck window as Rose waited in the queue.  It never occurred to him if he sat a few rows back she would see him.  He stood up to let her get on the inside.

"Hi John, I missed the bus last night, the dragon lady kept everyone back."

"Ah, might just have to have words with her then," he joked.  He would, the next time he saw his cousin as he was more or less convinced it was actually Donna.

"So how come you catch that bus then?  If you finish at five?"

"Have to finish what I'm doing, get out and all that, it's a big place you know and we come out of the side entrance.  It can't take you long to get out if you catch it."

"Nah, got an incentive now."

"Really, what's that?"

Rose slid her arm through his and nudged him.  "Oh, you mean meeting me?"

"Well yeah but it didn't work last night, did it?"

"Well it did occur to me, when I got to your stop last night and you weren't on, I could have got off where you get on and waited for you.  I mean, it doesn't really matter what time I get home, not much going on there except eating, watching telly and going to bed."

"No social life then?"

"Not really.  You?"

"Nah, got tired of being a pub widow.  Watch telly with my mum and that's about it, unless she's doing someone's hair when I get home then I help her.  She's a hairdresser."


They sat silently arm in arm for ten minutes as they approached the centre of London.  It was now or never.

"Rose, I don't suppose you'd like to visit the science museum tomorrow, would you? It's free.  You could come and find me and I'll show you around.  That's if you know, you've not got other plans?"

"Hey, I'd love to.  I've never been there, that would be great.  Thanks. I'll come round about eleven then?  Who do I ask for?"

"John Smith.  Yeah, tell me about it."

Rose smiled and unhooked her arm as hers was the next but one stop and they were fairly close together.

"See you tonight maybe?"

"I'll sit downstairs then if you don't get on, I'll nip off while it's loading and wait for you, watch out for me, I'll sit on the pavement side.

"Great.  I have to go now, see ya tonight."  She gave him a little peck on the cheek.

She was still grinning when she got to work and was determined that the dragon lady wasn't going to keep her back tonight so just before five, she began to fill up one of the empty displays and saw Donna leering at her.  John had not washed his face all day and even Reinette was beginning to think his girlfriend was for real.

"So John," Reinette called out to him as she was passing the display he was working on.  "Your girlfriend, when is she coming to visit?"

"Ah, tomorrow actually, I'll be sure to introduce you when she arrives."

"Yes, then I might just let you off.  By the way, another woman was looking for you earlier, I was not sure where you were working but she had a strange resemblance to me."

Bother, Sophia was looking for him but at least he might as well get it over with then she wouldn't come back tomorrow while Rose was visiting.

"Really?  A cousin perhaps?"

Reinette laughed.  "No, silly but I suspect she knows you very well.  A past girlfriend perhaps?"

"Maybe but it was a long time ago."

"Ah, maybe it is why you avoid me then, because I remind you of her perhaps?"

"Something like that.  Look Reinette, I'm sure you're very nice but I have someone and tomorrow, you'll meet her.  I'm not looking to replace her, ok?"

"Fine, you are off the hook, tomorrow when I've met her."

Reinette was determined to make sure John was telling the truth and not just making it up.  John went off looking for Sophia and caught sight of her looking at a moon exhibition.  Luckily, his job allowed him to freely walk around without being questioned, he was always looking at the other displays to make sure they were in good order when he wasn't setting a new one up and tomorrow, he planned on not starting any new ones so he could show Rose around.

"Ah John, where have you been hiding?  That woman back there, she looks just like me, well maybe not exactly, she has a long way to go to catch up with me.  Is that your new girlfriend?"

This was his chance.

"Yes, you caught me now why don't you finish your tour and leave?  There's no sense in dragging this out Sophia, I'm not coming back to you."

"I'm disappointed but really?  You have to start dating my twin look-alike?"

"I told you, you broke my heart.  What's it to you anyway?"

"Nothing, I just like to think you still care about me since you found someone to remind you of me.  Does she know about me?"

"I told you, yes, she does know about you but I never described you.  Now are you leaving?"

"I haven't finished my visit yet, you're being rude John."

"Don't try and find her again.  How would you like it if someone told you your boyfriend had once dated your double?"

"I suppose you have a fair point.  Ah well, just for the record John, you were the one."

"I was?  Is that why you left me for a year?"

"Ouch.  I suppose I deserved that.  Ok, I'm leaving."

Reinette had the misfortune to be passing.  John couldn't stop Sophia.

"Hello Rose, I'm Sophia, John's ex."

"Yes ok Sophia, you made your point."

Reinette was amused the woman had mistaken her for John's mysterious new girlfriend and knew exactly who the woman was.  Maybe he might buy her lunch if she played along.

"Nice to meet you Sophia, John has told me all about you though he never said we looked alike.  I suppose I should be flattered.  Come along, you promised me lunch since we have the same break time.  Excuse us Sophia."

With that, Reinette took his hand and led him away.  Sophia shook her head and knew it would never last if they worked together.  Reinette was determined to make John pay her back for rescuing him.

"You owe me now John and if the real Rose does not turn up tomorrow, I expect to collect."

"Don't worry, she'll be here, says she can't wait."

They both caught the bus that night but Rose had some bad news.

"I'm sorry John," Rose said as they went to sit upstairs and she had linked her arm in his, something he was liking more and more, plus the kiss on the cheek that morning.  "I have to swap with someone tomorrow, I'm not off until Thursday now."

Rose had been annoyed when Donna had been asked to let Julie have the day off for a hospital appointment and Rose was the only one who could swap days.  Rose was sure Donna had done it on purpose.  She had told no-one except her friend from babywear about her encounters with John and she had sworn Mary to secrecy until there was something more solid to report than bus rides and lunch on Saturday and she was hoping a day out at the science museum was their second 'date'.

"Oh, it's ok Rose, really.  No rush.  How about Thursday then?"

"Sure, I'd love to.  I thought you'd be disappointed.  What's it like in the museum?  Is it all stuffy?"

John laughed and everyone looked.  "No, there's all sorts of displays, I did most of them," he said proudly.

"Really?  You must be clever then.  So are you really into all that science stuff?"

"Well yeah, that and science fiction, that's my real passion.  All the stars and planets out there.  I sometimes go with my Granddad Wilf and go stargazing with him.  My cousin calls me 'spaceman' all the time."

Rose giggled.  "Maybe I should call you it too then?"

"I wouldn't mind if you did."  He risked taking her other hand.  They were nearly at her stop.  "So Rose, maybe one night, you know, I could maybe get off at your stop and walk you home?"

Rose cringed at the thought of John escorting her through the Powell Estate.

"Yeah, maybe, one night.  Night John, see you in the morning then, don't forget I'll be on the bus, save me a seat."

"Oh I won't forget Rose, definitely not.  Night then."  He got up to let her off and she squeezed his hand.

Then she was going downstairs and John was still standing and almost joined her – head first as the bus pulled up until he grabbed the rail and sat down.  He had been thankful Reinette had got Sophia off his tail, for the time being but now he had to convince the Frenchwoman Rose had to swap her days off.

"Hi Mum, I'm back," Rose called.  "Would you believe I have to swap days tomorrow? Can't believe Miss Noble had to go pick on me.  John asked me to go to the science museum this morning on my day off and the dragon lady swaps me with someone."

"Dragon lady?" Jackie laughed, handing Rose a mug of tea.

"Yeah, that's what John called her the other day, it sort of stuck.  Hope I don't slip up and call her it to her face or I'll be out of a job again."

"You, in the science museum?  Thought you said he worked there?"

"He does, he was gonna show me around.  Now I'm going on Thursday."

"Oh, well if you're off on Thursday, you can come with me."

"Where to?  Mum, I promised him now."

"Oh never mind about me then."

"Mum, I wouldn't be even off on Thursday normally.  Can't you get Bev to go with you?"

John got home and decided to come clean with his cousin.

"Spaceman.  What you doing calling on a Tuesday night?"

"I need a favour Donna."

"Oh, again?"

"Well yeah, the girl, I mean woman, on the bus, her name is Rose.  Do you know her?"

"Of course I do dumbo, she's in my department.  Never thought it would be her though but she did rush out early the other night and earlier, she started doing a display before I even told her to.  What did you do to her you skinny boy in a suit?"

"I invited her to the science museum tomorrow and you swapped her day off."

"Oh I'm sorry, are you running my department for me now?"

"You know I don't normally ask you for anything.  Please Donna, as your cousin?"

"Ok, ok, keep your shorts on spaceman.  I'll call someone else and call Rose and tell her she can have her day off tomorrow.  Ok?"

"Thanks cus, I owe you one."

"Don't worry spaceman, I'll collect."

Just after seven, Rose got a call.

"Hello Rose, it's Miss Noble from the store.  I've persuaded someone else to work tomorrow so you can have your day off.  You sounded like you had plans."

"Yes, I did, thanks.  Are you sure it's ok?"

"It's fine.  Were these plans including a man you met on the bus?"

"Yeah, he asked me to where he works.  Thanks Miss Noble."

Donna was not letting on the man on the bus Rose had met was actually her cousin. She didn't want the woman to think she was getting preferential treatment.

The next morning, Rose turned off her alarm and remembered it was the day she was meeting John at the science museum.  Then she also remembered she had told him she couldn't make it today so he would be expecting to see her on the bus.  Oh well, if he was that clever, he would figure it out that she had got her day off after all.

Instead of feeling glum Rose had not got on the bus that morning, he was inwardly happy she would be visiting the museum today.  When he got to work, he went to his office, getting a cup of coffee and waiting for Rose's arrival.  He was sure he had a big stupid grin on his face.  He was just going to inspect the displays today, not set up any new ones or move them around.

He knew there were regular groups of school children came in, some to the cinema housed within the building but as he was about to make his rounds, one of the curators, who was slightly above him but not really his boss, he was more or less his own boss, caught him.

"Ah, John, glad I caught you.  You're into science fiction are you not?"

"Yes, that's me, sci-fi geek."

"Yes, well, one of the school's coming in today, we thought it would be a good idea if you set up in the conference centre and gave them a bit of a lecture and maybe organise a quiz after they finish looking around."

"Ah, well, are you sure you have the right person for the job?  I'm not much good with kids, especially twenty odd of them."

"Thirty three I think."

"Even worse then.  What time would that be?"

"Around eleven or so, they're just arriving now so do you want to go get set up in the conference room?"

"How long will it take?"

"You should be finished around twelve or so, don't want to bore them to death do you?"

"No, not at all Doctor."

"Good man, I knew I could rely on you, you'll make a good curator one of these days."

"Yeah, that's me, the great curator.  I'd be good at curating."  Then he remembered. Rose was coming in round about eleven.

"'Erm, excuse me Doctor do I have to start now?"

"Got something else to do young man?" the elderly white haired man asked, leaning on his walking stick.

"Well actually, I just have to pay a visit to reception first."

"Ah, the lovely Reinette?  Good for you."

"Thanks.  No, wait, it's not Reinette Sir, no, I have to leave a message for someone."

"Of course.  Reinette rather looks like Sophia I suppose.  I thought I saw her yesterday."

"You did.  She came back and wanted to get back together but I turned her down. She would only go off again.  Anyway, I met someone else.  Her name is Rose."

"That's a nice name.  Is she blonde?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact she is."

"That's no surprise then.  Good luck young man, I was quite the ladies man back in my day."

John believed the old man was.  Everyone called him 'The Doctor', for what reason, no-one knew.  He had just arrived one day back in 1981 from virtually nowhere and assumed the post, showing the then head curator some ID in a plastic wallet and had been there ever since.  Everyone loved him and he was popular with the visitors and knew far more than any of them put together.

John went off to reception, it was Reinette's day to be there with Martha.

"Ah, ladies, I need a big favour from you, if you will."

Martha decided to be flirtatious with John, much to Reinette's amusement since John had told her in no uncertain terms he was stuck on this Rose person.

"Depends what it's worth John," Martha teased.

"I'm expecting a visitor today but the Doctor wants me to lecture a school party so if she asks for me, ask her to meet me out on the terrace around twelve thirty.  Tell her I had to do something for the curator."

"Ah, your mysterious girlfriend John," Reinette laughed.  "She is actually coming here today?"

"Oh, he's got a new girlfriend he's trying to impress has he?"

"Give it up Martha, he only has eyes for blondes."

"Oh she's blonde, what a surprise."

"He has done nothing to encourage you Martha," Reinette told her after John went to prepare his talk and his quiz after thanking them both and Reinette promising she would make sure Rose got the message, even if Martha wasn't going to tell her.

Just after ten, Rose was preparing to go out to catch the ten twenty bus, remembering John had said to get off two stops after Hendricks.  She had put on a pink top, a denim skirt and her black tights and a blue hooded top. It looked quite nice out for May but it was hit and miss.

"Right Mum, I'm off to the museum.  I'm really glad Miss Noble changed her mind last night, I'm really looking forward to it."

"Well have a good time then, what time you coming back?"

"Oh, depends how long the tour lasts, he's showing me around, personally.  I may even stay there until he finishes."

"What times that then?"

"Well he gets out at five though the museum stays open until six.  I'm hoping he might take me out somewhere afterwards, you know, to get a drink or something."

"You're pushing your luck, lady.  Don't get too far ahead of yourself."

"I wont.  Bye."

John was pacing up and down waiting for his young audience.  He had been on a quiz site and downloaded some questions to his tablet PC and prepared a questions and answers theme rather than have thirty three kids shuffling around and throwing sweet wrappers and other missiles at each other while he talked to empty space.

Rose stepped off the bus just after ten fifty and went to find the entrance to the museum.  It was a formidable looking building from the outside, not museum - looking at all and finally found the wooden door almost on eleven.  Seeing a dark skinned woman at the desk, Reinette on her break, Rose stepped up.

"Hi, I'm looking for John Smith, he works here."

"Oh, he's not available right now sorry.  I don't know when he'll be free.  Maybe you should come back another time or make your own way around?"

"I'll look around, thanks.  If you see him, will you tell him Rose was asking for him?"

Reinette was just on her way back and spotted Rose talking to Martha.  She shook her head and knew the other receptionist was trying to put the blonde off.  She knew Martha also liked John and would have had some fun teasing her had the blonde not actually shown up and also knew she was trying to give Rose the impression John wasn't around.

Reinette came up behind Rose, getting a scowl from Martha.  "Excuse me, are you Rose by any chance?"

"Yeah, have you see John?"

"Forgive my friend here.  John left a message for you, to meet him on the terrace around twelve thirty.  He has had to take a school party in the conference room."

"Thanks.  Is the terrace sign posted?"

"Yes, you can get to it easily.  Enjoy your visit Rose."

"Thanks.  You are?"

"I am Reinette, a French exchange student from the science museum in Paris."

Rose went off, picking up a map of the museum.  She was a bit disappointed that John couldn't give her a tour but maybe he would make up for it after lunch.

"Spoilsport Reinette," Martha sulked.

"No Martha, you are the spoilsport.  Believe me my dear, there is no chance for you, it seems John only has eyes for his Rose."
Chapter 4
Rose went around getting a good look at some of the exhibits, she knew she should save most of them for later if John was free but at least he had left a message for her and that nasty first woman wasn't going to even tell her, she must fancy John herself.  Still, he was free to choose who he wanted, this wasn't really a proper 'date' as such and neither had been lunch on Saturday.  He had given her his surname but she had not yet told him hers.

She told herself not to get too excited about just a visit to the museum, he might never ask her out properly, he might even have a proper girlfriend stashed away he didn't want to tell her about, he had mentioned someone.  For all she knew, the woman could have come back and John would tell her today he couldn't see her on the bus any more.  She felt sad at that thought, the last couple of weeks had made the bus journey more bearable, especially since they had found they got the same bus home.

John was not having such a good time.  He was stuck with thirty three obnoxious teenagers who only wanted to know if he could recite all the names of the captains from Star Trek and as for the quiz, when he counted how many had got ten answers or more right, there was only one hand still raised and the crowd had thrown insults and empty water bottles at the poor boy.

He was glad when the time was up and swore he'd never do it again, no matter how much he liked and respected the Doctor.  He headed for the terrace, hoping Rose would be waiting.  He spotted her with a pot of tea on the table and two cups.

"Hi, I'm really sorry about that, are you ok Rose?"

"Yeah fine though your receptionist has no manners, she wasn't going to tell me you'd got tied up for the morning.''

John cringed and wondered which one and had an idea it was Martha.

''I'll have words, the dark haired one?''

''Yeah, never mind.  I didn't get anything to eat, it's a bit pricey here.''

''Sorry, just choose anything from the menu, I don't pay for mine, I'll get yours, my treat.''

''That's nice of you, thanks John."

She chose the ham salad and John went off to get the food, coming back with hers and a table number for his, one of the privileges of being senior management.  After lunch, he led her around the displays, asking which she had seen in the morning then around four, he took her for another drink and strawberry jam scones.  Rose was well impressed with John's manners, he was the perfect gentleman, explaining each exhibit they came across and wishing she had time to see everything.

"Have you seen one of the 3D films in Imax yet?  They're brilliant!  Especially the space shuttle one, it's just like being up there.  Imagine seeing the earth from above Rose, my Granddad Wilf said we'll be up there some day."

''Good for him, hope he gets to see it then,'' Rose smiled.  John took her hand across the table, there was no-one outside now except for them.

''I've had a brilliant day John, the best, thanks.''

''Then say you'll come back next week again and I'll take you to see a new film that's coming in.  I have to see them anyway, in case I get asked about them, my treat.''

''I'd really like that but I can't keep taking all your time up, what would your boss say?''

''Aw, I don't really have a boss, except for the head curator and as long as I do my job, he never complains.  I love it here.  Come on, I'll show you my office, it's upstairs then if you wait for me, we can ride home together, unless you have somewhere else to be?''

''No, nowhere else, I'd love to see your office.''

John led her upstairs and along a gallery, through a door and along a corridor.  He unlocked a door and allowed Rose in first, it was a bit of a mess.  He grimaced and wished he'd tidied up that morning but he really hadn't expected Rose to spend all day with him, he had enjoyed her company and it now seemed she enjoyed his.  He hadn't seen Sophia downstairs who had watched him lead a blonde woman away upstairs so she had followed.  It seemed John had been stringing two other woman along and both were blonde.  At least the woman didn't look like her.

John had just cleared a chair for her and sat at his desk.  A knock came on his door and he shouted, ''Come in.''

''Hello John,'' Sophia grinned, looking at Rose.  "I thought I saw you heading for your office.  Aren't you going to introduce us?"

''Ah, Sophia, what are you doing here?''

''I came to give you a chance to change your mind, have you?''

Rose got up.  ''I think I should go now John, thanks for the tour.''

''Wait, don't go yet, I thought we were getting the same bus home?''

''Really John, are you using public transport?  How common."

''Common?'' Rose asked.  ''Who are you calling common Miss stuck-up?''

John tried not to laugh.  ''Now ladies, no fighting, I can't abide fighting.  Sophia, I think you should be the one to leave, you weren't invited.''

''And she was?  So who's this one then?  I thought you already got a girlfriend, one I seem to remember you saying you wouldn't swap for anything, not even to go back to me?''

''Then why are you here?''

Rose had heard enough, he had lied to her, he had gone back to his ex.  Before John could stop her, Rose ran out of the door and back to the gallery.

''Now look what you've done.  You expect me to come back to you after that little display?  Close the door on your way out Sophia.''

With that, he dashed out and ran along the gallery, stopping to see Rose making her way towards the exit.  He got his mobile out and called the desk.  Just his luck Martha answered.

''Martha, that woman from this morning, the one you conveniently forgot to give my message to, she's on her way out, stop her please.''

''Why, what's she done?''

''Never mind that just stop her.''

Rose was just passing when Reinette spotted her and called her name.

''Rose, did you enjoy your tour?''

Martha put her hand over the phone.  ''Reinette, John said to stop her from leaving, might be trouble.''

Reinette called again as Rose went out of the door, John had almost caught up.

''I said stop her, yes, I distinctly said for you to stop her.''

He went out of the door after her and saw her trying to cross the road by the corner. He ran and caught her arm as she was about to cross, pulling her back on the pavement.  He was out of breath.

''Rose, please, let me explain?''

''About what?  That woman, she said you had another girlfriend so why should I listen?  Let me go John, I'll not bother you on the bus again.''  She was waiting for the crossing to change again, tugging free of his grip.  John knew he couldn't let her just walk off without explaining.

"Rose, she was talking about you.''

Rose turned.  "Me?  I'm not your girlfriend.''

''Rose, I'd like you to be, please?  Sophia, she came in yesterday and Reinette, the Frenchwoman, she pretended to be my girlfriend to get her off my case.  Please Rose, please believe me, there is no other girlfriend, there's a vacancy, if you want it?''

''What about her, that Sophia, is she the one that left you to go to New York?''

''Yes and I don't want her back, she left me Rose and yes, I had a couple of girlfriends after she left, nothing serious but when I first saw you that morning, well I was just too shy and I'm never shy.  Donna says I don't have shy bone in my body.''

''Did you say Donna, as in Donna Noble?  As in 'Dragon Lady'?''

John wished the ground would swallow him, Donna would kill him now.  ''Yeah, that's what I call her sometimes, when she's in a mood.  I got her to change her mind about giving you today off because I really wanted you to come here today.''

''I would have come tomorrow.''

''I needed you to come today, I was stupid Rose, Reinette was trying to get me to take her out so I told her I had a girlfriend but she didn't believe me and said I had to bring her in to prove it then she'd let me off the hook.''

''So I'm just getting you off the hook am I?''

''Yes, I mean no, I mean….''

Rose looked at him, he was cute and she had thought about no-one else since that morning she had met him and he seemed sincere, he was just trying to wriggle out of a date with the Frenchwoman because he had met her on the bus and wanted to ask her out but he couldn't or he wasn't sure if she would.  That explained it but she wasn't going to let him get out of it that easily.

Traffic was rattling by, the crossing changed again but John just kept looking at her like his life depended on it.

''Please Rose, you have to believe me, it's you I want to go out with, properly, not lunch in Trafalgar Square, a day out at the museum and twenty minutes on a bus to and from work.''

''Do you always get yourself in such a mess where at least four women are trying to get your attention?''

''It's not a regular occurrence.  The Doctor mind you, he brags all the time.''

''Who's the Doctor?''

''One of the curators, the one who put me on that school thing this morning.  I bet he did it on purpose, the crafty old man, he'd give my Granddad Wilf a run for his money.  Would you like to meet him?"

John held his hand out, wriggling his fingers.  ''I have to go back in now, come with me?''

''I don't know, I was just getting used to you on the bus though.''

''We can take it slowly, at first.  Like tonight, wait for me and I'll get off at your stop and walk you home.  You don't have to invite me in and tomorrow night, maybe we could go for a burger or something after you finish work and Friday, maybe we could go for a drink?''

''Blimey, you don't give a girl much of a chance, do you?''

John smiled as she slipped her hand in his and found it was like putting on a glove, her hand fitted in his perfectly.  He led her back inside and went off to find the Doctor.  Martha pulled a face as the two of them strode back in, hand in hand, Reinette nudged the other girl.

''Ah, there is nothing that can beat true love, John has found his Rose.''

''Yeah, tell me about it.''

John found the Doctor, looking at a painting that looked like it should be hanging in The National Gallery, not the science museum but it was a most unusual painting, it had a funny 3D effect and Rose swore it was real.  The painting showed alien ships with strange green lights, firing at crumbling buildings and when she looked really hard, thought she saw a blue 1950's Police Box in the corner but when she blinked, it had gone.

''Ah John, you found your girlfriend?''

''Yeah, thanks Doctor.  Wait, hang on, I never said she was my girlfriend, did I?''

The Doctor chuckled and winked at Rose.  ''Who nose,'' he laughed, pointing to his nose.

Rose giggled, she already like him.

''Anyway John, I recently acquired this painting, what do you think of it?''

''What's the title?''

''Ah, well that's where it gets interesting but that's a tale for another day.  I'm sure young Rose here doesn't want to be bored with my ramblings.  I used to travel a lot in my day, seen it all.  The things I could have shown you two if you had come with me.  Maybe, one day, you two will go travelling on your own?''

They said goodbye to the curator and John asked Rose to wait at the bottom of the stairs while he went to finish in his office.  He was relieved to find that Sophia had left, probably via one of the other exits or maybe while he had been trying to convince Rose to become his girlfriend, to which he still didn't know if she had actually said yes yet.  He had admitted Donna was his cousin, she would wipe the floor with him for that but he had needed to convince Rose to come back inside with him and then go get something to eat.

They walked towards one of the main areas and found a takeaway, choosing to sit upstairs since it was busy and John rattled on about his cousin Donna and how they had grown up together but still not sure he should tell her about losing his parents, well not until Rose said she had been brought up alone by her mother.

"Oh, I had plenty of that, growing up alone.  My parents died when I was twelve.''

Rose took his hand and ran her thumb over it.  ''Oh John, I'm so sorry to hear that, it must have been a bad time for you.  I never knew my dad.  So who brought you up?''

''Donna's parents, that's why Donna and me are close, she's more like a sister to me. Please Rose, don't tell her I called her the dragon lady, will you?''

Rose smiled.  ''Well maybe if you buy me a banana milkshake?''

John grinned. ''Oh anytime Rose, it would be my pleasure and maybe we can just string her along a bit since she knows but don't let on you know about her.  Should be fun really.''

''Ok, I'm game though if she keeps me back, you'll have to wait for me.''

''I can do that Rose, I can walk it in ten minutes, don't know why I never thought of that.  I can meet you outside the door and we'll get the bus together, if you want?''

''Yeah, I'd like that but maybe we can slow down a bit on the dates?''

He looked disappointed, all the plans he had made right until the end of next week and all while they had been eating.  His mind was a whirl of ideas where to take Rose.  She noticed.  Then she thought to hell with it, she had spent a long time going to work, going home and watching TV, it was time to get out and have some fun.

''Oh ok then but I can't be too late home.''

John's face lit up.  ''Brilliant, Molto Bene.  I promise to get you home at a decent time Rose, you have my word on that.  Maybe we could go catch a film?''

''Tonight?  I'm not dressed for going out John.''

''You look lovely, considering.''

''Considering what exactly?"

"That you're only in jeans, you'd look perfect in anything Rose.''

Phew!  He had just redeemed himself, he hoped.  So just after six, they walked to the multiscreen and chose a film they both wanted to see, having to wait almost an hour and John bought a large tub of popcorn and two sodas and they went to claim some seats, sitting near the back, setting the drinks in the holders and Rose settling her arm in his.  She had called her mother to say she would be late back while John had been getting the tickets and the treats.

Their hands touched more than a few times as they reached for the popcorn, Rose just glad he couldn't see her blushing as they did.  The film was over all too quickly for John's liking, Rose letting go of his arm and him leading her out while the credits were still rolling.  They got to the bus stop after going to a coffee shop and spending almost an hour there, having to wait and he asked her how she had enjoyed the film.

"It was good but I think I enjoyed sharing the popcorn with you more than the film John.''

She slipped her hand in his again and squeezed it.  ''Thanks for a great night out.''

She reached up and kissed his cheek.  The bus came along and they went to sit upstairs, it was getting dark and Rose said she would have to keep an eye out for her stop coming up.  John joked if she missed it, she could stay on and he would drive her home.  Rose said not to tempt her.

"Do you want me to get off with you and see you home?'' he offered.

''Na, I'm fine, I know everyone around there anyway but thanks for the offer.  I'll see you in the morning then and I'm sorry about earlier, that little mix up.''

''It's ok, really, don't worry about it.  It wasn't your fault, it was that scheming ex of mine, I don't know why she came back.  I told you she called in yesterday, she thought Reinette was my girlfriend, well you actually and Reinette thought it would be funny to play along.  As for Martha, I really am sorry about her too, I think she fancies me.''

''Well tough, I might just have to go back next week and have a few words with her then.  I liked that Doctor though, he was nice.  Has he worked there long?''

''Everyone says he's been there for over thirty years, can you believe that?  I wonder what he was talking about, you know, that painting.  I've never seen it before but it was like a 3D effect, those spaceships looked real, don't you think?''

''Yeah, it was spooky and just for a minute, I could swear I saw one of those old-fashioned police boxes, then it was gone.  Must have been an optical illusion.''

''Yeah, why would a police box be in a painting?''  He nudged her arm.  ''We're almost at your stop Rose, I'll walk downstairs with you, unless, you know, you want me to get off with you?''

''Maybe tomorrow night John.  Come on then.''

As John started to get up to let her out, there were only a few people sitting in front of them so Rose dared to give him a quick peck on the lips, very lightly.

''Night then John, see you in the morning, today was fantastic.''

John was stunned.  ''Yeah, it was, night Rose.''

With that, he followed her down the stairs as she rang the bell for her stop and then as she got off, he went to sit in one of the empty seats and waved to her.  She waved back then the bus pulled away and John almost missed his own stop, thinking of the brief kiss Rose had given him and Rose almost skipped all the way to her block.

The End!

A/N: I have decided not to continue this, it was just going to be about their dates so I thought I would end on an optimistic finale for both of them to live happily ever after!