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Evolution of a Scandal

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PROLOGUE

"So who’s the john?"

"The Prime Minister."

She blinks. A last minute job Stephanie had said, important enough that she'd strongly suggested Belle reschedule a regular. "You're kidding."

But Stephanie only looks back at her and hands over the information. It's more than a little surreal: 10 Downing Street, eight o'clock, she'll be given a visitor's pass at the gate, payment has already been completed.

"Why me?"

"I don't know, but he asked for you by name."

 

CHAPTER 1

He doesn't want a whore, but his aides are adamant he needs to do something to relax, and he certainly doesn't have time to pick up a hobby or go out and find himself a proper girlfriend - not that he needs or wants that complication in the first place. So, in order to shut them up for a while he gives them permission to find a girl, vet her, and bring her to Downing Street, thinking he's bought himself a few weeks at least.

He is mortified when his personal secretary, Daniels, returns to his office not five minutes later with a stack of headshots. It's an indication of how much thought they'd put into the suggestion that there is already a list of acceptable girls. If he was thinking clearly, he would have expected them to be prepared, but if he was thinking clearly they never would have suggested it in the first place. Less opportunity for him to change his mind this way, too, he supposes.

He insists on privacy while he looks at the pictures to narrow down the choices - because, he agrees somewhat reluctantly, he really should have some say in the matter. He'd be impressed if this whole thing wasn't so insulting; it's quite the selection they're offering him, practically a world tour, girls of every ethnic background and ranging in age from early twenties to noticeably older than he is.

Those are the first to go, though, the ones who look like they could be someone's mother - he shudders as he sets aside a few more - or grandmother. And he's never much had a predilection for Asians or women with dark skin, so those go as well, including one with just a really excessive tan. The third pass hits closer to home, literally, as he removes all of the ones that even remotely resemble Romana. It's bad enough that he's actually going to go through with this, he doesn't need to accidentally dredge up ghosts and have the girl later sell a story to the tabs about how the poor Prime Minister is obviously still mourning his dearly departed wife.

After that it gets more difficult. This one is eliminated because there's something in her eyes he doesn't care for, even if he can't put a finger on exactly what that something is. Another girl just seems silly. A third is wearing far too much make-up.

In the end, he has it narrowed down to three faces, but that's really as far as he can go without being overly critical, so he just picks one at random. "And you're the lucky winner," he says bitterly to the photograph. He flips it over and reads the name on the back, knowing even before he sees there are two of them that the first is an alias. His French is bad, but not that bad.

He picks up the phone on his desk and presses the extension that will ring in Daniels' office. "I have a name for you," he says when the other man picks up, "Belle du Jour. Make the arrangements and get back to me."

After he rings off he looks at her picture again and is surprised by the tiny curl of interest that comes up from deep inside of him. Six hours later, though, it has become a sickening ball of nervousness that explodes when she steps into his private lounge.

She's beautiful, more so than her picture gave her credit for, blonde, with a wide smile and generous curves. She's wearing a purple blouse with a floral pattern that's surprisingly demure. It's sleeveless with a high neckline and cinches at the waist with elastic. Her charcoal gray skirt is loose, stopping just above her knees. He had expected her to be - well, not living plastic, per se, but fake, forced. But quite to the contrary, she seems very natural, approachable, the kind of woman blokes would trip over each other to get to in a club.

And he's hardly done more than bark orders at women for what seems like nine lifetimes.

* * *

She's never found him particularly handsome, with his large nose and ears, never mind that he's almost fifteen years older than her. Not that his age matters, she's had older men before, a few considerably older than he is, even. And oh, he's been in government almost as long as she's been alive, she realizes.

He starts stalking around the room the minute the door closes, sealing her in with him for the foreseeable future, the tension in his shoulders so very obvious even in this place which should be his sanctuary. "What did you say your name is?" his voice rolls over her, rough and thick with his native Manchester accent.

She didn't say, they've not spoken one word to each other before his question. She wonders about him. It's just after eight and he's still wearing his suit. No waistcoat or tie, but the jacket is wrinkled from being worn all day. "What do you want it to be?"

He smiles tightly. "It's a simple enough question."

"Belle," she says softly. "It's Belle."

He stops and looks at her, his eyes narrowed. "No, it's not."

She flushes as embarrassment washes over her. "If you know the answer why did you ask?"

But he only continues to stare at her.

She straightens. She is a professional, and she is allowing him to unbalance her solely because of who he is. That is simply not acceptable. "My name is Belle," she says firmly. "You can choose to use it or not."

He makes no reply but starts walking again, and she follows him to a small built-in wet bar where he pours himself a glass of scotch.

"I suppose we should get started," he says then drinks the scotch quickly, knocking it back with a practiced ease. Liquid courage. It's kind of endearing.

"Are you in a hurry?" she asks. He's taken aback by the question, she can tell. It's not the first time since receiving the assignment that Belle has wondered how tonight is going to go. He's paid up through the morning, but doesn't seem at all enthusiastic about what they're supposed to be doing. In fact, they're the closest together they've been since she arrived and there's at least five feet between them. She steps closer to him and drops her voice a bit. "Like most things, it's really much better if you take your time."

He flounders for a moment then falls back on basic manners as he gestures to the various bottles of alcohol. "Would you like something to drink?"

She's been offered everything from beer all the way to hardcore drugs by clients but had been warned early on not to go down that path. She's seen it happen often enough to other girls, where what had started off as a friendly drink turned into something dangerous or even deadly. No, it's better to keep her wits about her, especially when meeting with a client for the first time. "No, thank you."

Belle takes the bottle from his hand as he's preparing to pour himself a second glass and shoos him away from the bar. "Sit down," she orders and then glares at him when he doesn't move. She jerks her head at a nearby armchair. "Go."

He smiles, probably amused by the idea that she has the audacity to boss around one of the most powerful men in the world, but he walks away from her, settling into the armchair. He's sitting stiffly, and it finally occurs to her that he's nervous, really and truly nervous. She pours the scotch.

"This is perfectly good scotch," she says, bringing him the glass, "and you're not bothering to enjoy it."

He takes the glass from her, grimacing when he sips at it. "It's sweet."

"Or even taste it," Belle adds dryly as she sits on the footrest in front of him. "Of course it's sweet, it's Macallan. They mature it in sherry casks."

He grimaces as he drinks again. "It's probably older than you are."

"Maybe. Do you not like it so sweet?"

"I don't see what difference it makes."

"It matters because you're the one drinking it, so you might as well enjoy it." She takes the glass from him and puts it on the end table. There's still plenty of the amber liquid swirling around the bottom, but he doesn't even seem to like it and she doesn't need him pissed. "Try Lagavulin next time. It's younger, dryer, smokier."

He's looking at her with something akin to surprise, the way most men do when they find out she's knowledgeable about more than just sex. "I wasn't expecting a lesson in scotch."

She bends down and picks up one of his feet. He moves with her, looking very awkward when she settles the foot in her lap. "What were you expecting?" she asks as she begins unlacing his shoe. He's wearing sturdy work boots, no expensive loafers here; he was the candidate of the working people, she remembers from his political ads. She slips the shoe off of his foot and drops it onto the floor beside the chair.

"I don't know. I've never done this before."

Good. Even that admission is progress. "Never?" She's massaging his foot through the sock.

"Not with a..." his voice trails off.

"Beautiful blonde?" she offers. Belle exchanges his feet in her lap and removes his other shoe.

"No, with a..." he stops himself this time before he can complete the sentence.

"Younger woman?"

He frowns, but it has nothing to do with the way her fingers are moving against the arch of his foot. "You're having a go at me."

"I'm teasing you, there is a difference. It's okay, you know, the words you're searching for are escort or call girl, and it won't offend me if you use them."

"You're... nothing like what I expected."

"I'll take that as a compliment."

"I thought you'd be more business-like... mercenary," he adds somewhat reluctantly.

"Men typically seek the services of escorts because they're trying to escape from something, whether it's their significant other or their job. How would it help you relax if I came in here and was very business-like?"

When he doesn't answer she puts his foot back on the floor then stands and walks over to where she left her purse near the door. Opening it, she pulls out the toiletries she's brought just for him. "Go shower," she says, pressing the little bag into his hands. "Take as long as you like, and when you're done dress again to whatever degree makes you comfortable. I'll wait right here."

Chapter Text

He's very unnerved by the idea of leaving her unsupervised in his chambers, but once again she shoos him away like one would a bothersome child and he finds himself obeying her.

The toiletries bag has one of everything in brand new travel-size containers: soap, shampoo, shaving cream, disposable razor, deodorant, even a tooth brush and toothpaste. She's very well-prepared. It's the first time that it's glaring what she does for a living. And he spends several minutes staring down at the bag after opening it wondering if he should be doing this at all.

It's been, well, longer than he'd care to admit since he was last with a woman, and while the idea of paying for sex is unappealing, the idea of sex itself is not. And she is very beautiful, and - dare he even think it? - intriguing.

He showers, then stares at the clothes in his closet like a... He scowls when he realizes: like a pretty boy dressing for a date. She's a wh-- escort, he reminds himself, a call girl, not his girlfriend, and he's under no obligation to impress her. He decides on a dark blue jumper and jeans; she'd said to dress comfortably, and that is comfortable. He's certainly not going to parade out there naked.

Her feet are the first thing he sees when he walks back into his lounge, hanging over the arm of his chair and capping off a pair of rather nice legs. She's discarded her shoes, but instead of seeing them in a pile on the floor beneath her, they're set neatly by her purse near the door, his boots beside them. Her toenails are pink.

He walks up behind her and leans over the back of the chair. She looks comfortable, relaxed - certainly more than he feels, at least - and she's got one of his books open on her lap. There's an awareness about her, so clearly she knows he's there, but she doesn't look up, idly flipping to the next page in the book instead.

It's his leather-bound Dickens, he realizes with a start. She's several pages into Great Expectations, and as he stands there watching, she turns another page. "Manners is manners," Joe was saying, "but still your elth's your elth."

"I prefer The Signal-Man, personally," he offers.

She closes the book to look at the Table of Contents, keeping her finger between the pages to hold her place. "That's not in this one."

"No, it's a short story. That collection's just novels."

Using her finger, she flips the book open again with an undecipherable little hum. "I never could see the appeal of Estella. I mean, it's obvious she's toying with him from the beginning."

"She's beautiful, unattainable, and she represents a world that Pip very much wants to be a part of."

"And Biddy is right there, common, not beautiful, and maybe a little too familiar to be desired. I'm always most saddened by the way he treats her."

She certainly hasn't gotten that far into the story just in the time he was in the shower and it surprises him to learn that she's so well-read; though, after the conversation about the scotch maybe it shouldn't. "It's a very human failing to not see what's in front of your nose."

Finally she looks up at him. Her eyes are the same color as the scotch and they roam over every inch of him from the top of his head to the center of his chest, the lowest point she can see over the back of the chair. His body responds immediately, the quickening of his breath and pulse, the subtle tightening in his loins.

Slowly, deliberately, she turns back to the book, locates the silk bookmark and puts it in the place of her finger. It's maddening watching her ignore him as she leans over to place the book on the coffee table. She stands then and comes around the chair, not stopping when she slides her hand into his, pulling him along with her as she continues on to his bedroom.

Oh, right. He'd forgotten for a while who she is and her purpose, and it was nice.

She closes the door, creating an atmosphere of further intimacy, and then steps into his space, so close their bodies are nearly touching. She's not looking up at him, though, her eyes are fixed somewhere in the vicinity of his chest. He doesn't even know if he should touch her or where, and so he just stands there, waiting.

Several seconds pass, but each one feels like an eternity. When she looks up at him there's confusion in her eyes. She smiles, but it's teasing, cajoling. "You sure you've done this before?" Then she takes his hand and slips it up under her blouse to rest on the bare skin of her waist.

She's warm, soft, and he has only an instant to process the sensations before she puts her hand behind his head and lowers his face to hers. He goes to kiss her, but she turns her face at the last minute to press her lips along his jaw. She's nipping and sucking down his neck, and without deciding to do it, he's pulling her closer.

Belle moans, the sound vibrating against his skin. Her other hand comes up to rest on his chest, and that contact is what finally breaks him. He fists his other hand in her hair, the one under her shirt moving to the center of her back as he pulls her flush against him. His lips find the skin of her neck, echoing what she's just done to him, and her head lolls back.

When he reaches the neckline of her blouse, she starts moving again, her fingers finding the edge of his jumper and moving it up. He moves with her, helping her get the jumper off of him, but becomes self-conscious the minute it falls to the floor. He knows he's not the kind of man women dream of, with his big ears and tired old body, but she stays with him when he tries to move away from her, her fingers dancing over his skin.

"What do you want?" she asks softly.

"What?"

"Is there something you like? Something I can do for you? I can do anything, as much or as little as you like."

He looks down at her only just realizing what she's asking. She's really quite lovely with her golden eyes and wide mouth. Her hair's natural dark roots are starting to show, but even the imperfection of the dye job suits her. She looks back unabashedly, getting her fill of him, her tongue peeking out flirtatiously from between her teeth, and he feels himself harden even further. "No."

It's obvious she doesn't believe him; after all, what man reaches his age without having some preference in the bedroom?

She undresses, though, without further comment, managing to be sultry without it turning tawdry. With the flick of a single button, her skirt lands in a puddle at her feet, leaving her toned legs available for his perusal. There's the tiniest hint of black knickers, but her blouse is long enough to hide them from his view. It doesn't matter, because he's getting plenty of ideas now, a litany of things he'd like to do with her, to her, most involving having those legs wrapped around his waist. Her eyes meet his as she pulls her top over her head, shaking her hair out after its passage.

Black bra, black knickers, her breasts round and high, her stomach flat and firm. And knowing eyes watching him as she closes the distance between them, her fingertips slipping into the waistband of his jeans at the button. She's warm - or maybe it's him and the warmth is just rebounding off of her back onto him. She pushes, gently, encouraging him to take a step backwards and then another and another, until the backs of his calves hit his bed.

She's watching him still, waiting for approval, he thinks, her fingers having never left the button of his jeans. He does it for her, opens his jeans, essentially inviting her in. She smiles again as she sinks to the floor, her fingers finding his zip and dragging it down with her tooth by tooth. His eyes close on their own, the blood rushing in his ears as his awareness shrinks to the woman on her knees before him and the feeling of her hands as she peels open the jeans.

The passivity is killing him, the anticipation of every touch, the fact that he's hardly touched her at all since this started. But every time he feels the urge to reach out to her, he squashes it. With a single tug the jeans fall away from his hips with no extra effort, and the next thing he knows she's helping him step out of them, her hands caressing his thighs and calves in turn. The tip of one finger traces the edge of his pants across his left thigh then his right before moving to his stomach and doing the same thing there.

Belle pushes her thumbs into the waistband of his pants and eases them down over his erection and off of his body the same way as she did with his jeans. She's assessing him, he can tell, judging his length, girth, maybe even the sparse hair that surrounds it. He simultaneously doesn't want to know and is rabidly curious how he measures up to the other men she's been with, but he knows he'll never ask.

With one hand she pushes him to lie down on the bed. He only notices when she reaches for one that there's a stack of condoms on the nightstand which certainly wasn't there before he went in to shower. She takes one and tears open the packet, her hands moving surely as she rolls the condom down over his erection.

His whole body jolts at the feeling of her hands on him.

"You like this?" she asks, stroking him once more before removing her hand, but he only looks back at her. "You can talk to me, you know. It's exactly like the scotch. This is about you and what you want."

He shakes his head, looking away, and feels her shift on the bed. "John, look at me."

When he does she's sitting up, her shoulders squared and authoritative despite her near nakedness. It's the first time she's called him by name, and it pains him to realize how long it's been since he was simply John. Nudity is a great equalizer.

"I'm not going to presume to know what made you decide to bring me here tonight, but it's obvious you've got some hang-ups about this, so I'm going to be frank with you. I've done this before, and I take a lot of pride in my work. I've done as little as cuddle for an hour and I've done much, much more, so nothing you suggest is going to shock me. I can be your childhood minder, the librarian from your secondary school, your secretary, or that woman you never could get the courage to talk to at the coffee shop." Her voice gentles, and she runs one hand down his side and over his hip, deliberately avoiding the parts of him which should be receiving her attention. "I can be anything you want, but you have to talk to me. Tell me your fantasies."

"It's something else," she adds when he still doesn't answer her. She looks around the room, but doesn't seem to focus on any one thing. When she looks back, her eyes are full of understanding. "I see. That's it, isn't it? Maybe it wasn't made clear to you, but when we're behind that door all of this is strictly confidential. You're just John and I'm Belle and none of this will get repeated anywhere. I promise."

Without any response from him, she seals that promise with a kiss, not on the lips, but on his hip, her mouth inching closer and closer to his neglected erection. Even through the condom he can feel her breath on him, the heat from her mouth at the base of his cock. "Is this okay?"

Her hand comes up and strokes him once, twice. "John, is this --"

"Yes!" he cries, the words torn out of him, "Please!"

It's a reward when her mouth engulfs him, her hand pumping in counterpoint just below her lips.

He's building fast, embarrassingly fast, but oh God she's talented, with her lips and tongue and... right there!

He comes with a shout which quickly dissolves into a strangled sob. She coaxes him through the orgasm, her hand gradually slowing as he floats back down then she removes her hand and her mouth with a tiny pop.

"I'm sorry," he's saying before she can even move away from him. "I can't believe I just popped off like a --"

The feeling of her lips at his temple stills him. "No one here is judging you or your performance, so there's nothing to be embarrassed about. It's a testament to my finely honed skills, is all." She touches his hip. "Turn toward me, let me take that from you."

She rolls the condom off of him then gets up from the bed to find a bin. When she returns, all it takes is gentle pressure on his side to get him to flip over onto his stomach. She is crawling up on top of him, straddling his legs before he realizes the position he's put himself in. "No --"

Her hands land on his shoulders and she massages them for several seconds in silence that is deafeningly loud. "You're in charge here, John," she says when she finally speaks, "despite what you persistently appear to think. I'm not going to do anything that would make you uncomfortable." Her hand leaves his shoulder and she pinches his bum. "But you do have a really nice bum."

"Oi!"

There's a tiny giggle from above him as her hands return to his shoulders, and he can imagine her tongue peeking out. He finds himself hardening again. "Belle?" he asks, shifting slightly in an effort to sit up.

"Stay. A few minutes more."

He relaxes and lays back down. She disarms him so easily in every way that he's going to have to evaluate this phenomenon in further detail... as soon as she stops massaging him. Her hands move lower to hit that spot beneath the shoulder blades that's so difficult to get by yourself, and he is groaning aloud before he even realizes he's going to.

Belle makes a satisfied little purr that reaches inside of him and pulls. Her hands move to his lower back next, her thumbs pressing on either side of his spine before moving outward. He floats for several minutes as she repeats the pattern: shoulders, upper back, lower back. Then, her hands slow and she shifts against him, and he finally becomes aware of the heat of her where she's resting against his legs.

He moves languidly, because that's all his muscles are capable of in this moment, but it's fine, because she's still atop him and he wouldn't want to overbalance her by moving too quickly. When he meets her eyes an understanding passes between them. It's time.

Chapter Text

Belle is already reaching for the clasp of her bra when he turns to face her. It falls to the floor with the rest of the clothes followed quickly by her knickers. She bends easily when he puts his hand on her shoulder, reclining on the bed with nothing more than a nod in the direction of the condoms. He grabs one and tears open the foil; he must have hesitated because the next thing he knows she's got the condom in hand and is already rolling it onto him. Then she lies back again, one hand flirting at the join of his neck and shoulder but otherwise not moving.

That's when he realizes that she could be trying harder. She's engaged, certainly, but not aggressive, and has been doing everything to let him maintain control from the beginning just like she said she would. In fact, the only thing that could be considered her pushing his boundaries was when she took off his boots. As a result, nothing she's done has come across as disingenuous.

He's... glad and more than a little grateful. "Thank you," he murmurs against the skin of her neck as he settles between her thighs.

"You're welcome," she replies, twining her arms around his neck, and it's as though she knows exactly what he means.

Something inside of him loosens. He leans down to kiss her, but she turns her face away again. "Not that," she says firmly, her eyes meeting his so he can see that she's serious, "anything but that."

"Okay." He's surprised by how disappointed he is, but a part of him understands.

A few seconds pass before she smirks and wiggles her hips deliberately.

Ah, yes. "Belle --"

She shushes him, one finger pressing against his lips. "No pressure, no judgement, remember?"

It's not just empty words, and the loose part of him rattles around a bit.

He guides himself to sink slowly into her heat. She's tight but welcoming, and he tells himself when he stills inside of her that he's doing it solely for her benefit.

When he starts to move, she nods, an affirmation. He's rocking into her slowly, half strokes that are designed more to reassure himself that he remembers how to do this than incite any great passion.

Belle offers him several words of encouragement as his confidence builds enough for him to develop a steady rhythm. Then she's entirely tiny moans and whimpers and pleased cat-like stretches. He sounds like a rutting animal compared to her.

"No, don't stop," she begs when he censors himself. "It's beautiful."

He'd argue with her - yes, even now - but she is so sincere that the next sound is wrenched from him, opening the floodgates again. She answers with a loud groan and tightens around him, spurring him on faster. It's not long after that when he feels the first stirrings of another orgasm.

As tempted as he is to give in, it occurs to him that Belle is on this journey with him and he doesn't want to leave her behind. Because at this rate, he's going to finish long before she's even close. So he does something he'd never have been able to do if she hadn't already made him come once: he fights it, forcing away the tightening in his balls as he lifts her leg to provide more friction for her.

Their eyes meet. "It's okay," she says in response to whatever she sees there, "you can let go."

John shakes his head and doubles his efforts, her lips pursing as she looses an "Oooooh" that tells him he's gotten the angle right.

However he quickly understands, as he bats away the hand she's trying to snake between them, that the increased speed is doing more for him than her. It's not that he doesn't appreciate what she's trying to do with that hand, but as open as she's been with him so far, if she gets herself off it would feel akin to her faking it.

The irony of not wanting to sully the sex he's having with a call girl is not lost on him, but he slows his strokes to a halt, ignoring the building need of his own release.

"John?"

"You first," he says, moving her again. He hooks her leg around his waist and leans closer to her, resting his arms on the bed on either side of her head.

"How many times do I have to tell you that you have nothing to prove? This is not about me."

Pressing his lips to her shoulder, he whispers, "I need it to be." Then he starts moving again, slowly, deliberately, punctuating each thrust with a grind that presses against her clit. It's too slow for him, he'll never finish this way despite the fact that he can still feel the embers banked inside of him.

He's one stroke away from giving up on this position and rearranging them again when he hears her breath catch. That noise alone, such a tiny honest sign telling him that he's doing this right, that he's on his way to making this good for her, ignites those embers once more.

She's getting progressively louder with each thrust, and he's moving quickly to the point of no return, quicker than he would have ever thought possible in this position and at this maddeningly slow pace. "Faster," she gasps, and he is more than willing to accommodate her.

It's no longer tiny moans and cat-like stretches, now it's commands that sound suspiciously like begging and manicured claws grazing against his skin, carefully, though, so as not to mar him.

Her muscles are clenching around him; she's close, but it's deliberate, not the sporadic pulsing of her coming undone, so he continues tapping down his body's increasingly screaming need for release.

And then, in the space between heartbeats, not even enough time for a full thrust, it's too late, the balance has tipped. He was a fool to think he'd be able to hold off indefinitely, years of abstinence compounded by how he's repeatedly denied himself have taken their toll. He thinks to apologize: I'm sorry, I'm just a lonely old man, and it's too much, but it ends up sounding something like an inquisitive groan instead.

A groan that she wholeheartedly echoes. "Oh, yes."

His hips have lost any sense of rhythm. It's not that he no longer cares about the pleasure of the woman beneath him, it's that he can no longer focus on hers while his whole body rockets toward its own.

"Fuck," she mutters, and then again a second later, "fuck." There's more, words that he might understand another time if he hears them again, but they're lost on him now. She's grabbing onto him tightly, one hand on the side of his neck, the other on the round of his shoulder as she arches hard against him. And then, with a wordless cry, she shatters.

With the first contraction of her muscles around him, he follows her, his body jerking reflexively with the force of his release.

He only returns fully to the present when he feels fingers brushing at the tip of his ear. Belle is radiant beneath him, her chest and cheeks flushed a very becoming shade of pink and her hair a golden halo around her. Everything about her is soft: her hands, now gentle against his skin; her smile, no longer tongue-touched and teasing; even her blinks are languid and unhurried. He runs his hand behind her head and down to cup her cheek, only remembering at the last possible second that he isn't supposed to kiss her.

Their breath mingling, she nudges his nose with her own before pointing down between their bodies. "We should handle that."

Oh. Yes. He withdraws from her, nearly collapsing back onto the bed from a bodily weakness he can't ever remember feeling before. Once again, Belle turns him to his side and removes the condom for him. He's so sensitive that even the functional touch sends shivers all over his body. She's gone from his vision for only a moment then she climbs back onto the bed and lies down facing him, her cheek pillowed on her hands.

"Are you going to leave now?" he asks.

She looks surprised. "Do you want me to?"

"I dunno, kind of vague on how this whole thing works, me."

"I'll leave when you're ready for me to leave."

They look at each other in silence for several minutes, and even that doesn't seem unnatural. There's no expectation, and for that moment they can just be.

John reaches out to touch her, stopping just inches away from her face. "Can I?"

Belle nods and he tucks a stray lock of hair behind her ear then runs the backs of his fingers across her cheek. "You are so beautiful," he breathes.

For the first time since returning to the bed she breaks eye contact. Obviously he's made her uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, is that --"

She looks back up at him and smiles sunnily, and it's like the last several seconds never happened. She places her hand on his chest right above his heart. "You've got me for as long as you want me, Mr. Smith. What are you going to do with me?" With the tiniest bit of pressure she convinces him to lie on his back.

It takes her a few minutes to coax his body back to life, but even that is an extremely pleasurable experience. She takes complete control when he's ready, straddling him with her strong legs and riding him to bring them to another nearly simultaneous climax. He's so drained by the time she disposes of the condom that he's asleep before she gets back to the bed.

In the morning, he's reaching for her even in his sleep; it's the coolness of the sheets where he expects her to be that wakes him. "Belle?" he calls sleepily as he sits up. Then, a few seconds later and a lot less confidently, "Belle?"

He discovers that there's no evidence she ever existed; the used condoms have vanished from the bin, his clothes have been neatly folded and placed on the edge of the bed, his leather-bound Dickens has been returned to his bookshelf, even the scotch glass has been washed and put away. The only things that convince him it wasn't just a spectacular wet dream are the looseness in his shoulders and a single professional-looking calling card on his nightstand.

Chapter Text

The first thing Rose does when she gets back to her flat is shower. There's a certain amount of decompressing she has to do after every job that simply can't be put off. After the shower it's tea, never mind that it's not even half two in the morning. She can afford to sleep most of the day away, if need be.

John had been nothing like what she'd expected. Of course, her expectations had all been based on what little she knows of his politics. He's always seemed sort of rough, common, and though she could definitely see those aspects of his personality, he was also very sweet and so uncertain of himself.

And an attentive lover, for all his hesitancy, so she doesn't regret for one instant leaving her card behind for him. It had been an impulse, much like the one that had found her digging a pen out of her purse to carefully scratch out the number that would reach Stephanie and put her own mobile number in its place. In the two years she's been a call girl, she's never done that before with a client, but his need for confidentially outweighs Stephanie's rules. John's not just some businessman looking to hide his activities from a wife, so Rose is willing to give up what little protection her madam offers for his comfort.

After her tea, another impulse strikes her. Sitting down at her computer, she loads up a browser window and searches 'John Smith, Prime Minister'. And in the blink of an eye there it is, laid out neatly at her fingertips, his entire life: age, career, political stance, marital status. There's pictures, too, loads of them; most of them are recent, but there are many of him as a new MP as well as a handful of him and his wife together.

She had been a natural beauty: dark curly hair, sultry dark eyes, perfect bow lips. She'd married one of the youngest MPs ever elected from Greater Manchester, a rising star in Parliament, and had been radiant on their wedding day. Three years later, she was dead after a boating accident that had also killed their one year old daughter and John's parents. Those pictures are nothing graphic, thankfully, just images of the wreckage of the boat and one of the cabin where the family's vacation was cut short.

John had been in London attending a vote in Parliament and had been expecting to join them the next day. There are a handful of pictures of John himself: one immediately after learning of the tragedy and another standing at the funeral in front of four coffins, one heartbreakingly small. According to one article, he later paid an exorbitant amount of money to buy the cabin only to demolish it a few months later. Rose doesn't blame him at all.

He'd thrown himself into his work after that. Publicly there have been no other women in his life since, and as far as his private life goes, Rose is inclined to believe the same. He doesn't behave like a man who engages in frequent liaisons.

* * *

Only a few weeks have passed since the night he spent with Belle and already John can feel the tension in his shoulders returning. He ignores it as best he can - it's been ages since he had a regular lover, so there's no reason for him to suddenly have need of one with any frequency.

A few days later the tension has gotten progressively worse, but it's nothing he can't handle. Or at least that's what he tells himself... right up until five British troops are killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

They've been fortunate; British losses are a fraction of America's, but each one affects the whole populace as strongly as the first. As soon as the report comes in, his office springs into action, formulating a press release and preparing to reach out to the families.

John finds himself barking orders again. Never a soldier himself he still finds that is his default setting. In a matter of hours what little goodwill he'd gained with his staff over the last few weeks vanishes. He tries not to notice the furtive glances, smothered grimaces, and out-right cringes every time he passes through a room. He knows many of the people who work in his office don't like him, have never liked him, but they stay anyway because of their own reasons.

He drops into the chair at his desk just after lunch and sees a simple business card propped right where he would be sure not to miss it. He knows it wasn't there that morning, which means that someone put it there while he was out. Part of him really regrets ever letting Daniels see that he had it in the first place. But even as he grumbles about the crass insinuation, he's reminded how nice it was being with Belle, how uncomplicated and relaxed, not dirty or sordid at all.

Just having the card in the pocket of his jacket bolsters him enough so that he can make it through the rest of the day. Daniels eyes him expectantly right up until it's time for him to leave. "If there will be nothing else, sir," he says from the doorway of John's office.

John waves him away but he stands there a moment longer. He's fidgety, shifting his ubiquitous dark gray messenger bag on his shoulder and adjusting his tie nervously. There's something else he wants to say and the air grows heavy with anticipation. John meets the smaller man's eyes, daring him to come out with it, Belle's card suddenly like a weight in his pocket. With a tiny nod, Daniels backs away from the doorway.

He waits twenty minutes after Daniels leaves, just to be sure he's gone, before even taking the card out of his pocket. John plays with it, turning it over in his hands and occasionally slapping it against his palm, internally debating the wisdom of inviting her back. Another twenty minutes pass, and then another. He'd kept the card because -- well, he wasn't exactly sure what had made him keep it, to be honest, but the fact that its presence alone has been such a comfort throughout the afternoon tells him that it was the right thing to do.

Finally, he picks up his mobile when he realizes that his decision was made the minute he put the card in his pocket hours ago.

She answers on the first ring. "Hello?"

"Belle, it's...ummm John. Smith. The... you know."

She laughs softly. "Yes, John, I know."

"I was wondering -- if you don't have plans tonight, I mean -- if you wouldn't mind coming by?"

"Hasn't anyone ever told you that you're not supposed to ask questions that invite negative answers? You've given me two quick ways out in the same sentence. Surely you can do better than that."

She's teasing him again, he can almost hear her tongue-touched smile. No one talks to him like that, but from her it's perfect, and he feels an easy smile on his lips for the first time in ages. "I'd like to see you," he tries again. "Tonight."

"That's better. Hrm. Let me check my schedule." There's a pause where he can actually hear her flipping through papers. "What a coincidence, I've just had a cancellation. Eight o'clock?"

He glances at the clock on his desk. It's already almost seven. "Unless you can make it here sooner."

"I'll be there as soon as I can."

"Fantastic. I'll tell the guard to expect you."

Her hair is different, he notices when she walks in about thirty minutes later; it's tightly curled now and has been dyed recently enough that her dark roots are hidden. She's wearing a blue floral print sun dress and matching heels. The room itself seems to brighten when she smiles at him.

He dismisses the fluttering in his stomach when he sees her as nerves. He hasn't missed her, not missed. Not the way he would have missed -- this is not a relationship, he reminds himself firmly, and he doesn't do domestic even if it was.

Belle pulls a familiar bag out of her purse. "Shower," she says without preamble, pressing it into his hands.

When he steps back into his lounge a few minutes later, she's in his armchair, once again reading his leather-bound Dickens. There's no coy exchange this time when he leans over the chair, she closes the book immediately and then leads him back into the bedroom.

Once there, she waits only a second for him to grant permission before sliding her hands up under his shirt and across his stomach. His breath catches then seems to stay caught when her intensity finally overtakes him. She hasn't said more than the one word since arriving, and the silence lengthens as she begins to methodically undress him.

He waits, full of barely restrained impatience, for her to repeat her actions from last time, but it never happens. "Up on the bed," she says after his pants join his jeans on the floor, and John obeys by lying back on the center of the bed. She turns away from him, twisting one arm behind herself, and he watches as she drags the dress's zip down past her waist, revealing her back in painstakingly slow increments.

The dress falls to the floor, but he's too entranced by the strip of dark blue lace across the cheeks of her bum to notice. She turns and his eyes are drawn to the matching lace covering her breasts.

"What do you want?" Belle asks, climbing up onto the bed with him. He wants to touch her. He was so passive the last time, so afraid to do anything. But before he can articulate that desire, she's already hovering over his straining erection, condom in hand. Then she's putting it on him and all he can think about is how badly he wants her mouth there too.

With one hand, he guides her down, not quite able to ignore how pleased she looks that he's being proactive or what that look does to his insides. Her movements are less urgent this time, slow and sensual as she licks along his length, her smile never fading until she finally takes him in her mouth. He'd hoped after last time to be able to control himself better, but the minute she starts sucking purposefully he's lost. What feels like seconds later, he comes, Belle staying with him when his hips come up off of the bed.

"I'll get better at that," he says moments later as she returns to bed after disposing of the condom.

She hums. "How very promising."

He moves with her easily when she presses him onto his stomach.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she asks as she's settling over his legs.

He tenses, not sure what she means. Forcing levity into his voice he asks, "What, you mean how I only seem to last as long as a boy learning how to wank for the first time?"

"My God, you're stubborn," she grouses, but her voice is gentle. She leans down and places a kiss on his back, her hands finding his shoulders at the same time. "I told you that doesn't matter. I was trying for an open invitation to talk about whatever caused the muscles in your shoulders to bunch up so badly."

"Oh, that," he replies dryly, but inside he's relieved. "It's nothing."

Her hands are working the knots out of his shoulders with far more intent than she'd massaged him last time. "It's not nothing."

John only realizes he'd fallen asleep when he wakes up. His heart leaps when he sees Belle beside him on the bed, Dickens open on her lap. Though he knows he hasn't made a noise, she looks down at him soon after his eyes open and long before he has had his fill of looking at her. "Hey."

"Hi. Sorry about that."

"It's okay. Seems like you needed it."

"What time is it?"

"Nearly midnight."

He starts to sit up, but Belle stops him. She puts the book on the nightstand then lies down next to him instead.

"I'm surprised you're still here. You, uh, left last time when I was sleeping."

"John --"

"There was a bombing," he says, partly because she's right and he needs to unburden himself and partly because he doesn't want her to remind him who she is. "It'll be all over the news tomorrow."

Belle gasps and scoots closer to him, her arms open wide as she offers the comfort of her embrace. He accepts, then tells her the parts that aren't classified, things she'll be able to read for herself come morning.

He's angry by the time he's done, angry at the sheer violence of it all, the randomness of the deaths, the whole bloody war he inherited in the first place. "Belle," he says, a question, and she nods without hesitation, turning to reach for one of the condoms on the nightstand. In the end he can't hold out long enough for her to finish too, but she waves away his concerns as he sinks wearily back into the bed.

"You'll be gone in the morning," he mutters as sleep once more claims him.

"Yes, John, but you don't have to wait three weeks to call me again."

Chapter Text

He calls her a week later. As much as he hates to admit it, that's the absolute longest he can go without her absence becoming a distraction. It also helps that no scathing tell-all - My 30 Seconds with the Prime Minister or some other equally horrid title - has appeared in the tabs.

They've fallen into a routine with surprising ease, he thinks when she hands him the toiletries bag. "Shower," he says before she can. "I know."

Impulsively, she throws her arms around him and squeezes. "I'm glad you called."

"Yeah," he says, rubbing the back of his neck when she releases him, "I figure I owe you for last time."

Belle's smile turns flirtatious. "I'll take you up on that."

He smiles back at her and gestures with the toiletries bag.

"How fares Pip?" he asks twenty minutes later before he even approaches the armchair.

"Nervous. Joe is repairing handcuffs for the sergeant."

Belle is placing the silk bookmark between the pages when he sits on the sofa opposite her. "No, no, don't stop on my account." He holds up a stack of papers. "Homework. I shouldn't be long."

It's comforting, the sound of someone else breathing in the room while he reads. He'd almost forgotten all about the proposal, and if he hadn't remembered that he has an early morning meeting to discuss it, he'd have gladly put off reviewing it until tomorrow.

He steals glances at her occasionally over the top of the pages, but her nose remains buried in the book. Dickens. It still astonishes him that of all the books on his bookshelf, she chose the one that means the most to him.

As if she can feel his eyes on her, she looks up. "Done?" she asks, curious but not impatient.

He's very done. And he's still got another twenty pages to read. "Done," he agrees. He gets up and stands beside the armchair as she's putting the book down on the table. When she straightens his hand is hovering in front of her face.

She's by far the most patient lover he's ever had, putting up with him fumbling around without a hint of complaint. Even Romana had been more demanding in bed. He knows it's because of who Belle is; she's being paid to cater to him, not to worry about her own pleasure, but he can't help but appreciate it whatever her reasons.

And when she places her hand in his none of that matters. "I seem to recall," he says as he helps her stand, "that I owe you."

"You don't --" she starts, all of her teasing from earlier gone. But she stops when he shushes her. He doesn't want any reasons getting in the way.

"I've been neglecting you quite a bit, actually," he adds. John slips his hand up under her blouse, her corresponding gasp causing his heart to beat a little faster. He pulls her closer, then leans down and presses his lips to the side of her neck. She makes a tiny noise in the back of her throat. "I'd like to remedy that," he says into her skin.

They manage a dance to his bedroom that involves clothes flying in various directions and a lot of too-brief touches. He's down to his jeans, her to her knickers and bra, when he slows to close the bedroom door behind them. He turns back just in time to see her reaching for the clasp of her bra. "Don't - let me."

He wraps one arm around her waist and guides her onto the bed then lies down beside her. "I wanted to do this last time," he murmurs, his large hand skimming over her stomach, "before you distracted me." His fingers trace the top edge of her bra, dipping down to circle around each of her rapidly hardening nipples. Without warning, he leans forward and closes his mouth over the closest one.

Belle arches hard against him, the noise she makes filling the room and shooting straight to his groin. John changes the angle of his mouth as he eases her back down, nipping at her through the silk cup of her bra and feeling her clutch at him desperately. Then, with the flick of the fingers on the hand still trapped beneath her, he unclasps her bra, pulling it away from her body with his other hand. "You think you're so impressive," she teases as it flies across the room.

"I am so impressive," he shoots back, diving back in lick and suck at her newly bare skin. She's writhing and curling her body into his, repeating his name over and over like a prayer, and this is exactly what he's been craving.

Until he slips his hand into her knickers and discovers how wet she is. He pulls away from her breast and rests his head in the curve of her neck. "Oh, Belle," he breathes, "all of this for me?"

"John, please - oh, God, yes," she says, her words slurring from pleading to purring as his fingers slide into her without resistance. She's more vocal than usual as he pumps in and out of her repeatedly, and the words falling from her lips are like the sweetest honey.

He can feel that she's close but not letting herself go. Then she meets his eyes briefly, and he can see her reasons shining through the haze of pleasure.

"Come for me," he says, and he's the one begging now, "come apart for me, Belle, please."

A whimper. Then, seconds later she screams as she slams into her orgasm. Why did he deny himself the pleasure of being inside of her for this again? This is beautiful. This is glorious: her head thrown back, eyes squeezed shut, the muscles of her neck pulled taut, the ones surrounding his fingers clenching him like a vice. Oh yes, that's why, because he'd never have been able to witness it properly by experiencing it with her.

She settles down quickly, her whole body relaxing at once into bonelessness. Then, just as suddenly, she's moving again, her fingers nimbly opening the front of his jeans as she leans down to take him in her mouth. He pushes her away, barely stopping her in time.

"Your turn," she pants, still reeling from her own climax.

"Yes," he agrees, pushing her to lay back on the bed again, "but I'm going to be inside of you."

There's that tiny little whimper again, and it's enough to get him off of the bed and kicking his jeans to the floor. His pants follow and he's already putting on the condom before they slide completely off of him. Then he's poised at her entrance, and she's still so wet that he slips inside of her without strictly meaning to.

"You are so fucking tight," he says, adjusting his position before pushing further into her. "Oh God, Belle. I want you to come like that every time, do you hear me?" he growls as he establishes a punishing rhythm meant to bring himself off as quickly as possible. And it's working; he's so close already. "Every time. Because that was amazing and this is fantas-- oh fuck."

He goes first and Belle surprises him by following, the two of them crying out as they climax almost simultaneously. The waves of pleasure seem to go on forever before he collapses on top of her, completely spent. She's kissing his cheek when he returns to himself, a smattering of pecks that cover as big an area as she can reach without stretching.

John moans and slides his arms around her shoulders, angling his face so that he can do the same to her. He only realizes he's been inching closer to her mouth when she turns her head slightly to keep it away from him. Oh. Right. He lifts himself up and grabs the base of the condom. "I'll be right back," he says as he withdraws from her.

She curls into his side when he returns to the bed. "That was..."

"Fantastic," he finishes for her.

"Amazing," she agrees, looking up at him.

Sleep is calling to him; he always sleeps better after an evening with her.

"In the future?" she whispers into his ear.

He hums an affirmative.

"Don't let me distract you."

John falls asleep with a soft smile on his lips.

* * *

"What do you want?" she asks a week later once she's agreed to meet with him. This will be their fourth session and she was thrilled by his participation last time. Hopefully, now that she's broken through some of his barriers, he'll open up a little more.

"What are you wearing?" he asks instead of answering. Very encouraging.

She looks down at herself. "Black lace bra, matching knickers --"

"Belle."

"Yeah?"

"What are you really wearing?"

She chuckles softly. "Jeans and a t-shirt."

"That's what I want."

"I'll be right over."

Rose laughs out loud as soon as John rings off. Well, that was a first. She walks over to her dresser, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror as she does. He'd caught her in the midst of dressing to go out and though she likes the black lace, it will now have to go. She unclasps the bra and slides it off of her shoulders. If he wants girl next door, he's going to get girl next door. She pulls out a pale pink satin bra and knicker set and puts that on instead.

Finding a suitable jeans and t-shirt combination is more difficult. She settles on a striped shirt and comfortable dark jeans. It had been an impulse, the first thing that came to mind when he'd rejected the idea of what she'd actually been wearing. If he was anyone else she would have picked any other outfit in her closet, none of her clients ever see her dressed so informally.

Of course, a normal client wouldn't have her mobile number either. She looks at her mobile again then, on a whim, picks it up. She doesn't even know if the number he calls her from can accept text messages, but she tries anyway. Have you eaten? She presses send then sets about toning down her makeup.

She's actually given up on the idea when a chime from her phone indicates an incoming message. No.

Would you like something? I can grab takeaway.

It takes considerably less time for him to respond this time. I have a personal chef, you know.

I didn't know, but that seems like a lot of bother when I was just going to pick up chips.

Another lengthy pause. Chips sound good.

Chapter Text

It's a lot earlier than she usually arrives when she steps into Number 10. The guard at the door is not one she recognizes and in the midst of explaining that she's expected, a voice interrupts them. "It's all right, Charles. My mistake. I forgot to call down."

Belle looks up to see John standing halfway down the stairs; he's standing stiffly, his expression stern and commanding. She's never truly seen him as the Prime Minister before that moment, which is ridiculous because she's only known him about six weeks now and he's been in office a lot longer than that.

The guard looks from John to Belle then back again, and she can see a spark of curiosity in his eyes. "Yes, sir," he replies.

John's expression lightens when he looks over at her. "Are those my chips? I'm starved."

She holds up the bag and moves past Charles to the base of the stairs. When she's a few steps below John he stretches his hand out to her and she takes it without thinking. They're on the first floor before she realizes they've probably just fueled Charles' speculation. "John?"

He hums as he gestures her into a room she doesn't recognize. And then she does. "Oh!" she gasps as her feet grind to a halt.

But John is moving around her to a waiting chair, the tabletop in front of it littered with paper. "I hate to do this again," he says as he sits, "but my job isn't exactly nine to five."

"That's fine," Belle replies absently. Her eyes moving slowly around the room, she doesn't notice he's walked back over to her until his arms slide around her waist. She jumps, but he holds on to her, pulling her back against him when she settles.

"Sorry," he mutters. He looks around the room as though trying to see it through her eyes. "I forget what seeing this place for the first time does to people."

"This is the --"

"Cabinet Room. We had a big meeting earlier and it was easier just to stay here than move all of my stuff."

"I shouldn't even be in here."

"And why not?"

Belle steps away from him, still looking at the enormous table, the art, even the chandeliers. She can almost feel the history that's been made in this room pressing down on her. "Because this is the Cabinet Room. It's for Ministers and foreign dignitaries, not..." She turns, her words dying in her throat.

John looks from her to the open door that's caught her attention. Purposefully he walks over to it and shuts it. "Not who?" he says as he turns back to her. It's obvious she's upsetting him, and that wasn't her intention. He points at the door. "You told me that behind closed doors we could just be John and Belle. That door is closed."

She rushes forward into his arms which open for her automatically as his shoulders sag with relief. "I know, and I'm sorry. First that guard, then seeing you downstairs, and now this room... I think it just hit me all at once who you are."

He tenses against her, and his voice when he speaks is hard, "Did he say something to you?"

"Who?"

"Charles."

"No. I mean, 'I don't see your name on the list,' and 'You'll have to stay here until I can confirm your story, ma'am,' but nothing offensive."

"Good."

"But, John, he saw us together, he saw us holding hands. He --"

John wraps his hand around hers, automatically adjusting his grip when she threads her fingers in between his. "He'll keep his mouth shut like a good soldier. Maybe he'll spend the rest of his shift jealous that I get to spend time with a beautiful, young blonde." He puts his other hand on her shoulder and holds her apart from him. "You're my guest, Belle. That's all any of them have to know. That's all that matters when I bring you into one of these rooms. Okay?"

"I'm sorry. I'm just being silly."

"It's not silly, but I want you to put it out of your mind anyway." He waits for her to nod her agreement. "Good. Now, c'mon, the chips will be getting cold."

He makes a place for her beside him at the table, pushing papers out of the way so that she has space to eat. There's an inscription on the blotter he uncovers in the process, "Justice and Lord Chancellor," she reads as she sits.

John is looking down at her as she opens the bag and pulls out the chips. "I like you there better."

"Not much of a looker then, the Justice and Lord Chancellor?" she teases, touching her tongue to her teeth.

The words seem to spill out of him unchecked. "You are so beautiful."

It's the second time he's said it. Sex she can handle. Sex is uncomplicated. But when he says things like that so reverently, almost like she's some kind of goddess he's not worthy to look upon, it doesn't feel uncomplicated at all.

"I'm sorry," he says immediately when she looks away. She's usually better at deflecting these kinds of things, but John completely disarms her. "You're probably sick of hearing that all the time."

Belle looks back at him, this man who only minutes earlier was primed to defend her honor against one of his own guards, but who now looks like he'd be perfectly happy if the ground opened up and swallowed him whole. Her eyes flick to the closed door. Then, for the first time ever, Belle opens her mouth, but Rose's voice comes out, "'M not overly burdened with hearing it, actually."

The surprise is evident on his face. He drops into his chair, grabbing her hands and pulling them to his mouth. "Something needs to be done about that," he says decisively. His lips touch first her left hand then her right. "Because you are and you deserve to hear it."

"Thank you," Rose says. Then, Belle straightens and takes her hands back. "We should eat." It's not exactly subtle, and John seems to recognize the shift.

"Right. Yeah. I'm starved."

They eat in relative silence, John using his left hand for chips and his right to flip through pages as he reads. He's paying so little attention that several minutes after they finish eating he still grabs for chips, not once but twice. After the second time, Belle stands, gathers up the empty container and bag, then goes off in search of a bin. Afterwards, she leans over the back of his chair so that her mouth is level with his ear. "Should I wait for you upstairs?"

He sits up a little straighter and nuzzles her cheek with his nose. "Would you mind staying? I shouldn't be too much longer."

"Okay." She sits again, watching him refocus on the paperwork. She doesn't know what it is he's reviewing, but it's obviously more important than last time, because he's deeply engrossed in it. Despite that, his left hand is resting on the table where the chips used to be and every few minutes he moves it, most often just to touch her knee or arm as though he's reassuring himself she's still there. This goes on for a while, not that she's keeping track of the time on the two lovely antique clocks sitting opposite each other in the room.

After the fifth touch in as many minutes, she stands. "I should go."

"No," he lays his hand on her arm, "stay, please."

"John, I'm distracting you."

He pushes the chair away from the table and uses the leverage of his hand on her arm to spin her around and pull her onto his lap. "Then help me with this."

This she can do. Belle wiggles deliberately on his lap, but quickly realizes that's not what he meant. She should have known better, after all, he's not really the innuendo type. But now John's arm has tightened around her waist and he's holding her firmly in place.

"I thought you didn't want to distract me," he grumbles into her shoulder.

She's pretty sure they're already past that point if the rapidly swelling erection that's now pressing into her bum is any indication.

Help me with this and he hadn't meant sex. Help me with this and he's been poring over the documents spread in front of him for the entire hour she's been here. Help me with this.

All right. She can do this. "What do you need help with?"

In response, he shifts his hips to emphasize the thing she usually helps him with. Belle pushes back against him, carefully controlling her reaction to his answering moan. John's hands slide over her denim-encased thighs to the junction of her legs and she can feel the heat of his body through the jeans.

Belle takes his hands and places them flat on the table. That lasts all of a second before he pulls them back to continue his exploration of her body. "Prime Minister!" she gasps, scandalized, and his hands tighten against her.

For one very long minute neither of them say a word. She's terrified that she's stepped over a line by slipping into role playing without discussing it beforehand. Because it's not only role playing, it's a bit like playing 'the CEO and the secretary' except the CEO in this scenario really is a CEO. Some men get off on the freedom to abuse their position of power within a safe environment, others prefer to keep their fantasies completely separate from their real lives. And after all their talk of being "just" John and "just" Belle behind closed doors, with those two words she's thrown the biggest door of all wide open.

Then, tersely, "Yes?" And she's amazed how with only one word he can sound so different from the man she knows.

She's torn between ending this immediately and continuing the game. Then his hands start moving again and she can tell he's nervous by the way they don't seem to linger on any one part of her body. Encouraged that he hasn't rejected her completely, she moves forward, "We'll never get our work done if you can't keep your hands to yourself." Not your work, our work, and she hopes he picks up on the distinction.

Belle wiggles against his lap again, trying not to think about the change that has taken place there, and drops her voice suggestively, "Although, I could see fit to reward you once we're done."

He sputters around a response for a second, then, "I -- I don't know how to do this."

Turning in his lap she drops the act as she meets his timid gaze. "If it's too much for you, we don't have to. But if you want to, know that I've got you."

"I'm not much of an actor."

"And I'm not some discriminating critic who's going to rip apart your performance. It's role playing, John, not Shakespeare." She waits a beat for him to decide this isn't something he wants to do. When he says nothing, she gestures at the paperwork. "What are we working on here, sir?"

He swallows hard, his Adam's apple bobbing. "Miss du Jour," he says in stumbling mock seriousness, "in the future I expect you to pay more attention."

"Good," she mouths. "I'm sorry, Prime Minister, I'll try to do better next time."

"I'm glad to hear that, Miss du Jour. We expect good things from you."

The surprise from her outburst has worn off, and she's glad to feel his body reacting to hers again. This time when she grinds herself into his lap, she moans her appreciation. Then she stands, tugging him up with her and placing his hands on the table on either side of her, effectively trapping herself. "Explain it to me one more time, sir, I'll try to pay attention."

He begins patiently explaining the documents from left to right. But between the press of his body against hers and the sound of his voice in her ear --

"Your mind seems to be wandering, Miss du Jour," he says and somehow he's gotten the upper hand. His voice drops to a whisper and Belle wonders if he's still playing. "Let's go upstairs."

"This stuff is important, yeah?"

"Not as important as getting you naked."

His mouth has found the side of her neck and he's rolling his hips into her bum in a delicious rhythm that's got her out of breath already despite the fact that they're both still fully clothed.

She stutters so badly around the words "Prime Minister," that she can feel his smirk against her skin.

"John," he suggests.

"John," she concedes. She needs to do something soon that will put her back in control of this situation. Normally it would be easy take a step back, but she's managed to corner herself very effectively both physically and metaphorically. But then she also wouldn't normally be putting so much effort into fighting the prospect of really great sex. Because, regardless of what he thinks of himself, John is way up there on her list of favorite shags.

It takes a lot of concentration for her to drag her focus away from what he's doing to her. "The budget, Prime Minister. We need to figure this out."

"Well, I've been over it a million times," he says after a very long pause sprinkled with deep calming breaths, "and I can't figure out a solution. What do you suggest, Miss du Jour?"

"These buildings," she says, picking up a piece of paper that details the maintenance costs for four government owned buildings. "They're just empty, right?" It was something that had struck her as odd during the parts of his explanation she'd managed to follow.

"Yeah."

"Why? I mean, they cost a lot of money to keep up, wouldn't it be more cost-effective to, I don't know, let them or something?"

"Those are very important historical landmarks. We can't just let them."

"London is an historical landmark, I don't think four buildings will make much of a difference one way or the other. Or, if it's a problem letting them, sell them."

"Sell them?" he sounds completely horrified by the idea.

"To a museum or private collector or something."

"That's -- actually, that's rather brilliant."

"What, really?"

John laughs out loud; she's never heard him laugh before. "Yes, really." He turns her face and plants a kiss on her cheek that seems to originate out of pure joy. "Thank you."

She's stunned. "You're welcome."

"Now," he says, "are we done with this game?"

Belle has to bite back a gasp at the intensity in his usually bright eyes. She nods, "Let's go upstairs."

"Oh, no, it's too late for that." His hands slide down the front of her jeans and he growls. "I wish I would have asked you to wear a skirt."

With one swipe of his arm across the table in front of them, he's cleared it of papers. "Bend over."

She does, unbuttoning her jeans and dropping them to the ground, but he's holding her in place as he lines up behind her, not letting her step out of them. "John, the guards, won't they hear us?"

"Door's soundproof," he replies as he fumbles with the clasp of his trousers. "A bomb could go off out there and we'd never hear it."

"Condom," she reminds him when she hears the soft noise of his trousers hitting the floor.

"Yes, where?"

"In my purse. Let me get it, I'll be faster."

He releases her and she takes the opportunity to step out of her jeans. She finds the condom and hurries back to him, laying over the edge of the table again without question.

She hears the ripping of the foil packet then, after a few unending seconds he's finally sliding inside of her.

Chapter Text

"I am never going to be able to look at this room the same way."

Beside him, Belle stretches, her back arching off of the table. "Maybe that's a good thing, yeah?"

Maybe it is. He wouldn't dare tell her, but aside from that one hiccup after the Afghanistan bombing, things have been steadily improving with his office staff. He knows it's partly his perceptions that have changed and partly everyone else's response to his more relaxed attitude, but it's 100 per cent thanks to her.

He tenses the arm he draped over her waist ten minutes earlier, disbelieving that he's lain on top of this table that long. "I think we should probably go upstairs now."

"Okay," she says, but she waits for him to move first. When John finally gets up the strength to move, he climbs down from the table and then helps Belle down as well. He has one heart-stopping moment of panic when it looks like there's a very large, very fresh stain on the tabletop right in front of his chair, but further investigation reveals it was only a shadow.

Relieved, he turns around to see Belle already dressed and watching him with thinly veiled amusement. "Going upstairs like that?"

He doesn't have to look down at himself, but he does anyway. He's still wearing his Oxford and tie, loosened; the jacket he'd finally shucked a few minutes after bending Belle over the table is hanging half off of his chair. His trousers and pants are tangled together on the floor at his feet, and he can only see one of his shoes.

"I don't think so." He bends over to step into his pants and trousers, barely hearing Belle's murmured, "Pity." When he straightens again, he catches a glimpse of her out of the corner of his eye, staring at his bum, and feels a rush of pride. Not bad for an old man.

"Ready for the walk of shame?" Belle asks, tongue-touched grin firmly in place.

He closes the distance between them and brushes her hair with his fingers. He presses his lips to her cheek. "No shame at all about being seen with you. I thought we covered that."

Damn her reasons, he thinks as the smile slides off her face. She teases effortlessly about her beauty and her own sexual needs, but any time he gets serious she withdraws. John has difficulty believing that she is remotely as insecure as her behavior would indicate, so he wonders what is a more terrifying prospect for her, the thought that he might grow to care for her or that his kindnesses might make her grow to care for him.

"'s just an expression," she says quietly. She wants to say more, he can tell, but she holds her tongue.

"Yes, I know. Look, Belle, we can't keep doing this." Her eyes fly up to meet his, and he can't help but notice the disappointment she's trying to hide. Interesting.

"Okay. Umm... I'll just get my --"

He grabs her arm as she tries to move past him and pulls her back. "Oh, don't be daft." He wraps his arms around her, hardly daring to breathe until her arms come up around his waist and she settles against him. "Now, you can't tell anyone because I have an image to uphold, but I occasionally like to compliment people, especially people I consider my friends. I consider you a friend. Therefore, I will randomly - and sometimes not so randomly - blurt out the first complimentary thing on my mind when I look at you." He cups her face with both hands and turns it up, seeing the uncertainty in her expression. "And since you are very beautiful I really can't be blamed for thinking it. A friend would accept the compliment, Belle. Are you my friend?"

After a moment she nods, a meek "Yes" escaping her.

"Good. You also need to learn to take your own advice. No one here is judging you. I'm pretty sure there are only one or two people on my staff who even know about you, and it's unlikely you'll ever run across any of them. And as far as the evening staff's sensibilities are concerned, there is nothing happening here to be ashamed of, just John and Belle spending time together. And, if we happen to use a good bit of that time for sex, it's no one else's business. So, whether it's one of the guards or this room or my job or just me saying something stupid, I don't want you to forget that. Okay?"

John watches her shove the uncertainty aside so that her whisky-colored eyes are clear and bright when she pushes to her toes and wraps her arms around his neck. He squeezes her back, briefly lifting her feet off of the floor.

"Thank you." She sniffles, the noise quickly smothered as she turns her face into his shirt, and he wonders if she's ever been treated like a person before.

"Let's go upstairs," he whispers into her hair. "I have one more thing I need to tell you."

Belle steps back from him, and his arms fall away from her reluctantly even though it was his suggestion. She swipes at her eyes with the pads of her fingers, so he gives her a moment to compose herself by locating his wayward shoe and putting them both on. When he stands again, she offers him a tiny smile and her hand.

He takes one more look at her before they step out into the hallway. She is perfectly disheveled, and John imagines he looks well-shagged, too. Not even the last few minutes of conversation have been enough to break him out of the delicious haze she puts him in.

The sole guard they pass on their way upstairs barely slows at the sight of them hand-in-hand, John's shirt untucked and rumpled, Belle carrying her shoes, his jacket slung over her arm. John cocks his eyebrow at her when he opens the door to his living quarters a few minutes later. The feeling between them that they've passed some sort of test. There's no need for him to say anything further, she understands the significance of it. Belle bumps his shoulder with her own and allows him to guide her into the lounge.

"I've decided what I want in bed," he says once he finally has her naked beside him on the bed in question. "I want you as a partner."

There is no doubt in his mind that if they were standing, she'd have taken a step back from him, but as it is, she's pulling away from him emotionally even before he finishes speaking. "John --"

He props himself up on his arm. "No, no, hear me out. This is about what I want, remember? Your pleasure, the sounds you make during sex, the way you look and feel when you come, I want that. I don't want to have to beg you to let your guard down every time - and I don't want you to fake it because you think that's what I want, either. If I'm not doing something right, I want you to tell me. If it's not going to happen a certain way we'll do something different, but no more switching yourself off."

"It's not that simple."

"It is that simple. I'm just asking that you enjoy yourself."

"There's --"

"Very good reasons why you shouldn't, I'm sure." He grins self-depreciatingly. "But you're just going to have to quiet them by remembering that you're doing it for me."

She doesn't answer him, resulting in a very long silence during which John becomes convinced that he's completely bollocksed this thing with her. He's already asked so much of her today, this may be the one that will make her decide he's not worth the trouble and leave. He'll back down before he allows that to happen, will gladly tell her it's not remotely as important to him as his tone would have her believe. He's prepared to beg on his knees for her forgiveness if necessary.

"Belle," he croaks, the lie ready on his lips. Because he can't do this again. He can't pick another face at random and start over with someone else. Belle is special; he's unlikely to find another woman like her.

She brings her hand up and uses it to pull him down to her. Then she breathes deeply, a sigh that ghosts across his face. "It's not going to happen overnight," she promises, "but I'll try."

John leans in to kiss her, only remembering he shouldn't when he sees that though her lips are wet and expectant, her eyes are guarded. Instinctively he knows that a kiss right now would be the straw she can't handle. "Thank you," he whispers as he presses his lips into her cheek instead. It's a poor substitute, but a decent enough compromise.

Now that the conversation is behind them, John allows himself to be distracted by her nakedness. His fingers skim down her side, the heel of his hand brushing across the swell of her breast then his whole hand slowing at the dip of her waist before curling around the jut of her hip. She is so beautiful, her body sculpted by a master artisan; he cannot begin to imagine what he's done to earn the right to touch her.

The muscles of her abdomen tremble when his fingers skate over them to the apex of her thighs, her legs falling open in expectation of his touch. She's ready for him already, he discovers as he swipes one finger through her curls. Her answering groan is immediate, visceral, and he shudders as it washes over him.

"Oh yes," he growls, lifting himself over her leg to kneel between her thighs.

"Condom," she reminds him.

"We'll get there, just relax." John teases her opening with the tip of one finger. The tiny, needy noise she makes in the back of her throat nearly undoes him and they haven't even started yet. He struggles with control, because first he wants to know what makes her tick. "What do you want?" he asks, parroting her own oft-repeated question back at her.

The question surprises her, but before she can recover John presses his finger into her slick heat. "I seem to recall this being well-received."

She arches slowly as he pushes deeper and deeper into her, the angle of her back against the bed only increasing when he withdraws to add a second finger. He is struck by a whiff of her scent, highly aroused and completely intoxicating; he's never been able to pick her out so easily before.

The smell grips him with a burning need to have her, and he's slightly embarrassed by the fact that though he's just cautioned her to be patient, at this first opportunity it's his resolve that crumbles.

He leans over her, reaching for the condoms on the nightstand, and she practically purrs at the increased contact. "I wanted to take my time, but God, what you do to me, Belle." He kneels before her again, putting the condom on. "Talk me through this. Anything, whatever you need."

"Just you," she pants. "You've always been enough."

John groans, hovering over her as he lines himself up with her opening.

"It was never that I couldn't," she adds, timing the words perfectly for when he shifts his hips, entering her.

And then they're groaning in unison as he sinks into her fully. He stops, his head dropping to the crook of her neck.

"John," she pleads when he doesn't move for a moment.

"Yes." And it's an affirmation, a promise, as he starts to move. A few minutes later he's barely able to scrape together the presence of mind to wonder if she's holding anything of herself back at all anymore. While he would never have accused her of being quiet before, it's obvious now that she had been keeping a tight rein on her responses to him.

He loves it when she gets like this, typically after he's finally able to convince her to let go. She's writhing against him, encouraging him with her hands and the wonderful noises she's making. It's the difference between being engaged and involved - and it's exactly what he wants from her. Then, the pitch of her noises changes and John realizes he's right there with her.

She surges against him, her voice cracking as she cries out. "OH GOD YES!"

"Oh, yes," he echoes as a stream of profanity flies from her lips.

It lasts an eternity. Stars form, burn brilliantly, and die during the time it takes Belle's orgasm to play out. He manages to hold out another few seconds after her, just long enough for her to collapse bonelessly into the bed. Then, with two quick thrusts he's following behind her.

He's aware of her groaning heartily as his hips press into hers, but that's the last conscious thought John has for quite some time. When he comes to, he rolls off of her and Belle takes the condom away.

She grins sheepishly at him when she walks back to the bed. "Stop it," she says when he looks back at her smugly.

"Told you I was impressive."

Belle kneels on the bed, not even hesitating before reaching out and swatting him across the shoulder. He can tell she regrets it an instant before her hand connects with his skin, though by then it's too late for her to stop her momentum. John doesn't mind at all, he's laughing too hard to be upset with her.

He grabs her before she can get self-conscious about it and pulls her back to him, pillowing her head on his chest and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. After a moment, she settles in, laying her arm lazily across his waist. They stay that way for a while just listening to the sound of each other breathing. There's a comfort to holding her like this that might be worth more than sex - even the really great sex that they have.

She's not looking at him, her head ducked into his chest so that he can't see her face, and the confession, when it comes, surprises him yet seems like something he's always known. "My mum doesn't approve. I grew up on a Council Estate and she always wanted better for me. This isn't exactly what she had in mind."

He nods. Even though she can't see him, he knows she'll feel the motion. "My dad didn't approve of me going into politics. He was a fisherman, his dad was a fisherman, and his dad before him, and that should have been good enough for me."

Belle looks up at him, a hint of indignant anger simmering behind her words. "I don't think that's quite the same thing, John."

"How do you figure?"

Her anger dissolves as her face contorts, like she suddenly can't decide whether she should laugh or not. "I have sex with men for money," she says slowly, as though she's explaining herself to an imbecile.

John slides out from under her and places himself between her thighs. "I'm a politician. How are we different?"

This time she does laugh, the sound immediately becoming another thing he decides he must have in his bed. It joins an ever-growing list that begins and ends with one Belle du Jour.

Chapter Text

"What's this?" she asks the next Friday evening when he walks her over to a small dining area adjacent to his lounge. He'd met her at the door to his flat, refusing her usual suggestion that he shower.

"Dinner," he replies. John pulls her chair out for her, not missing the shy look she gives him over her shoulder as she sits.

"I can see that. What's the occasion?"

He sits as well, flicking his napkin open and laying it on his lap. "No occasion. You brought dinner last week, I thought I should return the favor."

"I brought chips," she says, gesturing at the spread laid out before them. "This is not chips."

That's an understatement. They've never discussed food except for the chips the week before, so he has no idea what she likes. He'd given his chef carte blanche to create two complete and distinct meals, so there's two different salads, both beef and chicken main courses, four sides, and a choice of two puddings. It's easily enough food for eight people, but he'd wanted to do something nice for her.

She's utterly silent, watching him intently. "All right," he admits when he recognizes the touch of fear behind her eyes for what it is. It's like she's waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it suddenly occurs to him what this looks like, "maybe there is an occasion. I outlined your proposal to the budgetary committee on Monday. They loved it."

"What?"

"The buildings? For the budget?"

"You told them that?"

"Of course I told them. I said it was a brilliant idea, didn't I?"

"Well, yes, but I didn't think you'd actually --"

"And why not?"

She ducks her head, steadfastly refusing to discuss it any further as she begins serving herself. They eat, but it's not remotely the celebration he'd planned.

"I never got my A-levels," she confesses into his bare chest hours later. It startles him in more ways than one. When she says things like that it almost sounds like the words are coming from a place inside of her that she's buried deep.

"What?"

"Nope."

John shifts so that he can see her face, "I don't believe you."

"It's true. I left school to follow my boyfriend's music 'career'. Six months we were together and he never played a single paying gig. It ended when he'd taken all of my money and left me for another girl. I never went back to school."

Some of her insecurity suddenly makes sense, yet at the same time it makes no sense at all. "Do you think this somehow makes you less? That it means your ideas aren't good? It was a brilliant idea and the ministers loved it. They didn't question its origin. Not once did one of them say, 'This is the kind of tripe someone who doesn't have their A-levels would come up with.' I only wish I could have given you credit for the idea. I hated not being able to before, but now that I know what it would mean to you..."

He cups her face, running his thumb over the apple of her cheek, willing her to accept his words.

* * *

"John," she protests weakly, though in truth she's barely restraining herself from closing the distance between them and pressing her lips to his. It's getting harder and harder to remember why she shouldn't, especially when he's saying such things.

When this whole thing started she would never have imagined that she would be contemplating kissing John Smith. He's not even all that handsome, not remotely as good-looking as the pretty boys who usually catch her eye. There's something about him that's magnetic, though, and she can't decide whether it's his intense blue eyes or the way he smirks when he thinks he's being clever. Whatever it is, she's drawn to him.

It helps that he genuinely seems to care. She's had lots of clients over the last two years, but none of them have ever bothered to make her feel like anything more than a means to an end. With John, her Rose persona - her true self - is often simmering close beneath the surface.

She's treading dangerous ground. Stephanie is still upset with her for refusing to dish about her first night with John. And it's showing. Rose is no longer getting the choicest assignments, there are times she'll go days without any assignments at all. She can't imagine what the other woman would say if she knew Rose had given him her private number. Seeing him behind her madam's back breaks almost every rule in the business, and it's stupid of her. It's amateurish. She knows; she just doesn't care. Because sex with John has taken on a whole new meaning...

And then only a few weeks after that, sex takes on meaning.

She has to shuffle a few of her other clients around, but after that night John becomes her Friday regular. They don't put the arrangement into so many words, but three Fridays in a row her phone rings around mid-afternoon with a request that she join him that evening. It just becomes easier to reserve that night for him rather than attempt to reschedule someone else at the last minute.

Wearing a t-shirt and jeans, John greets her at the door to his lounge when she arrives, a habit that has become as much a part of their routine as showers, Dickens, and sex. He looks so different out of his typical suit that she almost doesn't recognize him. Of course, she's seen him dressed this way many times by now, but it's something more than that, something that she can't quite put her finger on.

She doesn't try to either, because she likes it. He looks younger, happier, and when he smiles her stomach does a flip.

Dangerous ground, indeed.

"Miss Belle," he greets her, taking her hand.

"Good evening, John," she replies, fishing the toiletries bag out of her purse with her other hand.

He stills her hand and pulls it to him as well. "What's your hurry? You need to learn to take your time and enjoy life," he teases, drawing her closer and wrapping his arms around her. Then his voice drops. "I've missed you."

Belle laughs, because the only alternative is to make a fool of herself. "It's only been a week."

"Has it?" he asks softly.

She leans into him, the steady beat of his heart through the thin cotton of his t-shirt soothing her. There's no need for her to answer, they both know they've met every Friday for the last month. In truth, she's missed him as well, though she'd never tell him that. She can't. It's bad enough she's let herself get this attached to him in the first place, it would only compound the sin to admit it.

"Don't read tonight," he says when she eventually hands him the toiletries bag. His arm is still slung casually around her waist, but now there is a hint of something more insistent. "Come with me."

An argument rushes to the tip of her tongue. She's already far too comfortable with him, with being in his space, as it is, but he continues to invite her closer. The distance is there for a reason, because if she lets herself eat dinner with him every night, shower with him, and sleep in his bed, soon she'll have her own mug in his cupboard, a dressing gown hanging from the back of his en suite door, and a drawer of her things in his dresser, and this will have turned into a relationship. By keeping herself apart from him she can maintain the illusion that he's nothing more to her than another client.

Then he adds "Please," the single word and the choice it represents effectively dissolving her reservations.

He's too good to her, she decides when he helps her undress and then holds her hand as she steps into the shower. John follows, discarding the last of his clothes by himself despite the fact that she'd offered to help undress him. Their wet bodies brush against each other in the enclosed space. It's intimate, sensual, even though he's moving around her as though she's made of porcelain.

He's much too good to her, she amends when he angles her back to the shower head and wets her hair. When he's done, he redirects the shower head, turns her again, and opens his own bottle of shampoo rather than the one she brought. It's a claim he's staking when he lathers the shampoo into her hair, whether he realizes it or not, and it's one more thing she shouldn't be allowing him to get away with. But instead of protesting, Belle groans as she leans into him, closing her eyes against the frankly fantastic feeling of his fingers massaging her scalp.

She makes her living off of the right touch here, the perfect amount of pressure applied there, but she's never personally experienced anything like this before. John's chest is firm against her back, his hands gentle, and his cock is beginning to stir against the cheeks of her bum, an interest rather than a need. Then he swipes her hair to one side and presses his lips to the join of her neck and shoulder, and she's lost.

Turning to face him once more, she asserts the control she so rarely has with him. He hisses and swears when his back hits the cold shower wall, the last syllable dissolving into inarticulate muttering when she drops to her knees, his half-hard cock stiffening quickly as she takes him into her mouth.

"I didn't --" he stops, gulping audibly when she relaxes her throat, allowing him in deeper. He loses the ability to speak entirely as she pulls back, exploring the tip of his cock with her tongue. Two and a half months of regular visits, and she's never tasted him before, always using a condom even for this. She'll never be able to go back to having that barrier between them.

John's hips are rocking against her, seeking more contact than she's allowing. So Belle gives him what he's asking for, using every bit of Friday afternoon anticipation, every bit of her stomach twisting itself into knots at the mere sight of him, and every bit of I want to snog your daft face off. For good measure she even throws in my mug in the cupboardfalling asleep in your arms, and I've missed you, too.

He's keening out his imminent release, the pitch of his voice ratcheting higher and higher as it echoes off of the en suite walls. His hands are scrambling for purchase where there is none, and he eventually places one gently at the back of her head and the other at the spot on her neck that started this whole thing. Seconds later, a sharp inhale is the only warning she gets before the first of his come strikes the back of her throat. She pulls back ever so slightly, feeling his hands tense against her skin in protest, but she stops before releasing him completely so that the rest will spurt across her tongue.

The flavor is uniquely John and she's never tasted anything so good in all of her life.

His knees weaken, his cock slipping free of her mouth as he slides down slightly against the shower wall. Belle stands, letting him use her as a crutch when after a moment he, too, straightens. "You didn't have to," he pants. "I mean, there was no ulterior motive behind the shower."

"I wanted to," is all she allows herself to say.

John's hand finds her waist, pulling her to him as he takes a step closer. In the space between heartbeats, his eyes have darkened from their usual sky blue to something more closely resembling her favorite pair of jeans. His body is rigid against her, parts of him becoming more so by the second. She's seen the intent look on his face before: he means to have her. Right now.

Her name escapes him in a needy growl, a question and a demand all rolled into one.

She shivers, gesturing at the rapidly cooling water to play off the motion as something less than it is. "Go," she offers, keeping her tone even. "Dry off. I'll rinse my hair and join you."

There's a long moment where she's sure he's going to do something to further his agenda. Anything he can think of in this moment would be enough to shatter her tenuous self-control. She's sure of that because her own mind is making plenty of suggestions, each one bringing her closer and closer to agreeing to what John wants. "Ten seconds," she promises.

He holds her gaze. Then, "Ten seconds," he agrees as he steps out of the shower.

The water suddenly seems freezing, though she suspects it's more a product of her overheated skin.

She finds him a few minutes later still mostly wet, kneeling on the bed, resting back on his haunches, his cock standing proudly at attention and already covered by a condom.

"Don't move," she says as she joins him on the bed. "This can be tricky."

Belle squats over him, a slightly giddy cry escaping her when she finally sinks down onto him. In deference to the difficult position, she sets up a decent rhythm, not too fast, but also not too slow. John is holding her close, his large hands on the center of her back as he rocks with her, each thrust sending a spike of pleasure throughout her body.

"John," she gasps far too soon, "John, I'm going to --" She leans forward and presses an open-mouthed kiss to the side of his neck, careful even in this moment not to suck hard enough to leave a mark. In her mind it's his mouth she's latched onto, his tongue dueling with hers, and the fantasy provides the final element she needs to push her over the edge.

Then her hips are bucking against him, but he lets her ride out her climax without following her over.

Pushing himself up, he lifts her with him then lays her back on the bed. Hovering over her, he runs his hand over skin still wet from the shower. "You lied to me, Belle." Before his words even register, he dips the head of his cock into her, removing it just as quickly. "That wasn't ten seconds." He repeats the motion. "You should be punished."

She groans when he pushes into her a third time, once again removing himself immediately. Her body is still recovering from her last orgasm, but his unexpected teasing is keeping her in a highly heightened state. "John," she pleads.

"Oh, yes," he drops his head down and runs his tongue along the outer rim of her areola. "By the time I'm done with you, you'll be begging."

Chapter Text

Rose wakes slowly. The room is dark as pitch, darker than her bedroom at her flat, and it takes several seconds to orient herself. She's not alone in the bed, a rarity for her considering she never spends entire nights with her clients. A soft snore from beside her is all it takes for her to remember. John. She must have fallen asleep after his little bout of "punishment." 

Despite herself, she blushes fiercely. If thirty minutes of the sweetest torture known to man followed by mind-blowing sex is his idea of punishing her, she's going to have to come up with a few more white lies to tell. He'd been ravenous by the time he'd finally given in, unable to wait a moment longer before having her. And she'd never been happier to have a man slide between her thighs. 

She turns onto her side, her hand searching out his warmth until it eventually connects with his side, and she spends a few seconds indulging herself by tracing his lines. Rose tells herself that it's just for a moment, that she really should get up and leave; it was unwise for her to fall asleep in the first place. But then John looses a tiny pleased moan and turns to face her as well, his arm finding her waist and pulling her close. 

Tears spring to her eyes unbidden as he curls around her, his nose resting at her temple, his left leg thrown across hers. She's trapped, unable to move without waking him. Time barely seems to pass at all as his soft snores and comforting weight both try to lull her back to sleep. 

As soon as he moves away from her again, Rose scrambles to get out of the bed as quickly as she can. Finally able to see the clock, she's appalled to discover it's nearly morning. She dresses, then rushes around the room repacking the toiletries bag, gathering up the used and unused condoms, and generally doing all of the little things she usually does much earlier in the night to erase her presence from John's flat. 

She quickly styles her hair in the en suite mirror to make herself presentable, not even stopping to enjoy the scent of his shampoo as it wafts down to her nose. There's a memory, half formed and sprung from the place between waking and dreaming, of him pushing her hair back from her face and brushing a tender kiss across her forehead, but there's no time to analyze that either. She has no idea what time he typically wakes, no idea if she's going to have to dodge some sort of weekend skeleton crew when she goes back downstairs. 

When she returns to his bedroom, the light from the en suite behind her, the sight of him sprawled out on his bed draws her closer to him. She's grown beyond not thinking him handsome, her first impressions long forgotten. It's been nigh a month since she started seeing his face as more than the sum of its parts. And now, seeing him so peaceful in sleep, dark lashes resting against his cheeks, mouth slightly parted, there's only a slight hesitation to call him beautiful, a hesitation born from his insecurities rather than her own. 

The temptation to stay, to once again disrobe and join him on the bed, tugs at her, mind, body, and soul. It's only two hours until morning, after all. He would accept her presence when he woke without question, she believes, and would not suspect what such a surrender would cost her. 

The only noise indicating her passage is the soft snick of the door closing behind her. 

* * * 

It had been a week from hell. First, on Monday, that god-awful MP, Harry Saxon, had started dropping rather large hints that he plans to be the next resident of 10 Downing. By Tuesday, Saxon's cronies had come out of the woodwork in droves to support him along with many others looking to curry favor. It was a rough wake-up call for John, reminding him that he'd all but forgotten about campaigning since his aides had decided he was desperately in need of a break from it along with some stress relief. 

Part of that wake-up call had included the realization that maybe his campaign manager had decided it would be better for him not to seek re-election after all, since the man hadn't bothered to bring the subject up in almost five months. John would fire him for such an egregious dereliction of duty, but he can't help but wonder if on some level he doesn't agree. Besides, the elections are only two months away now, so there's little point. It's unlikely he'd be able to regain whatever ground he's lost. 

That would have been bad enough, but then on Wednesday the consensus had finally come back about those buildings Belle had suggested selling. Though the budgetary committee had loved the idea, their recommendation to Parliament had fallen upon largely unsympathetic ears. Apparently those four buildings were historical enough to make a difference to some people. So, as things now stand, unless the heavens open up and money starts pouring down, in addition to everything else, he is going to have to make a decision which will probably prove very unpopular with the general public. 

And then there'd been Thursday. Thursday didn't even bear thinking about. 

Friday afternoon he's sitting in his office debating whether or not to call Belle. The thought that he hasn't missed a week with her since their second appointment is enough incentive to have him picking up his mobile. 

When she arrives he's shaking his head even before she pulls the bag out of her purse. 

"I'm not really feeling up to anything. Do you get paid even if we don't..." 

Belle freezes, the hesitation so obvious that he's certain she's trying to find the words to tell him she won't stay. "It's your time, John," she says eventually. "We can do whatever you want. But you didn't have to call me just because it's Friday." He smiles sheepishly but is too relieved to say anything. Then she looks him over and offers him the bag anyway. "Go shower, it will help you relax." 

His body has learned this routine, he thinks a few minutes later as the water cascades down over him. It knows what to expect when he eventually returns to the lounge, and his cock is already stirring in anticipation. 

However, he tamps down his arousal. He didn't call her because of some misplaced obligation based on the day of the week, he called her because evenings without her seem duller by comparison. He called her because he knows her presence - even without the sex - will calm him after a rough week at work. He called her on Friday because if he were to call her as frequently as he wants to see her, she'd never leave. 

Because he can't help but like her. He's admitted to her that he considers her a friend, but he's never told her that she might be his only real friend. And now he's reached a point where he'd rather not have sex with her even though he's paying - at least he thinks he's paying her. Oh. That's worrying. She's never mentioned it, which is why he hasn't thought about it. It was all so hands-off for him the first time that he assumed it had continued to be taken care of behind the scenes. But she'd hesitated just now when he'd asked about her payment. 

John runs his hand over his face. He should make sure. He turns off the water and steps out of the shower hoping he can figure out a way to ask her without sounding like an idiot. 

Belle is sitting in his arm chair when he returns to the lounge. She straightens when she hears him, putting his leather-bound Dickens down on the coffee table and looking at him around the back of the chair. She's expectant and perhaps a touch resigned, but he hasn't changed his mind. If anything, seeing her there so convinced that he would makes him more resolved. 

He leans down and places a chaste kiss on her forehead. She moves to rise, no doubt thinking he's initiating their usual dance to his bedroom, but he stops her by placing a hand on her arm. "I have just realized I'm famished," he says. He's not, but it's as good a distraction as any. "Have you eaten?" 

She nods. 

"I'll be right back." 

Ever since their dinner together, John has requested some light finger foods be in his refrigerator on Fridays. There's several things to choose from tonight and, after a bit of deliberation, a few slices of ham, some cheese, and a bowl of grapes find their way to the coffee table. He goes back into the kitchen to make himself a cuppa, because it's only just occurred to him that in order to make this convincing he's going to have to actually eat the food he's just put out. He's taken out everything he needs when he realizes Belle has followed him into the room. "Go eat," she says. "I might be a rubbish cook, but I can make tea." 

"You don't have to do that, you know. I may not do domestic very well, meself, but it's just tea." But she shoos him away, reminding him strongly of when he'd first met her and making him very conscious of how much has changed since then. 

Instead of returning to the lounge, though, John leans against the worktop and watches her fill the kettle. He was so nervous that night, terrified, he's ashamed to admit even in the confines of his own mind, of what being with her would entail, if he'd be able to get past the idea of shagging a complete stranger, someone who wasn't -- "I haven't asked," he says, stemming the flow of his thoughts, "and I should have before now." 

He stops, hating the way this is going to sound, the reminder it will be that she's only here because she charges for her time. 

Belle's face appears beside him, concern etched on her features. Her hand lands on his forearm. "What's wrong?" 

"Earlier, when I asked if you still got paid if we didn't --" 

Relief floods her face followed quickly by one of her tongue-touched smiles. "Is that what's got you so nervous? You're allowed to change your mind, John, you didn't have to invent --" she gestures vaguely at the kettle and the lounge where his food sits untouched "-- all of this." 

"No, it's not that." Then he decides he's being a coward and just comes out with it. "You are being paid, right? I mean, I'm not giving you money, and I'd hate to think you were --" 

Her smile changes, becomes less teasing, more warm. "You're daft, you know that?" Her words say one thing, but the affection in her voice is unmistakable. She leaves his side, called away by the whistle of the kettle, before she has a chance to say more. The answer to his question, when it comes, is over her shoulder, her eyes focused on the tea leaves she's measuring out. "It's being taken care of. You've got enough on your mind without worrying about me, too." 

He follows her, standing behind her as she pours the hot water into the mug. "You're my friend, I can't help but worry about you," he says sincerely. But he's standing much closer than a friend would, their bodies brushing against each other with each movement one of them makes. 

She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear, her hand slowing to a stop before completing the motion, though he can't imagine what would have caused her sudden shyness. He completes it for her, tucking back the same lock and bringing her hand back down to her side. 

"Have I mentioned I like your hair this way?" She's taken to wearing it straight again, like it was in the beginning. It's shorter than it was back then, though, but it's a good change. 

"No, you hadn't." 

"I do." 

They stay that way the entire time it takes for the tea to steep, and though it's only a few minutes, it feels like much longer. At the end of it, she hands him a steaming mug. He sips at the tea, knows that he's done a poor job of hiding his surprise at how good it tastes when she laughs triumphantly at him, her unexplained shyness dissolving in the face of their familiar banter. 

"Told ya." 

"You used only my ingredients. I watched you make it! It's like some kind of magic. Where did you learn to make tea this good?" 

She puffs up proudly under his praise. "My mum taught me." 

"Brilliant woman, your mother." He takes another sip, almost missing the pinch of pain that flits across her face. "You miss her," he says. 

It is and isn't a question, and though she doesn't answer, it's not his place to push the subject. He turns, indicating the lounge with a nod of his head, then lets her walk ahead of him. 

"So, what else do you do in your spare time when you're not shaming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom with your fantastic tea-making abilities?" he asks as he sits on the floor, his back resting against the sofa, the coffee table with his transparent excuse of a dinner in front of him. 

Belle sits on the sofa just over his right shoulder. She leans forward and plucks a grape from the bowl, popping it in her mouth and chewing thoughtfully. "Nothing interesting, really. I read when I get time. Watch some telly." She shrugs. 

"Burn your dinner," he mutters, remembering her offhand comment about being a rubbish cook. 

"Oi! Rude." But she's laughing when she nudges his shoulder with her knee. "Besides, not everybody has a personal chef." She takes another grape. "What about you? What do you do when you're not off Prime Ministering?" 

"As I'm sure you've guessed, I read, too. And I like to tinker. Oh, all right," he recants even though she's said nothing, "I love to tinker. Working with my hands, taking things apart and seeing what makes them tick, I love it." 

"That's so funny." 

"Funny how?" 

"I never see you working on anything." 

John turns to the ham and cheese, picking up a piece of each and rolling them up together. "I don't get a lot of free time." 

"Oh." 

He takes a bite. 

They move on to safer topics after that, and John loses track of time.

Chapter Text

"If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?"

He picks up another piece of ham and hands it to her. Though she'd declined when he first offered, since they've returned from the kitchen she's eaten nearly as much as he has. "Well, since I've met most of the living people that are typically given in answer to this question, I'll have to go with Charles Dickens."

Belle smirks, "Why am I not surprised?"

"Well, what can I say? I'm a big fan." He takes a grape for himself. They're room temperature now, but he doesn't mind. "What about you?"

Her smile slides off of her face. Even though she started this line of questioning, she doesn't want to give her own answer, he can tell that immediately.

"It's me, isn't it?" he jokes, hoping to draw her out a bit. "I know I'm a bit of a celebrity, but you've got nothing to be embarrassed about. Hey," he adds when he can see it's not working, "you don't have to answer."

"My dad," she says over him, her eyes rimmed with tears. "I was just a baby when he..."

John moves before her words peter out, hoisting himself up into the void behind him on the sofa and wrapping his arms around her. He holds her as she cries, all the while chastising himself for being so insensitive. When her tears subside, Belle gets up and wordlessly pads over to the loo. He can hear running water for a few minutes - long enough that he's starting to get concerned about her - when it shuts off and she reappears in the doorway.

"Sorry," she mutters. "I'm really not supposed to --"

"You're not supposed to what? Have feelings?"

"Not negative ones, no."

"Bollocks."

Belle smiles at him, but it's a rare one in that it doesn't reach her eyes, then crosses the room.

"You're just as human as the rest of us. Besides, I asked the question, so if it's anyone's fault, it's mine," he says when she sits right back where she was before and leans into him slightly. His arm had been waiting on the top of the sofa and it slides down to rest across her shoulders, pulling her in even closer. "You can tell me. If you want," he adds.

She hesitates, but she seems to be gathering the words she wants to use rather than steeling herself for something unpleasant. "There's not much to tell. Like I said, I was a baby, only a year old. He was crossing the street, head in the clouds like any other day, and this car came out of nowhere. He didn't even stop." She shakes her head. "I say 'he,' but it could have been a woman for all we know - the driver didn't stop, just kept right on going. It's been me and mum ever since."

And now she's lost her mother as well, to something less permanent than death, perhaps, but not necessarily less painful.

John understands about the negative emotions now, as he feels himself ready to reciprocate with a tale of his own. He knows he shouldn't tell her. Shared grief forges connections, invites intimacy that has nothing to do with the business of sex.

Sod it. He's never played by the rules she's expected him to. "Yesterday was the fourteenth anniversary of their deaths. And I didn't even notice until the day was almost over." He takes a deep breath. "There was a time I didn't think I would ever forget."

Belle shifts, snuggling even deeper into his embrace. "I don't think you'll ever forget," she says into his chest, "but they wouldn't have wanted you to stop living your life."

"Oi! I've done quite well for myself, thank you very much. I was just starting out as an MP back then, and look at where I am today."

She doesn't say anything and, as the silence stretches out, he takes a good hard look at his life. His parents had been important to him, and though he hadn't expected to lose them when he was only in his late twenties, he'd sort of grown up with the understanding that one day they'd be gone. But losing Romana and Susan had been the end of his world.

Had he stopped living? Sure, there'd been a time afterward when he'd just shut down. "Mourning period" everyone had said, as well as things like "perfectly normal" and "take as long as you need." Then he'd come back to reality just in time to win re-election by a landslide, prompting words like "sympathy vote," and, quieter, "undeserved."

He'd thrown himself into his work after that, in part to prove himself, and, maybe to a lesser degree, to keep his mind off of what he'd lost. There'd been little time left for personal connections. And now he's 41, Prime Minister, alone except for this odd not-relationship he's in with a call girl, and very likely about to lose the upcoming election.

"Belle, I --" he starts.

"You've got good hands," she says, a less than subtle return to a safer topic, as she threads her fingers in between his. "You should make time to tinker, time to allow yourself to be just John."

He's been making time for months now, every Friday night, where he shuts out the world and uses his hands and body to make love to the woman in his arms. His tinkering has never warranted that kind of commitment, but she'd managed to become important enough to him after only a few hours' acquaintance that he'd done it for her. She'd filled a hole in his chest that he'd never even acknowledged existed, with her sunny disposition and her unconditional acceptance.

He leans down, curls himself around her. Doesn't she see? Can't she tell how much she's healed him?

Belle giggles when the day's worth of stubble on his face brushes across her soft cheek, and maybe he should have shaved before calling her, but -- he repeats the motion, with intent this time, getting a much different reaction from her when she groans and shifts against him.

"Belle?"

"Yeah?"

"I think I've changed my mind."

* * *

It's a posh hotel, one she's visited on occasion but not recently. There's a key waiting for her at the front desk; the room is on the tenth floor.

"Hello?" she calls, closing the door behind her. "I'm Belle. Stephanie sent me."

"Well, well, well," a voice replies from a darkened corner of the room, "aren't you lovely."

Belle steps farther into the room and flashes her brightest smile at the man-sized shadow. "And you've got a very nice voice. How about you come over here and we can get acquainted?" She'd been so pleased to get any assignment at all that she hadn't noticed the client's name had been omitted until it was too late.

"Oh, we've got plenty of time for that. For now I just want to look at you."

Setting her purse onto a nearby chaise, Belle runs her hands slowly down her sides and over her hips. The dress she's wearing is silk and it glides against her skin, accentuating more than it hides. She's had men watch before; frankly, those are usually some of the easiest jobs she has. She turns, using both hands to lift her hair up, exposing her neck as she stretches. Looking back over her shoulder, she asks, "Is there something specific you'd like me to do while you look?"

A deep chuckle is his only response.

She wants him to come out of the shadows. Shy clients she can deal with, but her instincts are telling her that there's nothing shy about this mysterious man. It's not half creeping her out that she can't see his face. 

"No, I think that will be enough." Finally he takes a step closer to her and she is able to see his face.

He looks familiar, but she can't place him at first. He's thin with brown hair and dark piercing eyes. Handsome, she would say, save for the way his lips are drawn into a knowing smirk. When she finally recognizes him she has to bite back a gasp. But she's a professional despite her recent behavior to the contrary, and is determined to act like one. "Shall we get to business, then?" Reaching into her purse, she pulls out the toiletries bag and then walks across the room to offer it to him. "You go take a shower and I'll wait right here for you."

"I think not."

"I'm afraid it's standard procedure."

His hand closes around her arm instead of the bag. "You'll find I'm not much of a 'standard' kind of bloke."

"A bit of a kink then?" She purses her lips and looks him over. "Family values platform, wasn't it, Mr. Saxon? How's the wife?"

The hand around her arm tightens. "You've got a mouth on you." He uses the index finger of his other hand to press against her bottom lip, forcing her mouth open slightly. "I wonder if it's good for anything besides smarting off."

She uses her fingers to lever his hand off of her arm. "Go shower and then if you're a good boy I'll show you."

He sneers, putting his hand on her shoulder and pushing her to her knees. "How about we do it now instead?" With his other hand he lowers the zip of his trousers. It's the only part of his clothing that he adjusts, remaining completely buttoned up otherwise, even his tie is not the least bit askew.

"There's no need to be rough," she offers, trying to regain control of the situation. "You'll find I'm very cooperative." Belle scoots closer to him on her knees, reaching for his half-hard cock when he bats her hands away.

"Keep your filthy whore hands off of me," he barks, moving one hand to the back of her head. With his other hand he rests his cock against her cheek then slaps it against her a couple of times. He's fully erect now and Belle is pretty sure he's getting off on the dominance play.

She might be a whore, but she's never been a good sub, preferring clients who are looking for something more traditional. However she's here now and, as starved for work as she's been, she's not about to back away from the fee this job represents.

Chapter Text

Returning to her flat the next morning is more than coming home, it's like stepping into a protective embrace, but Rose still has to double check the locks on the door before she feels comfortable. It's rare that a client leaves her feeling dirty, used, but there's something about Harry Saxon that makes her skin crawl. 

It's not the wife or the charade of a family values platform or the fact that he's making it clear to anyone who'll listen that he plans to unseat John. It's something deeper than that, like an animal who won't wait until it's backed into a corner to lash out at you. 

She hurries to the shower to wash away her encounter with him. The ritual that she'd adhered to for two years had mostly fallen by the wayside after John, a combination of the familiarity she'd established with him and the precious few other jobs she'd been doing, but she clings to it now. 

The cup of tea that follows does a lot of good for resetting her mental state. It's Thursday morning and if John's pattern holds true she'll be hearing from him tomorrow. He can't see her like this. And though a part of her wants to warn him about Saxon's true nature, Rose has absolutely no desire to tell him how she found out. 

Rinsing the mug, she leaves it in the sink. There's one more thing she has to do before she can sleep - not sleep easy, not yet, but she needs to rest. She picks up the phone. Saxon needs something that she can't give him, and it's only right to pass him along to another girl who can. 

"Stephanie? About my job last night..." 

* * * 

John catches the sound of her voice in the entryway and moves to the top of the stairs. She's been arriving earlier and earlier, and the guard at the door this evening has never seen her before. He stands there expectantly as she converses with the young man, waiting for the moment he'll have to intervene like he did with Charles what seems like a lifetime ago. 

However, this time it's taking longer than he'd like because the guard is flirting with her. The first few volleys had seemed to pass right over Belle's head, but she'd caught the third one. She'd returned it, too, in a casual off-handed way that nevertheless set John's blood to boil. The fourth attempt is a sickeningly sweet compliment that finds him holding his breath to see how she'll respond. He doesn't compliment her like that; pretty words have never been his strength, and he usually just finds himself blurting out his thoughts without softening them first. 

When she finally speaks, it's a gentle rebuff. The guard is relentless, though, and his next attempt to get into Belle's good graces has John putting one foot on the top step, barely stopping himself from going downstairs to take control of the situation. 

"I'm knocking off in about half an hour. Gonna meet some friends at a club near here. There's a band playing. You'd be welcome to join us." 

From this new vantage he can see them, and even John has to admit that the boy is good-looking, if a bit pretty. He's waiting for the inevitable, a brief discussion of price followed by Belle handing over a business card similar to the one that's been in his wallet for months now - not that he needs it, having memorized her number around the same time. He doesn't even consider what it would do to his reputation if it become common knowledge that he utilizes the services of a call girl, he's too busy trying to figure out how he's going to hide his disappointment from her. 

"No. Thank you. I have plans." She points upwards to indicate his flat. 

He has to look twice before he'll believe what he's just heard. 

Apparently the boy is just as incredulous. He sidles even closer to her, using the back of his hand to move Belle's hair off of her shoulder, the tips of his fingers brushing against the skin exposed there by the wide neck of her dress. "I don't know why you'd want to spend time with that old man when you could be with someone your own age." 

That is the final straw. Seeing red, John walks down two more steps before stopping again. "Belle." His voice crackles through the room. The guard straightens immediately, guilt flashing across his face as he tugs on his uniform jacket to make himself presentable. Belle looks up but doesn't even seem surprised to see him, and John wonders if she'd known all along that he was standing there. 

There's so much he wants to say, fury he wants to rain down on this boy's head and innuendo he wants to use solely for the satisfaction of seeing how the younger man reacts, but a second glance at Belle has him curbing the sharp edge of his tongue. "Are you coming up?" 

She looks back at the guard, her expression as impassive as her voice is flat, "Are we done here?" 

"Yes, miss," he replies, suddenly the picture of propriety. "Thank you for your patience." 

Adjusting her purse strap on her shoulder, her eyes never pass over the guard again. Instead she locks her whisky-colored gaze upon him as she starts up the stairs, and John has to stop himself from shifting nervously under the weight of her regard. When she comes up alongside him, her hand lands on his chest, slightly to the left of his heart. "Leave him, John," she says softly. "He's not worth it. You've made your point." 

He brings his hand up to cover hers, pressing so that the heel of her hand digs deeper into his flesh. "What would you have told him if I wasn't standing here?" he whispers back. 

"I was about to tell him to fuck off," she replies, no longer trying to hide her words from the guard. She stretches, places a kiss on his cheek, the first time she's initiated such contact outside of his bed. "I'm here to see you, remember? Not to get pulled by a child." She twists her hand, sliding her fingers in between his and using her grip to guide him back up the stairs. 

He can't help himself from picking like a child with a scab, however, the minute after the door to his flat closes behind them. "Actually, I think he might be older than you." 

She puts her purse down on the floor near the door, kicking off her shoes so that they rest beside it. There's a sadness in her eyes when she looks up at him again that wasn't there a moment ago, making him want to erase his words, forget that he'd even felt the need to bring it up again. "Age is just a number, John, it doesn't make him any less a child. Besides, he's a fool." 

"And you're not one to suffer fools gladly?" 

"No, I'm not. So quit acting like one." 

"Me?" he squeaks. 

She rolls her eyes at him. "You. You're acting like a jealous git." 

"Yeah. You're right. I'm sorry." He rubs his hand along the back of his neck. A beat passes. Then, "Could you make me a cup of tea? There's something I need to do." He watches her leave the room then picks up the phone and dials a number. When the call connects he starts talking without preamble. "I want one of my guards replaced. Mitchell something... Adam! Adam Mitchell. I want him gone, I don't care where so long as it's far away from my home. We have a location in Alaska, don't we?" 

"Alaska! Don't you think that's --" 

He growls, cutting off the suggestion that he's overreacting. "Not nearly far enough." 

"Oh. I mean, yes, sir. I'll see what I can do. What reason would you like to state?" 

"A reason? I need a reason?" In four years he's never once made a request like this. The fact that he feels it's something that needs to be done should be reason enough. He looks up to see Belle leaning against the door jamb, not bothering to hide her amused grin. "Conduct unbecoming," he replies, holding her gaze. "He allowed himself to be distracted while on the job." 

"I'll take care of it as soon as I can." 

"You'll do better than that. I don't want him working another shift here." 

"Yes, sir. I'll see to it." 

"Feel better?" Belle asks the minute the phone touches the cradle. 

"I do, actually." 

"Did you really want tea? Or was that just a handy way to get rid of me for a few minutes?" 

"Tea would be lovely." 

"Have you eaten?" 

"No." 

Her expression softens, warms. "I'll bring you something to eat then, too. Go sit down." 

She's amazing, he thinks as she walks back onto the kitchen, and though it feels like a revelation, John knows he's felt this way for a while. 

They sit a few minutes later, her on the sofa and him once again on the floor at her feet. She'd found some tea sandwiches in the refrigerator, and they'd had a good laugh over the fact that fully half of them were filled with a spread neither of them liked. 

"I really am sorry," he says after they've been sitting together for a while, breaking the comfortable silence that had surrounded them. He has to force the words out, but he tries his best to make his voice sound as natural as possible. "I shouldn't have interfered. It's none of my business who you see." 

She releases a tiny exhale, something like a sigh. "Like I said, I'm here to see you. It would have been pretty rude of me to swan off with that guard." 

"Well, not tonight, obviously, but I don't own all of your nights." 

"You don't own any of my nights, John." 

The irony is not lost on him. He's world-famous, with a face that would be recognized in any civilized country, but he can't help but wonder if Belle would even want to have anything to do with him if he wasn't paying her. He wonders if she'll still agree to see him after the upcoming election or if he's simply a novelty, a notch in her belt. The thought turns his stomach and he sits up quickly. 

"John? You all right?" 

"Yeah," he dusts his hands off unnecessarily then stands. "'Course I am." 

But he can feel her gaze following him, silently disbelieving. Of course she wouldn't trust such a blatant lie. His best friend, the only person in his life who doesn't judge him, who isn't afraid to speak her mind, and the only lover he's had in more than a decade. 

He feels her arms surround him from behind, though he didn't hear her move. Her head rests between his shoulder blades. "I don't know how you ever made a career in politics, you're a rubbish liar." 

"It keeps me honest." 

Turning in her embrace, he looks down at her. Belle's expression is equal parts concern and understanding. "Are you really all right?" 

John smiles in a way that he hopes is reassuring, but she's right, he's always been a terrible liar, though she seems to see through him easier than most. "I'm fine." 

"You're not still bothered about..." 

"I don't want to talk about him," he bites out. 

Her mouth sets into a straight line, not upset, just neutral, and she blinks one time slowly. "Okay." She nods in the direction of his bedroom. "Did you want to...?" 

"No." He doesn't even have to think about it; he's too raw right now, his feelings about her too conflicted. He wasn't made for this kind of relationship where you have to keep your emotions locked safely away from what your body is doing. "Unless you...?" 

"No, I'm fine. I mean, if you want to that's fine, but I'm... fine." 

She seems to realize that what she's said is inane, because she laughs nervously before moving away from him to gather up her things. 

John walks her to the door of his flat, kissing her cheek and hugging her tightly before saying goodbye. It's the earliest she's ever left, the only time she's ever left without paying a visit to his bed first, and he feels her absence keenly the minute the door closes behind her. Without stopping to think about what he's doing, he finds himself reaching for the doorknob again. She turns when the door opens. 

"Belle?" 

"Yeah?" she responds, and is he imagining the slightly breathy quality to her voice? 

"Come back." 

Her face breaks into a brilliant smile and she hurries back, neither of which he imagines. And then she's in his arms before he can even get the door closed again, this time with her on the right side of it. 

There are butterflies swooping around in his stomach, and he doesn't even want to think about what his heart is doing, about how he's certain she can feel its rapid thudding through his shirt. 

John lifts her chin. The desire to kiss her hasn't faded after all of these months, in fact, he's sure it's growing stronger. He leans down and places a kiss as close to her lips as he can without actually touching them. Her breath skitters across his cheek and for a moment, one brief pause in time, he closes his eyes and allows himself to believe that she would rather he be one inch to the right. 

It occurs to him as he guides her to his bedroom that he's romanticizing his relationship with a call girl. His overactive imagination is turning her willing acceptance of him as a lover into something it's not. Something he's not even sure either of them want.

Chapter Text

Hurrying back to him, Rose doesn't even stop to think about what she's doing except to note how right it feels. John is smiling so broadly when he wraps his arm around her waist and pulls her close, she thinks his face might crack. He holds her in the space between himself and the door as he uses their combined weight to push it closed.

It's one of the times where his attractiveness simply blows her away. His smile is one that's reserved exclusively for her, his steel blue eyes are filled with warmth, and his solid weight is a comfort against her. Then her breath catches when he lifts her chin with his crooked finger.

As John lowers his face to hers, Rose's heart is pounding in her chest so loudly she's sure he can hear it. Despite the numerous times she's asked him not to kiss her, she anticipates the feeling of his lips on hers so strongly that it's an odd mixture of disappointment and relief when they land on her cheek instead, the corners of their mouths barely touching.

He exhales softly, forcing a gust of his warm breath across her cheek. It would be nothing to turn her face, press her lips to his, bare her soul to him by opening her mouth when he would inevitably invite her to. The reasons why she shouldn't are there in the back of her mind, muted now by time and longing.

The arm around her waist tightens even as he pulls away from her, the intent clear in his eyes as he leads her to his bedroom.

"Let me," he says softly when they come to a halt beside the bed. He slides her purse off of her shoulder, lowering it to the floor as he drops to his knees before her. With one hand at the back of her knee, he steadies her then eases her left shoe off of her foot, mirroring the motion for her right. His fingers run lightly along the underside of her foot, tickling her, and Rose giggles, earning a smile from the man at her feet. He places a gentle kiss on her knee then stands, muttering "Turn around."

Rose complies, John's hands ghosting at her waist as she turns. She shivers when those hands glide slowly up her sides to her shoulders. She can feel him, so close the heat of his body buffers against her back. It would be so easy to lean against him, lose herself in his strength and warmth.

John takes a tiny step back, gathering her hair in one hand and moving it out of the way. Then he slowly lowers the zip of her dress, the rough pads of his thumbs sensitizing her skin further as he spreads the two halves apart until the dress falls from her shoulders to pool at her feet. He moves in close, his breath hot against her skin. "So beautiful," he murmurs, pressing a kiss to the top of her spine.

Her whole body tingles, and John hums his appreciation.

She'd lied to him, and not the kind of tiny white lie that would result in sensual torture, but something far more serious. He doesn't merely own her nights, he dominates them, thoughts of him consuming her at the most inopportune times - and not only at night. She'd spent an entire day lost in memories of him brought on by the scent of his shampoo in her hair. She's even taken to watching the news, hoping for any glimpse or mention of him.

"You're miles away," he says, his teeth scraping carefully along the join of her neck and shoulder. It's a mild accusation, filled more with concern than anything else.

"No. No, I'm here."

John turns her to face him, his hands cupping her cheeks, his face lined with worry. It's almost laughable that he doesn't know how easy he is to read. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"What are you thinking about?"

"My thoughts never left you," Rose replies, a careful truth. She places a hand on his chest. "Really."

"Hey," he starts, trying another tactic, "this doesn't have to happen if you don't want."

But she does want. She wants more. Desperately. But despite how plainly his emotions might pass over his features, she's never seen anything there to hint that he might feel the same. Friendship and concern, yes. Frequently desire. Occasionally awe. But never anything deeper.

"I want you," she says, and it's the truest words she's ever spoken to him.

A smile blossoms across his face, slow at first then faster when an almost shy "Yeah?" prompts a faux-exasperated "Yeah!" from her in response.

"Fantastic! Then where were we?" he contemplates teasingly, turning her around again. "Here?" he asks, placing another kiss at the top of her spine.

Rose groans.

"No," he decides, pulling away from her, "I think we were here." First his lips and then his teeth graze across the top of her shoulder.

"John."

He shushes her, his hand sliding down her side, across her hip and to the join of her legs. He cups her above the barrier of her knickers, his fingers not even seeking out the places she wants him to be, and pulls her backwards into him. His denim-clad erection pressing into the small of her back, he grinds against her slowly, his teeth once again digging into her, harder this time, but still not enough to mark her fair skin.

She's whimpering in time with the motions of his hips, torn between wanting to let him take his time and begging him to quit playing around and take her already.

It never feels like just sex with him. It feels like making love. She knows that a part of that comes from his insistence that she allow herself to feel, and part of it is because he never treats her like a means to an end, a necessary evil. He treats her like a lover. And it's been a very long time since she last had a proper lover.

"A bloke could get a complex," he complains, once again pulling her from her thoughts.

Rose closes her eyes and inhales deeply to clear all distractions from her mind, even distractions that are John. She turns purposefully, already reaching for the bottom of his jumper when he takes her hands in his larger ones, stopping her.

"No."

She blinks, uncomprehending for a moment. "What?"

"Whatever switch you just flipped inside yourself, you can turn it off again. If you want this, great, I'll do everything in my power to get your interest and keep it, but I'm not going to let you do this out of some sort of obligation. I'm not interested in having sex with a call girl, I want to make love with you." That said, he seems to deflate a bit, some of the fire leaving his eyes. "When you came back in here, you wanted this, what changed?"

"Nothing's changed. But you're right, I'm sorry, my head's not in it."

"Did I do something wrong?"

"Of course not."

"Was it the biting? You seemed to enjoy --"

"The biting was good," she interrupts before he can convince himself otherwise. "Really good."

He's confused by her wavering attention and denials, and she wants to kiss away the slight frown on his face, soothe his ego with soft words.

He runs his knuckles over the apple of her cheek. "What do you want to do?"

"Get on the bed," she replies, inclining her head.

John searches her eyes, and then, satisfied with whatever he sees there, gestures at his clothes.

But Rose is already shaking her head. "Just lie down."

A moment later he's on his back on the center of the bed watching her curiously. The back of his jumper has ridden up a smidge, and a triangle of skin starting at the waistband of his jeans is visible. His bare feet are sticking out of the ends of his jeans, and he can't seem to figure out what to do with his hands. But even like this, relaxed and lying on his own bed, and perhaps a trifle uncertain about what's to come, he exudes power and a confidence that is very, very sexy.

As she places her knee on the bed to join him, John offers his hand to help her up, and when their hands touch everything finally falls into place. She loves him. The realization guts her at the same time putting a name to it comforts. She's fallen in love with the Prime Minister, a man nearly twice her age, one of her clients, who is also, arguably, her best friend. Rose isn't sure which is the bigger crime.

It occurs to her in that moment that maybe she doesn't need a mug in his cupboard or a drawer in his dresser for this to look like a relationship. She's already keeping secrets from him, even if the worst of those is the depth of her feelings for him.

He scans her face as she swings her leg over his hips to straddle him, once again looking for any sign that she's only going through the motions, but that's never going to happen again. This is the man she loves and he deserves her full participation. She stills, her core hovering above the zip of his jeans, her fingers teasing at the hem of his jumper, inching it higher as she seeks out the soft skin of his stomach.

John inhales sharply when she scrapes her fingernails lightly against his exposed skin. She pushes the jumper higher, exposing the base of his ribs, and higher once more so that it's bunched up just below his chest. He moves as though he's going to help her take it off, but one noise from her stops him. "Is that uncomfortable?"

"No."

"Then leave it." She nods, a question mark, and he settles back into the bed, an answer.

Rose places a kiss on his stomach, and then another, sucking far too gently to leave anything more behind than a couple of pale pink circles which will vanish in a few minutes. The third is below his ribs and more the color of her namesake flower. John accompanies the making of each with a ragged inhale, the last ending with a weak cry. She moves to make a fourth but stops herself. Loving him is dangerous, because it makes her want to do stupid things, like leave marks on him that won't fade nearly so quickly. It makes her forget that he's on a world stage and can't be claimed by a call girl who grew up on a Council Estate.

Looking up, she meets his eyes and can see the want in them. She hasn't made him wait like this in so long, he's nearly lost the ability to be patient, but though he stays, his expression clearly indicates that she's only in control because he's allowing her to be.

Keeping his gaze, she slithers down his body, stopping when her face is level with his zipper. She unbuttons the jeans and then slowly, carefully, lowers the zip until all that hides him from her view is the thin fabric of his pants. He's straining against them, bowing the material outward, a spot of moisture where the tip of his cock rests. Rose leans forward to cover that spot with her mouth. John grunts and groans, writhing anxiously on the bed, his hands clenching in the sheets. He starts to say something but it dissolves into another groan when she palms the base of his cock through his pants.

She tongues the outline of his erection, taking extra care to exhale hard against him. John's hand comes up from the bed, impatience winning out when he caresses the side of her face, his thumb brushing against the corner of her mouth so that he can feel where he ends and she begins. He growls at the sensation and then a slight shift has that same thumb hooked in the waistband of his pants, drawing it downward to expose himself.

"What do you want?" she asks, pleased that he's come so far from the man he was that he can express his desires to her now.

"You, just you," he rasps. "Whatever that looks like."

With a smile, Rose reaches for a condom, handing him the foil packet. "Make love to me, John."

He wastes no more time, shimmying out of his jeans before she finishes speaking.

* * *

It's the same hotel she was in last week, the room on the same floor even, and with the client name portion of her assignment suspiciously blank, Belle is a bundle of nerves as she approaches the room.

"Hello?" she calls out. The small lounge is thankfully empty, no one hiding in large shadows. "Stephanie sent me. My name is --"

"Belle," he says, coming out of the bedroom and into the lounge, "what a pleasure to see you again."

"Mr. Saxon," she sighs, her fears realized.

"Call me... Prime Minister," he says, and Belle has to fight down a surge of nausea as a condescending smile slowly blossoms across his face.

Chapter Text

Midway through Thursday afternoon, John thinks that if it were possible for him to have someone relocated to the bottom of the Thames, he'd like to request Harry Saxon receive that treatment. The thought is a pleasant one, giving him a few minutes of much-needed levity in the middle of an interminable meeting. But the feeling passes all too quickly, once again leaving him to deal with the reality of Saxon himself. John continues to smile, however, knowing that his happiness is seen as a direct insult by the man sitting opposite him.

Saxon, unfortunately, is not nearly as put out by John's brief respite as John would like, smiling like the snake-oil salesman he is while yet another back-bencher drones on about issues relevant to his constituency. It's not that John doesn't care about the state of the roads in the back of beyond - he does - but there are a thousand things waiting on his desk that would be a better use of his time, and he can read this MP's speech later when Saxon's presence isn't making his skin crawl.

A polite round of applause caps off the MP's speech, and the young man stumbles a bit at even that tepid reaction as he returns to his seat. He's a first timer, and John remembers with a combination of sympathy and fondness what that felt like.

"Let's take a break," he suggests, "stretch our legs for a few minutes."

Chairs shift and murmured conversations start up as people begin filing out of the room. They've been going for hours and there are still three more MPs to hear from this afternoon, so everyone is grateful for the break. "Mr. Williams," John calls, catching the attention of the young MP before he can sneak away.

"Yes, sir?"

"You did well up there," he says, offering his hand.

The younger man takes it. "Thank you, sir. That's very kind of you to say."

"I remember what it was like when I first started, being full of enthusiasm for the job and wanting to do right by my constituents," he says, trying not to sound condescending, because he knows there's nothing worse than having to endure a 'when I was your age' story. "Hold on to that and you'll do them proud."

"Thank you," he says again, pumping John's hand firmly a second time before finally letting go. "I'll keep that in mind."

"You'll do just fine."

The younger man breaks eye contact for a moment, and John is convinced he's about to scuff his shoe on the hard wood floor like a bashful teen when he looks back up again. "Pardon me for saying, sir, but you're different."

He feels what was an easy smile freeze on his face. "How so?"

"Well, it's been almost four years, and I don't think you've ever --" But then Williams notices the sudden change in his demeanor and immediately starts backpedaling. "I mean - it's just that --"

John starts to laugh, but it dies when a hand lands heavily on his shoulder, jarring his whole body, at the same time Saxon's voice, dripping with false familiarity, joins the conversation. "Yes, there are not many people who would be this unconcerned going into an election they've done nothing to prepare for. You simply must share your new relaxation technique. I'm sure there are lots of us who'd like to take advantage of it."

He feels himself tense even more than he usually does when Saxon is around. Surely he can't mean --

"On second thought, don't bother; I'm sure I'll be privy to all of your little secrets when I take over 10 Downing in a couple of months."

"That's very presumptuous of you, Saxon," he manages, just barely keeping his voice civil. Standing a foot away, his face filled with horror, Williams is the only witness to their exchange.

"Do you think so?" the other man blithely replies, "I'm leading the polls in my constituency. Can you say the same in yours? Don't worry, though, I'll be sure to take good care of... all... of the little things you've become so attached to, treat them like they were my very own."

Saxon is a vile, detestable man, and the very idea of him being allowed into the flat above 10 Downing is enough to make the bottom fall out of John's stomach, to say nothing of him running the country. Only a few of the furnishings in Number 10 are John's personal belongings, but in four years he's become, as Saxon suggested, attached to them. It's his sofa, the table where he eats, the bed where he sleeps, regardless of the fact that he didn't bring those pieces with him when he moved in. And it looks like it's too much to hope that Saxon would opt for the much larger quarters in Number 11. To think of Saxon touching them, defiling them with his presence, sickens John and fills him with a righteous anger at Saxon, at his own campaign manager, at the voters in Leeds who can't seem to see what a phenomenally bad idea keeping this man in public office is.

But all of that pales in comparison a few seconds later to the incandescent rage that sparks inside of him when the less than subtle emphasis on the word 'all' finally hits its intended target and John understands that Saxon isn't really talking about 10 Downing. In that light, the comments about John's 'relaxation technique' suddenly seem to mean exactly what he'd initially suspected: he's talking about Belle. It doesn't matter how the other man knows, only that he does and thinks nothing of 'taking advantage'. John will give up the flat that has become home, he'll give up the job that he's worked his whole life to attain, but nothing - nothing - is going to make him willingly give Saxon Belle's contact information.

On the edge of his awareness, John notices Williams taking a step away from them. Saxon, at the wrong angle to see his face, has no idea what he's just unleashed. His hands curl into fists and he's in the process of turning his body to plant one of those fists into Saxon's nose when the hum of conversation rises again as the other ministers start returning to the room. Smiling benignly, Saxon moves to find his seat, seemingly oblivious to how close he's just come to having a broken nose.

The meeting continues with the next speaker's presentation as soon as everyone is seated, but it moves forward with only a fraction of John's attention. It takes him the better part of an hour to calm down enough not to want to jump over the table and throttle the other man, and an additional twenty minutes beyond that to rationalize that he's assigning meaning to Saxon's words that can't really be there. Once the rational part of his brain has been engaged, he reminds himself that Saxon doesn't know about Belle, none of the people in this room do. It must have been just a lucky strike on Saxon's part. But it's far too late, his earlier good mood has been shattered, and Saxon seems beyond pleased to have been the cause.

When the meeting finally ends, John has never been happier to get away from the insufferable man.

John is still agitated when he returns to his office. And though he tries for a time, nothing there can hold his attention. Proposals that need his review and approval are piled up, forgotten, on his desk, phone calls that need to be returned are not. He can't even sit still, Saxon's words still burning in his mind as he storms around the room, his hands clenching uselessly at his sides.

The last time he'd felt a need this great to break something, he'd ended up purchasing a piece of property so that he could personally demolish the house on it piece by piece. It had taken months of hard labor to accomplish, and hadn't been healing, not really, he knows that now, but it had allowed him to return to a semblance of a productive member of society. However, seeing as how smashing Saxon's smug face isn't a viable option in this situation, anything that would make a sufficient crunching noise would do so long as there was plenty of it.

Unfortunately, surrounded as he is by priceless antiques in a space he's just borrowing, he needs to find something else to do to burn away his anger. Belle, he thinks suddenly. What else is a friend for if not to help when there's a need? He's picking up the phone before he's thought his actions through.

"I need you," he grinds out as soon as she picks up.

"John? Did I lose a day?"

"No. It's still Thursday. I know it's short notice..."

"Hush," she admonishes. "It's no trouble. When?"

"Is now too much to ask?"

There's a pause. Then, hesitantly, "It's not even six."

"So?"

She inhales sharply and he wants to know what she's thinking. I need you, he wants to repeat, to use the words to coax her into agreeing. I need to know you're here, with me. His mouth open to speak, he's stopped by her voice.

"I'll need a few minutes."

John breathes a sigh of relief. "Thank you."

He leaves the door to his flat open, so he's aware of the minute she enters the building. Her voice is a balm, but it's not nearly enough. It is shortly after six, and the thirty minutes he's waited for her have only served to heighten his need.

"Evening, Charles."

"Miss Belle, good evening."

"Himself upstairs?" she asks, cutting Charles off before he can start up their typical playful banter, and John breathes a sigh of relief when the guard takes the hint.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Thank you, Charles." And then, without any further ado, her footsteps sound on the stairs.

The promise of her presence has overrun the urge to break and destroy with the need to possess, and John pounces on her the minute the door closes behind her, congratulating himself on his restraint for waiting that long. A tiny "Oh!" of surprise escapes her as he traps her against the door, but she says nothing more, arching into his embrace wantonly. Surprise turns into a long low moan of pleasure when his mouth closes roughly on her neck. She'd told him that biting was good, but he's pushing the limits of that now, knows instinctively that he has to be hurting her, yet cannot bring himself to stop.

She has not had a chance to take off her shoes, her purse still hangs from her shoulder, and he's moments away from having her against the door. Despite this, she puts up no resistance when he adjusts the set of his mouth on her neck. In fact, he might go so far as to say that she tilts her head slightly to grant him better access. She's not passive by any means, though, her hands running over his body, inflaming him further, and occasionally cradling his head to her, a soothing gesture of acceptance that means so much in this moment.

Saxon's words are still ringing in his head, the insinuation that things which are John's will soon belong to him. Belle - he grinds his hardness against her, letting the delicious sound of her answering moan wash over him - Belle is not a... a thing he will simply turn over to Saxon along with the keys to 10 Downing.

He growls as he releases her neck a few minutes later, licking and kissing the livid red welt he's left behind. "I'm sorry," he offers.

"It's okay."

"Not for that," he replies, pulling her purse off of her shoulder and offering it to her. "Condom?"

She blinks once, her entire demeanor changing when she looks at him again. It's not exactly the professional air he once refused, tempered as it is by something he can't quite put a name to. Fishing a condom out of the bag she hands it to him. "Whatever you need."

He's already opening his trousers and sliding the condom on. "You might regret saying that."

"Never."

Chapter Text

Grabbing the back of Belle's knee, John hooks it over his hip and then puts her arms around his neck to provide the leverage necessary to lift her fully off the ground. She moves easily with him, and he says a tiny prayer of thanks for whatever possessed her to wear a dress. Pushing aside the flimsy protection of her knickers and bracing her back against the door to his flat, he presses into her with barely any preamble.

The pace he sets is for his benefit alone, something he'd feel guilty about any other time, but not today, and before long he can feel the tell-tale stirrings of an orgasm. She's making a series of impact noises, grunts, and needy little gasps that whoosh across his face, but nothing to indicate that she's getting close. He tries to get his hand around her hip in time to make it good for her as well, but then he's coming and he needs that hand to support himself as his knees weaken and threaten to give way.

"I'm sorry," he says again, withdrawing from her and lowering her back to the ground while at the same time trying to back away. "I'm sorry."

With far more gentleness than he's just shown her, her hand once again finds the back of his head, this time pulling him down to her, holding him in place. "I said it's okay," she says into his cheek.

He's shaking against her, straining to hold back the rage and the need to take, to claim her as his, undiminished by what he's just done. "No," he manages. Then, "I shouldn't have called you."

"If not me then who?" She's too calm by half, unaware that he would have her again in a heartbeat.

"I don't know. I'm too on edge. I should have gone to the gym instead, punched something."

"Why?" It's little more than an exhale.

"I used you."

"It was freely given, there's nothing wrong with that."

"You don't understand."

"Then tell me. Help me understand."

Angling his face, John finds the line of her jaw with his lips and places a kiss there. Taking her hand from his head, he guides it to his still hard cock. Her eyes widen.

"I - I could hurt you," he stammers.

"You won't." She removes the used condom and drops it into the bin by the door, then takes a fresh one from her purse. "I trust you."

"I don't," he argues, willing her to understand how dangerous he feels, what she's unknowingly stepping deeper into. "I don't even trust myself right now. I can't imagine how you do."

"I know you, John."

He barks a cynical laugh, but she presses the condom into his hand, her earnest repetition of the words "Whatever you need" pulling at him.

Astonishment fills him at the thought that she's allowing this - no, more than that, encouraging it, inviting him to take his aggressions out on her body. Less than a week earlier he was concerned that she might not want anything to do with him if he was no longer in a position of power. Now he wonders if he would deserve her if she does.

Her hand lands gently on his chest - or his shirt, rather, as they're both still fully dressed except for the not so small matter of his trousers being open.

He covers her hand with his own. "You --"

"Yes, me. As your friend how could I do anything different?"

She closes her other hand around his erection and strokes him. John stares at her, silently offering her one last chance to run.

But she's not having any of that and meets his gaze evenly. "'m not leaving you." Then, before he can say a word, she wraps her hand around his and starts leading him in the direction of his bedroom.

They only make it as far as the middle of the lounge before John pounces on her again, bending her over the arm of the sofa. She allows it without question or complaint, spreading her legs for him and positioning her hips to grant him easy access. Mine, he thinks as he lifts the skirt of her dress and lowers her knickers to her knees, the word swelling over him and crashing against his bruised and battered shores. Mine, as he rips open the foil packet and rolls the condom down over his length, the motion so familiar to him now that his eyes don't have to leave her creamy white skin. Mine, as her wetness eases his passage and his conscience.

Her cries are sharp and needy when he begins to thrust, and so different from the noises he's used to hearing her make that each one sends an electric shock up his spine. It's rare that he takes her like this, usually preferring to see her face - to make love to her rather than rut like an animal. But there's something inherently primal about taking her from behind, about having her willingly submit to his dominance, that he needs right now.

She shifts to rest her weight onto only one arm, snaking her other behind her back and holding her hand open expectantly where he can see, a sob escaping her when he accepts the invitation by wrapping his fingers around hers. The pitch of her cries changes slightly, but it's too late. And then Mine as he stiffens, pouring himself into her with a shudder, his ears playing tricks on him by insisting the echo he hears of the word is real.

John barely manages to stop himself before he would have collapsed on top of her, but he can't move, can't leave her body yet. His heart thudding in his chest, he takes a moment to remember how to breathe normally. Once that's under control, the hand that's clenched around her hip loosens, skimming over skin that may or may not bear finger-shaped bruises in the morning.

His erection is softening - finally - and he needs to withdraw from her before that happens. He moves, holding the base of the condom in his free hand, her hand squeezing his other when it becomes obvious what he's doing. Once they are two separate people again, he helps her stand, turning her to face him. Their left hands still entwined, he runs his right over her hair, her face, checking her for any sign of distress.

When he's finally satisfied that she's not hurt, she smiles up at him, and it's so tender he physically aches. A normal woman would have run screaming as soon as he'd backed her into the door or certainly after realizing what he was about, but she only smiles as she rights her clothing. "I --"

Her brow furrows. "Don't you dare apologize again, John Smith," she snaps, but there's no bite to her words.

"I wouldn't dream of it," he purrs, though the words are a lie. He'd tell her anything in this moment to smooth the wrinkle of worry between her eyes. "One moment," he tells her before she can see through him, then walks away to drop the condom in the bin by the door and tuck himself back into his pants, returning to her side immediately once he's done.

Encircling her in his arms, he walks the rest of the distance to his bed, pulling her down beside him when he collapses on top of the sheets. Mine, as she settles into the crook of his arm, and though the thought is softer now, gentler, it is no less an imperative. His muscles are demanding sleep, his body drained from the emotions that have ravaged through him. The only thing keeping him awake is his awareness of her, the rise and fall of her chest against him, the feeling of her breath when it occasionally skitters across his neck.

A tiny motion of her hips causes her to mewl, the noise ending as abruptly as it began. Angling her face up, John takes in everything at once: the undisguised want in her eyes, the way she's biting her lip to prevent any further embarrassing noises from escaping, the slight blush gracing her cheeks at being betrayed by her own body. Turning on his side, he nuzzles her face as his hand sneaks down between them. "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking clearly. It's very cruel of me, leaving you like this, isn't it?" He cups her sex, delighting in the way she moans when he presses the heel of his hand against her.

Struck by the sudden increase in the intensity of her scent, John takes his hand back, bringing it up to the topmost button of her dress. It's a lovely cream colored dress, with lace panels over her delicate collarbones. There are five buttons ranging from her neck to her waist and he flicks the top one open. She whimpers.

He flicks open another button, scooting down to nudge the panels apart with his nose, inhaling deeply and lapping at the slight sheen of sweat that rests there. "I wish I could make love to you," he mutters to her heated skin. "But alas, though the spirit is willing..."

Another button and he is able to spread the panels wide enough to expose her bra. It's strapless and the same color as the dress. After a moment of him rooting around with just his nose and mouth, she grows impatient and reaches up, unclasping the front closure, her breasts bouncing merrily as the material falls away.

"Oh, that is just fantastic," he breathes, stretching his tongue out to curl around her nipple. 

"John!"

He answers her with a hum as he flicks open the fourth button. The fifth is a formality only, he decides, upon realizing that he likes her half naked in his bed almost as much as he likes her completely naked in his bed.

"John, please," she begs as he sinks lower and lower down her body. With one gentle hand he lifts her skirt and widens her legs as he stops between her thighs, his face inches from her knickers.

She clamps her mouth shut, her lips pressed tightly together, her eyes wide and fearful.

He blinks, not touching her, nervously brought to a halt by her reaction. He's tasted her many times before, usually on his fingers, but never at the source. "Is this okay?" he finally asks when the silence becomes too much. He'd thought they'd moved past her rejecting the idea of sexual acts that are solely for her pleasure.

"You don't have to," she demurs.

"I want to."

"I've never..."

John can't believe that no one's ever done this for her. Every part of him swells with anticipation at the idea that she has a gap in her experience he can be the first to fill. Even his cock, utterly convinced up until a second ago that it was done for the night, has started to stir once more. But he ignores his own desire in favor of being able to do this for her.

Even to his own ears, his voice sounds rough when he replies, "Now I definitely want to." All hesitancy in his movements vanishes as he gets comfortable. Then, without preamble, his mouth open wide, he covers her clit, tonguing hard against the thin barrier of her knickers.

"Oh my God!" she cries out as her hips jerk away from him.

He allows himself a smug smile before pushing her hips back down into the bed. Using his finger to move aside her knickers, John darts his tongue out to taste her opening. He licks the same spot a second time, running his tongue up and down her slit. The noises she's making are gorgeous, a blend of uncertainty, wantonness, and curiosity.

Tiring of holding her knickers, he quickly draws them over her hips and down her legs, tossing them aside without a second thought before returning to his task. Profanity flies from her mouth as he starts in earnest, his tongue eager to learn every dip and fold of her sex. She writhes beneath the onslaught, her toes curling into his sheets, her hands clinging to the top of his head. A moment later he realizes she's building faster than he'd like, and that in and of itself is a rare thing, since he typically can't get enough of hearing her climax.

He slows his motions, letting her anguished pleas for mercy wash over him without acknowledgment. Gentle flicks bring about the sweetest little collection of breathless ohs and a fresh gush of moisture from her center. He laps it up greedily, at the same time using the renewed slickness to slide his finger inside of her. Her passage is clenching tellingly; she's still close, hovering just below her climax.

She's sobbing his name repeatedly when he turns his finger to gently press against the swell in her front vaginal wall. A bit of concerted effort there and she's suddenly screaming, literally and figuratively, forward to orgasm. He covers her clit with his whole mouth again, gliding the flat of his tongue over the tiny nub. He holds her to him as she comes, her thighs clenching against his ears and her hips rocking out of control like she can't decide whether she wants to pull away or bring his mouth closer.

Her orgasm is just tapering off when he repeats the motion to keep her at the heights of pleasure. She shrieks so loudly as she comes a second time, he's surprised his guards aren't breaking down the door to get at them. Her hands are fisted in his hair, the tugging on his short locks an odd pain-pleasure causing him to groan against her fevered skin.

When she calms, he slowly tapers off, mindful of her plaintive whimpers as he loosens his grip on her. John crawls up to lay beside her again, and she turns toward him, still shivering from the force of her release. His arms surround her and she curls tighter against him.

Ducking his head, he places a kiss on her cheek, barely avoiding the temptation of her mouth, so close and yet so neglected now that he's kissed nearly every other inch of her body.

"John..." she manages weakly.

"Shhh. It's okay --" He stops himself, the word 'love' on his lips. He looks down at the woman in his arms, usually so composed but now utterly shattered by his attentions, everything about this evening finally clicking into place. As her arm finds its way around his waist to squeeze him, he finally lets go.

He loves her.

And it's probably going to be the biggest mistake of his life.

Chapter Text

The invitation to return Friday was made before John had fallen asleep the night before, when he'd only somewhat jokingly offered for her to stay since she'd be back the next evening anyway. Rose had brushed aside the suggestion, making excuses about clean clothes and toiletries that, in truth, had nothing to do with her reasons for not wanting to stay. It is a measure of just how far gone she is, though, that practical matters are the only armor she can cobble together to prevent her heart from making the decision for her.

She is very aware that it is not the kind of excuse John will accept for long. He is too intelligent and too practical to let her lack of a toothbrush prevent him from getting what he wants, if indeed, her staying with him is something he wants. And, judging by the broken 'mine' that had escaped him when he'd had her bent over his sofa, it is.

In her line of work, when a client develops that kind of possessiveness it can be a dangerous thing. Adding her own feelings into the mix only further complicates things. So, despite the fact that she should be running full tilt in the opposite direction, Rose wants this with him enough to find herself rapping lightly on the door to his flat at precisely six o'clock Friday evening.

He wasn't expecting her so early, she realizes when he jerks open the door. His expression is passive, just shy of cold, but before she can even begin to formulate insecurities, it warms to what she is more accustomed to seeing when they're together. "Oh, hello!"

"Hi. Is this a bad time?"

"No, not at all," he says, taking her hand. "Come in."

She's barely stepped inside the flat when a call from the hallway has John opening the door wide again. He grins sheepishly at her as a young man in kitchen whites walks into the room pushing a serving cart overflowing with vintage silver lidded serving dishes.

"John?" she asks, lowering her voice as she steps closer and turns her face into his shoulder for privacy. The young man starts unloading the cart, carefully moving the dishes to the small table. A hum and fingers grazing softly over her cheek are the only answer she gets. "Dinner again?" she presses. They've eaten together every Friday since chips, though most of the time it's nothing more complicated than some meat and cheese with a bit of fruit. This seems to be more of a production, like his thank you for her help with the budget.

"I thought you might be hungry," he replies, copying her intimate tone. "I can have him take it back," he says when he gets no response from her.

But by now the room is awash in delicious smells, and Rose is reminded that she hasn't had dinner, a fact John becomes aware of a few seconds later when her stomach lets out a growl. She can feel his shoulders shaking in silent mirth as she buries her face deeper in his chest in mortification. His arm tightens around her, his thumb rubbing soothingly over her back.

After a moment he stills, his whole body suddenly very tense. "Can I help you?" The words are hard, the question directed over her head at the server she'd forgotten was in the room. She can only imagine what they look like, her body curled tightly to John's, his arm surrounding her, the two of them sharing a private joke. Rose starts to straighten so that she can put distance between them, but John's arm tightens even further around her - possessively, the professional part of her mind supplies; protectively, adds her heart - holding her in place.

A stammered apology is followed a few seconds later by the door to the flat opening and then closing. John's arm loosens by degrees as his body relaxes against her, but he doesn't let her go. With one hand he lifts her chin. "You weren't meant to see any of that."

"It's not like I thought house-elves delivered the food, John," she teases, knowing that he loves Harry Potter almost as much as Dickens, though that knowledge is not nearly as common. He's a little embarrassed by it; Dickens is to be expected, he says, but Harry Potter: "I'm a grown man, Belle, not a child," he'd said the day he'd admitted to voraciously devouring each book in the series. Adding sadly, "And I don't have a child who would have introduced me to it."

His daughter Susan would have been the right age to adore Harry Potter, and John would be the kind of father who would jump at the opportunity to read them to her. Rose can almost see them, cuddled together on the sofa, his arm around her shoulders, the book propped up in front of them, his chin resting in her soft blonde hair. Rose has even started the books on his recommendation and is reading through them as quickly as she can; the first Deathly Hallows movie is due out in November and she wants to be done by then. 

Then the penny drops and Rose re-evaluates her mental image of John reading to his daughter. His wife had had dark hair. The few pictures she's seen of Susan were all of a tiny clone of her mother. So there'd be only one reason why her obviously peroxide-addled mind would provide an image of a blonde daughter. But she's never wanted kids - still doesn't want kids, despite how seductive the idea of giving him a family is.

John is smiling broadly down at her, completely unaware of the turn her thoughts have taken. He moves his hand so that his fingers brush over the love bite he'd left on her neck the night before, his blue eyes twinkling mischievously. There's something banked deep in his eyes that looks suspiciously like "mine," and a quick review of their relative positions and her automatic reactions to him informs Rose that her own eyes are most likely broadcasting an answering "yours."

Suddenly self-conscious, she twists, breaking free of him, but he coaxes her back effortlessly with nothing more convincing than a hand lightly placed on her arm and a quiet "I have something for you." Rose looks over his shoulder at the table now laden with food. "Not that," he laughs, drawing her closer.

Sliding his free hand between them, he pulls something small and white out of the inner breast pocket of his jacket. It takes her a moment to recognize it as a bit of silk and lace, but once she does, the embarrassment over her stomach's earlier pronouncement fades to the level of playground teasing by comparison. It's her knickers from the night before.

A self-satisfied smile crawls across his face at her reaction. "Imagine my surprise when I saw these peeking out from under the chair in my room this morning."

"This morning?" she gasps, horrified. "Have you had them in your pocket all day?"

He keeps the knickers away from her when she makes a grab for them. "Might have done," he replies, amusement coloring his voice. "Couldn't leave them lying about for anyone to find, could I? But that's not important. We need to discuss you leaving my flat last night without any knickers on under that dress of yours."

"I couldn't find them. I, uh, wasn't exactly paying attention to where you threw them."

His other hand lowers until it finds the hem of her dress where it slips underneath, gliding back up her thigh until he reaches her knickers. "Take them off," he orders, his seductive tone sending a shiver of anticipation up her spine.

Rose finds herself obeying automatically, though for some reason her brain gets hung up on the idea that this leaves her naked under her dress. The neckline plunges just far enough that she can't wear a bra underneath it and John has now confiscated her knickers. But it's not until she's placing them in his hand that she realizes she doesn't know what he intends to do with them. For a moment he seems entranced with the bows tied on either side. "They're --" she starts to explain before realizing that he can certainly guess what they're for.

"You'll have to wear these another day. I want to take them off of you properly. But for now..." He re-folds the white silk and lace knickers and returns them to his pocket then repeats the process with the red satin, patting the outside of his jacket when he's done. "I want you to know where they are."

Smiling like he's just done something exceptionally clever, John takes her hand and leads her to the table. Rose, assuming they were heading to the bedroom, nearly stumbles at the unexpected change in direction. John tuts softly as he stands behind a chair and pulls it out for her. When she sits, he leans down and presses a kiss to the side of her face.

It's sweet, but firm, and then he's gone before she can even begin to formulate a response, removing lids from the serving dishes as he moves to his own chair. It finally registers that he has her knickers in his pocket yet he intends for them to sit down to dinner. She's turned on by the naughtiness of it, and especially by the fact that it was his idea. There's a growing slickness at the top of her thighs, unimpeded by knickers thanks to him. Her whole body is tingling in anticipation and she wonders if his attention could be diverted to her instead of the food.

The last thing he does before sitting is hold up a decanter of red wine. "Wine?"

Rose looks over the food for the first time. Roast pork surrounded by vegetables in one dish, some sort of stuffed fish in a light sauce in another. A third dish is divided in the middle, courgettes on one side, asparagus on the other, sides for the fish, she assumes. "Red with pork and fish? What kind of heathen are you?"

He's already unapologetically pouring the wine into one of the glasses. "I'm a heathen who likes red wine. And someone I know once told me that I shouldn't waste my time with drinks I don't like." The decanter is now hovering expectantly over the second glass, awaiting her answer.

"No, thank you." She's touched that he's taken her words to heart. And when he sits back in his chair and sips at the wine his obvious enjoyment of it is quite distracting. He never drank scotch like this. It's almost sinful how his lips part slightly, drawing in a sip of the burgundy liquid. His eyes start to close as he rolls the wine over his tongue. Then he swallows as he moves the glass away from his mouth, his tongue darting out to catch a drop of moisture left behind on his lip. No, he never drank scotch like this, but the savoring is familiar, and her body is responding appropriately.

John is an attentive lover, and she's never wanted for anything in his bed, but after last night she has a new appreciation for those lips and that tongue. Rose squirms in her seat and John catches the motion, winking lazily at her as he places the wine glass down on the table. He's teasing her, and with that realization also comes the knowledge that he's going to make her wait. She seriously considers changing her mind about having a glass of wine.

Hastily looking for something to take her mind off of him, Rose settles on the food. "So, why pork and fish? Those two aren't a common pairing."

"Well, we've already done beef and chicken," he says, holding his hand out until she gives him her plate, then serving her a little bit from each dish before handing it back and serving himself. "And since you never did tell me what your favorite is, I thought we'd try something else."

If beef and chicken were a thank you, fish and pork are an apology. It's a silent apology, but one nonetheless. He's being incredibly careful with her tonight, drastically different from the man who'd pinned her to the door the night before.

Though he's subtle about it, she knows he's watching her as they eat, mentally filing away her reactions to the food. So, by the end of the meal he knows that she likes the potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms which were cooked with the pork roast but not the pork itself, preferring the stuffed trout, and that the courgettes were a miss entirely. The asparagus remain untouched on her plate even when John tries to cajole her into tasting them.

"They're good," he insists for the third time, picking up one of the spears from the serving dish and shoving it into his mouth. "See?"

Rose laughs at how ridiculous he's being, her earlier wantonness suffused by warmth for the man sitting across from her.

"Not working?"

She shakes her head. "No."

"All right. Then I'll give up. For now." His attempt at seriousness has her laughing again. John nods in the direction of the rest of the flat. "Come with me?"

"Always."

Chapter Text

Offering her his hand, John stands, walking with her into the center of the lounge. He surprises her by pulling a tiny remote from his pocket and pushing a button, filling the air with music. It's a soft jazzy tune she doesn't recognize, with a piano and saxophone carrying the melody but also featuring a few brass instruments.

"Dance with me?" They're standing so close it's simply a matter of him putting his hand on her waist when she nods her agreement. As soon as he can, he steps off, trusting her to follow. What seems like seconds later, they've barely found their fit when the song ends, but another follows close on its heels.

It has been so long since she was last out dancing and she's missed this, the gentle swaying with a partner that is at the same time so different and so similar to sex. John's a natural, not that she'd doubted he would be, leading her effortlessly on a path around the lounge that avoids his furniture. He dances the way he makes love, confidently and proficiently, guiding her with him rather than dragging her along.

Yet another song starts, but he only pauses long enough to adjust to the new rhythm, their feet falling into a pattern that is little more than drifting back and forth. It's a smokier piece, slower than the last two, the first several bars predominantly piano. John knows this one better than the others, or maybe it speaks to him on a deeper level, because though he'd anticipated every sweeping note and subtle tempo change before, this time he begins to hum when the trumpet comes in with the melody. His arm moves to surround her in much the same way he'd done when she first arrived that evening, the palm of his hand resting in the center of her back, holding her close.

Rose curls into him again as well, the hand that up until this song had been fitted in his moving to rest on his chest above his heart, his own hand covering it and holding it in place. She rests her head on his chest, listening to his humming as it reverberates throughout his body. Somehow she must subconsciously know the song, too, because after what sounds like an ad-lib piano solo, she starts to hum with him when the trumpet picks up the melody again.

John's breath quickens, but he doesn't break the rhythm of their feet or stop his own humming. Maybe he squeezes her for just a second, maybe she just imagines it. When the song goes into the last repetition of the chorus, she can feel that it's about to wind down even before the trumpet slows as it goes into the last notes, the piano finishing the piece with the musical equivalent of a waterfall. Then there's another brief pause before the next song starts, but John's feet have come to a stop.

Curious to know why, she lifts her head and is astounded by the depth of emotion in his eyes as he looks down at her. There it is, everything that she wants from him, laid bare for her to see. 'Yours' they scream as they draw nearer.

She can feel his heart beating faster beneath her hand. The only thing separating them is their breath, erratic puffs that pass through lips which are already parted. They're so close that if she were to lick her lips right now, there's a decent chance she'd lick him as well. But still he hovers, mindful even in this moment of the sole restriction she'd put on him in the beginning. She wants to take both paths simultaneously, inch her mouth forward to press her lips against his, finally completing this thing between them, and also turn away from what will inevitably end in heartache.

In a flash, the lyrics to the song they've just danced to fill her mind.

Give me your lips for just a moment,
And my imagination will make that moment live.
Give me what you alone can give,
A kiss to build a dream on.

A dream, that's all this is, and though it's lovely, she has to wake up. He's absorbed in the moment is all, probably still partially caught in the wake of his emotions from the night before, compounded by the date-like atmosphere he's created tonight. Rose turns her face, inadvertently pressing her cheek against his lips.

It takes him a second to figure it out, but only a second, his whole body seeming to deflate when he does. He exhales hard against her skin, tilting his face so that his nose takes the place of his lips and his forehead rests at her temple.

The silence stretches out, and as she's struggling to find the words that she knows need to be said, he straightens, drawing in upon himself a bit. "Come to bed with me."

Rose shivers at the tone of his voice. It's dark and unyielding and a far cry from the man who'd jokingly tried to get her to eat her veggies -- was that only twenty minutes ago? As if to emphasize the change, his fingers press sharply into her back, and she is once again reminded of the man who'd taken her against the door the night before.

* * *

John feels it rising again, the need to claim the woman in his arms, make her his, and this time he worries that sex alone won't be enough. He loves her, and maybe it is just foolishness on his part, but everything tonight had seemed to indicate that she feels the same way -- until she'd rejected his kiss.

He leads her to the bedroom, surprising himself at every step with the control he's displaying by not dragging her to him and fitting his mouth across hers. Part of that control is found through making a mental list of the reasons she might have for not wanting to kiss him right now as opposed to ever. Unfortunately, when he inevitably counters each trivial reason he comes up with, the ache inside of him grows stronger and his willpower weakens.

If he assumes that she cares about him as well, then the only reason that isn't entirely superficial is that he's still a client. He can have quiet meals with her every night they're together, dance with her, tell her how beautiful she is, make love to her, love her, and it will all be meaningless because money changes hands.

But how to tell her that he wants to be more to her than just a client, that he wants to be a part of her life, and wants her to be more a part of his than just a weekly visitor? Because he wants it all: mornings, lazy Saturday afternoons watching telly, and dinners accidentally burned beyond recognition. He doesn't want there to be other men in her life, certainly not any who would be allowed to share her bed.

With a growl he pulls her closer, the words clawing their way up his throat. She gasps and moulds her body to his, her golden eyes shining brightly when she looks up at him, leaving him struggling for words that had been on the tip of his tongue. It's been less than 24 hours since he was able to put a name to his feelings, maybe she's not ready to admit to herself - much less him - that hers have changed as well, but it is there for him to see.

I love you, he thinks, resting his thumb along her jawline. It's the first time he's put those three words together even in the confines of his mind. They calm him, bleed away the growing aggression and leave him with just the warmth of wanting her. But he can't say them to her, not yet.

He lowers his lips to her cheek, testing the boundaries she's set for him by once again straddling the line between her cheek and her mouth. As before, she allows the contact, and he revels in it, lingering longer than he should, his hands deceptively chaste at her hips. She moans and he shifts against her, on the verge of turning it into a proper kiss when he remembers himself and ends it, moving his mouth to her neck instead.

The love bite he left on her neck the night before is still there, faded a bit, and the thought of darkening it tempts him. "I know for a fact," he mutters, his lips caressing the edge of the pink oval, "that you're not wearing any knickers underneath that dress."

She makes a noise that tugs at him. She wants him, wants this, and that has nothing to do with money.

"Did you do that for me?" he asks, pulling back to look at her.

A moment of confusion passes over her features before she understands. He's never initiated any kind of role playing with her before. "Yes," she replies shyly, "I thought you might like it."

Oh, she's good at this. He almost believes her, and he knows exactly where her knickers are. For the second time that night, John lowers one hand to the hem of her dress and skims it up her thigh, finding her exactly the way he wants her: bare. "Part your legs for me."

She complies, her whole body jolting in his arms when he brushes one finger lazily across her clit. She's biting her bottom lip so tightly the skin caught by her teeth has turned white. He tuts softly, lowering his mouth to her ear so that he hardly has to speak above a whisper. "So sensitive. That's good." Easing his finger farther in, he finds her core drenched with moisture. "I was watching you eat. Sitting there so innocently, but hiding this secret. I couldn't help but wish it was me you were parting your lips around."

Her hands have come up and she's clawing at his shoulders as he circles her opening carefully, never dipping inside. "John."

"Yes?"

"Please."

"Please what --" He catches himself before an endearment can slip from his lips. "What do you want?"

"You inside of me."

John nips at her ear. "No, no. What were you thinking about as we ate, as you sat there, growing ever wetter? How did you imagine me taking you?"

He can hear her licking her lips as she considers the options. "Me," she breathes, "on your lap."

"Good. And then what?"

"You slip your hand under my skirt."

"Just like I'm doing now?"

"Uh-huh."

"And what would I find?"

There's a smile to her voice. "I'm not wearing any knickers."

"That's good. What else?"

"I'm wet - soaking, because I can feel you hard against my bum."

"Your bum? You're not facing me?"

"No. Away."

"Away. I like it." He turns her, wrapping one arm across her chest to hold her in place as he returns his finger to her opening and his mouth to her ear. He presses his hips into her so that she can feel how hard he is. "Like this?"

"Uh-huh."

"What would you do? Feeling me there?" She wiggles against him. It doesn't have the same effect as if he was actually sitting down, so he moves her with him as he backs into the chair in the corner of the room and settles her onto his lap. "Show me."

It's the same maneuver she'd done when she was sitting on his lap in the Cabinet Room. It leaves him just as breathless now as it did then. As a reward, he allows his finger to enter her just enough to tease while gathering a bit of moisture that he then uses to seek out her clit.

She keens as he finds it, circles it once before pressing against it gently. "Oh, God."

"Don't come," he cautions.

An anguished plea is her answer.

"Don't come." It's an order this time.

"I can't -- John, I'm so close."

He removes his hand completely, and she cries out in disappointment.

"What happens next?"

"What?"

"You're sitting on my lap. We're at dinner. What happens next?"

"John --"

"Finish it."

"You're feeling impatient," she says, the words rushed. "Dinner's almost over and you've been so neglected. I hear you lower your zip, slowly."

With a smile, John shifts her so that he can reach his zipper. She shudders as the sound of him lowering it meets her ears. He adjusts his trousers and pants to release himself. "And what do I do with this?"

She starts to turn but he stops her. He smirks. He's not the only one feeling impatient.

"We're still at dinner, remember?"

"You're under my skirt." He covers himself with the skirt and she immediately presses her bum against his straining erection. "I can feel you. You're so hot even against my fevered skin. So hard but soft at the same time. I shift slightly, rising from your lap and you're ready for me when I come down onto you." She takes a deep breath but doesn't move.

It takes him a moment to realize that she's not going to. "Why did you stop?"

"Condom, John."

"I don't suppose that dress has pockets?"

"Only one, but no condom."

He releases her. "Go. Come back with more than one." She stands, but he grabs her arm before she can even take a step away, pulling her down so that she's leaning over him. He places a kiss on her cheek. "Hurry back."

Her eyes are dark, more brown than their usual gold; her smile is brilliant, infectious, and he smiles back at her like the lovestruck fool he is. He wants nothing more than to kiss the smile from her lips, but he lets her go instead, watching as she bounds out of the room. He's stroking himself idly when she returns, and her mouth falls open when she sees him.

Dropping the condoms, she kneels at his feet, her eyes never leaving his as she replaces his hand with her own. She continues the lazy rhythm he'd established, familiar enough with the reactions of his body by now to know that it won't be enough to make him come. After a moment, she leans forward and wraps her lips around the head of his cock. They break eye contact for the first time when his flutter closed. He thinks to stop her, this isn't how he wanted this evening to go, but her touch is still gentle, easy, the only purpose to give pleasure.

At one time she would have put one of the condoms on him first, but it's been weeks since the last time she did that. He's glad. This is far more intimate, it feels like something she does because she enjoys it, not because she has to.

He looks back down at her and brushes a lock of hair away from her face. Her hand is resting on his thigh and he laces his fingers with hers, not missing the way she closes her eyes and squeezes him back.

"Stop," he says, his voice thick and gravelly. "Come up here."

Releasing him, she picks up one of the condoms and stands, handing it to him as she starts moving to take off her dress.

"No, leave it on. We're at dinner, remember?"

He puts the condom on and she returns to her place on his lap. "You shift and rise up..." This time she does and he holds himself so that she can sink down on him. She is so tight John has to make a conscious effort not to start thrusting into her immediately. When she's flush against him, he wraps his arm around her waist to hold her still. "Slow and easy. Don't come. If you feel yourself getting close, just stop moving."

She looks over her shoulder at him. "That's only going to work once or twice. After that I'm not going to be able to stop it."

"Then we'll do it once or twice," he tells her patiently.

The corner of her mouth twitches and then her lips press tighter together. She starts to move, but it's not long before she stops, her fingers digging into his legs just above his knees, her whole body shuddering from the restraint she's exhibiting. Around him, her passage clenches so tightly it nearly tips him over the edge.

"Good." He rubs her back, waits for her to catch her breath. "Can you go again?"

She's already shaking her head before he finishes the question. "No. Not a chance."

"That's okay. You did well." He coaxes her to sit up straight and places a few kisses along her skin where the back of the dress doesn't cover. His hand rests low on her abdomen adding just a bit of pressure there, though whether he intends it to dissuade her from moving again or encourage her, he doesn't know. "Stand up. Let's move this to the bed."

Her limbs are weak but she is enthusiastic, standing and helping him to the bed, her hands already reaching for his buttons. He wraps his hands around hers and brings them to his lips, placing a kiss on each. "We're going to stay dressed for this one." He lies down on the bed and adjusts his trousers and pants before inviting her to join him.

After quickly checking that the condom is still secure, she straddles him, her dress flaring out around them as her body once again joins with his. Her bottom lip caught between her teeth, her eyes heavy-lidded and focused on his face, she begins to ride him. John keeps his hands light, skimming over her arms and raising goose flesh in his wake.

"John?" she queries, her motions becoming more deliberate.

"Yes, beautiful?"

She grunts. "John." 

"What is it, gorgeous?" He doesn't really have to ask. He knows what she's asking, knows that it's too late for him to deny her even if he wanted to - has been too late since the moment she took him inside of her again.

Her voice ratchets higher. "John!" He can feel her tightening around him, the way the rocking of her hips has become an almost mechanical grinding. She's nearly lost control of her own body.

"Come." It's barely a whisper, but it's not as though she could have waited for permission anyway. She cries out in relief, her back arching hard and her arms thrown out as she trembles above him. His name falls from her lips over and over, an almost musical litany, while her climax stretches out.

He manages to hold out long enough for her to collapse bonelessly on top of him, where she is too sated to even move when he presses one hand against the base of her spine and comes hard inside of her with barely a thrust of his own.

Chapter Text

The world around them seems to slow down for a time. She is completely relaxed against him, humming appreciatively as he strokes her hair, occasionally moving under his hand like a cat being petted. John feels her heartbeat measuring out the seconds at a frantic pace, and he follows its steady progression back to normal. 

When he can no longer ignore what needs to be done, he shifts her off of him and onto the bed, smiling at her muffled noise of protest. He places a kiss in her hair. "I'll be right back." A moment later he's sitting on the edge of the bed and she's reaching for him as soon as the mattress dips under his weight. "So," he says, deliberately keeping himself just out of her reach. "Impressive?" 

She grumbles at him from under the curtain of her hair. His answering laugh has barely cleared his throat when she springs at him. It's clumsy and playful, and she ultimately only succeeds in throwing herself into his arms. 

"Oomph. Hello there." 

"Hi," she breathes through a brilliant smile. 

John brushes her hair back from her face, his eyes falling to her lips. Not being able to kiss her eats at him, especially in moments like this when she's in his arms, her face still flushed from their lovemaking, and her whole body radiating what he is now certain is love for him. Their near miss in the lounge returns to the forefront of his mind, a sad reminder of the elation and hope he'd briefly felt before she'd turned her face to offer him her cheek. 

Perhaps becoming wealthy and powerful has spoiled the fisherman's son, but John is not, by nature, a patient man, and his patience with this seems to have started at an all-time low. There is no longer any question that he will taste her lips. It is now only a matter of when and whether it will be his patience or her resolve which crumbles first. 

Her eyes follow the line of his gaze and she blushes a bit when she works out what he's focused on. Her whole body swells against him when she begins to draw deeper breaths, her pupils dilating as renewed arousal courses through her system. His hand tightens at her waist at the realization that the idea of kissing him has created this response, and his heart soars at the further confirmation that there is some feeling for him within her. 

He closes the distance between them, not in the way he most wants, but by resting his forehead against hers. I want to kiss you, he thinks, his own breath ragged. I want to tell you that I'm ready for this relationship to be more. I want to take you places outside of these four walls, proudly have you on my arm in the daylight. "I want..." he is horrified to hear himself mutter. But there is also a tiny pinprick of relief that comes with voicing even those two relatively non-incriminating words. However, so much of their time together has been focused on what he wants, and he knows that for this one thing it has to be what she wants. So, if she needs more time to come to grips with her feelings, he can give that to her. 

"What do you want, John Smith?" she prompts huskily, her breath hot and sensual on his face. 

"I want you," he replies, and it's the truest words he's ever spoken to her. 

She shifts on his lap so that she is sitting up rather than reclining, her hands reaching for the top button of his Oxford. He stops her, opening the top two buttons himself, holding her gaze the whole time. Leaning forward again, John moves aside the neckline of her dress to place a kiss on her collarbone. While he's distracted, her fingers find the V of his shirt and slide down his chest. 

John stands and slips off his jacket. It's already so wrinkled he doesn't even bother to hang it up, instead tossing it over the chair in the corner. She kneels on the bed and reaches out to help him with his shirt, but again he stops her. "Let me." 

He watches her as he finishes opening his shirt. The actual act of undressing is far less complex than the weight he feels, and he hopes she understands what he's doing as he takes off each piece of his clothes, laying himself bare before her - for her. As the pile on the chair grows, he sheds more of his public persona and becomes the man who makes time for her, the man who loves her. The last sock removed, he stands before her, soaking in the feeling of her eyes as she rakes them over his skin. 

Slowly, she reaches up and, moving at the same speed he'd employed, slides her hand inside the neckline of her dress, pushing it toward her shoulder. He steps closer to her and gently pulls her hand away. "May I?"

In answer, she lowers her hand to her side and squares her shoulders. The front of the dress is two triangle-shaped pieces that overlap to form a V at her waist without buttons or zippers, and he continues where she left off, pushing the dress off of her right shoulder before repeating the motion with the left. 

She isn't wearing a bra beneath it and is stunningly gorgeous, curvy and well-proportioned, confident in her nakedness. John wraps his large hand around her breast and pinches the nipple between his thumb and forefinger. She arches into him with a small moan. He drops tiny kisses and nips all over her chest, hovering over the peaks of her nipples but not actually touching them. 

"John." 

"Yes --" love -- He bites back the endearment, hoping what little he has said sounds sufficiently like a question and not something unfinished. Loving her has loosened his lips, it seems, a dangerous development when he's certain she won't react well to such things until they stop tip-toeing around their feelings. 

He wraps his lips around a nipple and whatever she might have said dissolves into another moan. Generally during sex she wants him to be rough with her breasts, grasping and kneading the flesh, tugging and pulling on the nipples with his fingers, drawing the peaks deep into his mouth and relentlessly suckling. Before sex she prefers gentle attention, licks and kisses, nibbles and nips, all the better if there is a slow build from one into the other. 

A hand rests on the back of his head, holding him to her and in response he places his hand low on her waist, just below where her dress is bunched up. After a moment, he puts his other hand between her shoulder blades, then, in one motion, lifts her enough to direct her into a lying position and guides her down to the bed. His mouth never leaves her breast. 

"All right," she concedes, laughing when her head hits the pillow, "that was kind of impressive." 

John lifts his head to stare at her incredulously. "'Kind of?'" he repeats, scandalized. "I'll have you know that move was very impressive and difficult." 

She shrugs but snakes a hand between them and encircles his cock, tugging purposefully at his length. "What's wrong, John, need your ego stroked?" 

He replies with a less than impressive "Ungh," because, really, she's ridiculously bloody good at that. He returns his mouth to her breast, tightly ruched and already glistening with his spit, since most of his higher brain functions have decided to take an immediate unscheduled holiday and it happens to be near his mouth. 

As one they both steadily increase the urgency of their ministrations until it is all John can do to only figuratively rip the dress off of her, tossing it over his shoulder without a care to where it goes. But what starts off as an eager welcome back into her arms vanishes almost before he registers it when she stiffens beneath him. "John, condom."

He looks to the nightstand, expecting to see the strip of condoms she always places there while he showers, belatedly remembering that they're still on the floor by the chair. "I'll get one." It takes only a second and then he returns to his place between her legs, smoothing the condom down over himself. 

That's when he notices for the first time the eight tiny marks along her hips, four on each side. The bruises are pale, superficial only, and would have been healed long before he saw her again if they were keeping to their once a week schedule. In all of the time he's known her, she's never had marks made by other lovers on her body, yet, combined with the one on her neck, she's currently wearing nine courtesy of him. A part of him is appalled that he'd been so rough with her, but the part of him that put them there in the first place is thrilled to see the evidence of his possessiveness on her body.

John runs his thumb purposefully over her hip, drawing her attention to the bruises as well. She looks from her hip to his face, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. Once again, his mouth nearly runs away from him and he has to stop himself before he can tell her exactly how those marks make him feel. 

Maybe he can't say it, but he can certainly show her. "Okay?" is all he allows himself, forcing the word to encompass both meanings. With a nod she confirms her readiness, and then he slides inside of her.

Perhaps the lengthy foreplay, something typically common early in the evenings, but rare between their bouts, has added to the urgency, but it's clear that this will not be a slow, gentle lovemaking. He thrusts hard and deep, drawing sharp cries from her that wash over him, doing more to bring him closer to orgasm than his own motions. 

"Come for me," he pants, leaning closer to her. He's at the edge of the precipice, but he wants them to fall together. "Please --" love "-- you are so beautiful. I want to see you come apart."

The pitch of her cries changes, the beginning of the end; triumphant, he increases his rhythm, faster and a touch harder. She begins to swear as her inner muscles start to clench sporadically around him, and he loves the dichotomy of her life, how she's this beautiful, refined lady who swears so fluently when she is in the throes of orgasm. He loves how he can turn her into that person. He loves her -- it's blinding when his own climax hits him, stunning in its intensity. In the back of his mind John processes the noises she is making, but for a time, his focus is entirely on his own pleasure.

Beneath him, she giggles giddily, and that's new, but it only adds to the moment, not detracts. He shifts his upper body, resting his elbows on either side of her face, but leaves their lower bodies intimately joined. The two of them are curled so tightly around each other there's no telling where one of them ends and the other begins. "And what, exactly, is so funny?" 

Her giggles fade to a smile that is soft, tongue-touched and sweet. A hand that had been on his bum slides up his back to play in the ends of his hair. "Nothing. Everything. This. Us."

He thinks he knows what she means. On one level they're both denying themselves, but on another, the bond they share only seems to deepen every time they're together. She's no longer just a lover, she's his love, a fact that avoiding the words won't change. 

"We're good together," he says, rolling them so that they are lying on their sides, carefully so as not to dislodge himself.

Resting her head against his chest, she hums affirmatively as she wraps her arm around his waist. "Fantastic," she agrees, borrowing his word as she burrows into him.

They're even more tangled together than they were when he was still atop her, and he knows he's going to have to move soon to throw away the condom, but he doesn't want to leave her embrace. If this were a normal relationship, he'd be talking idly about their plans for the next day, but he can't find the words for the things he wants to say, doesn't know if she would accept an invitation to return a third day.

She yawns, and that's new, too. She's never seemed tired before and has only ever fallen asleep in his bed once, something he's certain she hadn't intended to do.

Carding his fingers through her hair, he kisses her forehead and she nuzzles against him. "You could... stay," he says, his confidence faltering halfway through, the final word only a whisper. He'd made the same offer the night before, and then had been forced to listen as she offered him a few petty reasons why she couldn't. 

Her body tenses against him, instantly fully alert again. "John, you know that's not possible."

It is possible, he wants to shout, all of his earlier good intentions threatening to fail, but you're too scared to let it happen. Somehow he manages to hold his tongue, knowing that to do otherwise would only result in an argument; his silence speaks eloquently enough, though.

The moment over, he's suddenly very aware of the discomfort of the sweat between their bodies and the necessity of removing the condom. Disentangling himself from her, he gets up and walks to the bin, taking the moment to refocus and remind himself that they're coming from two different places in their lives. He's older, with the experience of having lost love; she's in a profession which makes a point to separate love and sex.

As he returns to the bed, she gives him a hesitant, sympathetic smile. It helps to see that she knows she's upset him, even if knowing doesn't change her answer. His expectations of her have shifted based on his own feelings, which, as much as he hates to admit it, isn't fair to her. 

John kneels at her feet and takes her gently by the ankle, separating her legs while his eyes ask permission. She nods and he lies flat, placing his face inches away from her sex. He'll give her as much time as she needs, but in the meantime, he'll hold her to him in every way she allows, love her the way she deserves, and pray it will be enough. However, with only three weeks remaining until the election, he can feel their time slipping away.

Chapter Text

The way he'd been with her tonight had curled her toes, and, for a few moments here and there, she'd actually believed that he meant every word of what he was saying with looks and touches. And then, finally, "You could stay," his voice so vulnerable. 

Before he'd asked, she'd been so close to falling asleep, thoroughly exhausted and completely relaxed in John's embrace, the one place she feels truly comfortable. Thanks to her recent light work schedule, she's been sleeping more during the nights than the days, making it easy for sleep to threaten her.

His blue eyes had been incredibly sad when she'd told him no, but then they'd hardened into anger before returning to sadness. Though she had desperately wanted to give in, to allow herself to love him like he deserves, they can't escape the reality of their respective lives. They are good together, yes, but he is exactly the kind of person she can't ask anything more from. It wouldn't be fair to him, she thinks, and with that thought firmly in mind, she kisses his forehead and leaves.

It's not until she's nearly home that she remembers her knickers are still in his pocket. That's two pair, now, he has in his possession. She'd feel differently about it if he was a creeper, but it's John, so she only smiles about it as she makes a mental note to get them back next time.

On Tuesday she spends a few extra minutes while getting dressed covering the remnants of John's love bite with make-up. Though the marks on her hips are long gone, the one on her neck is faded but still recognizable. Not that she thinks Bill will notice, but it's considered rude to go to a client with another lover's marks of possession on your body. With a shiver she remembers how John had been the night he made that mark, rough and so close to unhinged yet still treating her with care. Loving him aside, he's still one of her favorite lovers. 

When she arrives at the hotel room, she can hear the telly blaring from the hallway, and her attention is divided from the moment the door opens between her client - thankfully an understanding regular - and John on the telly talking about his plans for his next term should he win re-election. 

There are few pleasantries exchanged before Bill's lips skim down her jaw, and she barely remembers in time to offer him the side of her neck without the make-up. She knows, as his lips close on her skin, that he won't leave a mark, he knows better, but he enjoys pretending.

"When is the election?" 

"Just over two weeks, love. Where have you been?" he replies. 

Lowering her to the sofa now that what he considers an acceptable amount of foreplay is done, Bill lays his rangy body on top of her. He likes to imagine she's his secretary, that they're so overcome with passion in his office in the middle of the day that he throws her to the sofa and makes wild, passionate love to her. Belle knows from experience he won't undress, only releasing himself from his pants enough to get the job done, and the crotchless knickers with suspenders she's wearing underneath her professional-looking skirt means that she won't have to bother with it either. It's all part of the fantasy. 

A few seconds later, he's got a condom on and is sliding into her. He's a mediocre lover at best, concerned enough to want to ensure that she comes every time, but unfortunately not knowledgeable enough to know the difference between the real thing and her faking it. And he never lasts longer than about the time it takes to boil water for tea anyway. She pities his wife - and the secretary, if he ever manages to act upon his impulses. 

Belle lets her eyes unfocus as John's voice flows over her. It's not quite enough to convince her mind that she's with him. Bill is about the right height, but no amount of squinting is going make him look anything like John. So, she sneaks glances at the telly when Bill closes his eyes, and she gasps when, for no apparent reason, John sticks his hand into his inside breast pocket and adjusts something there. Her knickers, she thinks, though only the two of them would know that. The movement seems to comfort him and he returns his attention to the questions with a renewed interest and calm. 

Apparently her gasp makes Bill assume that whatever he's doing is working for her, so he redoubles his efforts. She comes a few seconds later, harder than she has before with anyone other than John, and for the first time ever with Bill. It confuses him, but his body is quicker to react than he is, sending him over after her. 

"Um," he says when he stands. 

She stands as well, smoothing out her skirt and noting idly that her blouse has not even shifted. "Same time next month?" 

"Um." 

Placing a kiss on his left cheek, she pats his right affectionately, then glances once more at the telly before picking up her purse and the envelope with her money in it on the way out. 

Her relationship with Stephanie seems to be improving, because on Thursday she has another appointment. The hotel room is nice, spacious, and all hers for the next two hours. Stephanie had called at the last minute to let her know that the client would not arrive until later, but that she was being offered full run of the room and room service until then, as compensation for 'her troubles.' It's rare, but it happens, flights get delayed, work unexpectedly runs after hours, (wives take longer than expected to get redirected), and she's left to her own devices for a while. 

She throws her garment bag over the back of the sofa, having elected to get dressed after she's had an opportunity to take advantage of the client's generosity. It's such an inconvenience when this happens, she laughs dryly to herself, nearly squealing in pleasure a moment later when she takes in the sheer size of the spa tub in the en suite.

"Mr. Yana," she says a few hours later as she opens the door and leans against the jamb. The time alone has done her good, and she's thoroughly relaxed even though she'd finally had to ditch the fluffy dressing gown in order to get ready on time.

"It's Professor, actually," a familiar voice responds, and her insides go cold. 

He looks as smug as ever standing in the hallway, his lips pursed together in a way that makes his cheeks hollow unattractively. "Mr. Saxon?" She looks up and down the hallway around him looking for Mr. Yana or, quite frankly, anyone who could be used as a diversion. "I was expecting someone else." 

"No, you see, my dear, that's the beauty of this." He grabs her elbow and steps forward. "Yana is an alias I like to use sometimes." 

Her heart starts beating even faster. "You're Yana?" 

The look he gives her indicates that he doesn't think she's keeping up. "I couldn't very well book the room under my own name, could I?" He kicks the door closed behind him as he continues to push her further into the room. "Now, where's my warm welcome?"

She goes to him, mostly because she's getting paid to, making her personal feelings on the matter irrelevant, but also because her things are strewn about the room and there's no way she'd be able to grab even her purse - with her Rose Tyler ID inside - before he would stop her if she tried to make a break for the door.

* * *

There are a lot of things she's grateful for, she thinks as he leaves the bed to dispose of the condom, but primarily, it's that men are such predictable creatures of habit. Though he's younger than John by several years, Saxon has a fraction of the stamina, and he's never seemed remotely interested in going more than once. With any luck, she'll be on a bus heading home soon.

She sits up and moves closer to the edge of the bed.

"Where are you going?" he asks, walking back to the bed. 

"I was going to get dressed."

He grabs her arm and jerks her back to him. "I'm not done with you yet."

Belle tries futilely to pry his fingers from her arm, feeling more like Rose from the Estate, who'd been forced to learn at an early age where to kick boys to get them to leave her alone, than the professional she is. "You're hurting me," she says, trying to exude a calm that she really doesn't feel.

"I can see why he likes you."

"He?" she asks, but the fear is taking on a sickening edge of dread.

His hand tightens on her arm. "John."

"John who?" she tries. "I know a lot of johns."

Saxon chuckles darkly. "Oh, isn't that sweet? Trying to protect one of your, no doubt, favorite customers. I mean, of course, the Right Honorable John Smith, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Quite the notch in your proverbial belt, isn't he, my dear?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes," he argues, leaning closer to her, "you do. But dear, sweet Stephanie doesn't know you're still seeing him, does she?"

Something in her face must give her away because he's leering at her in a completely different way now as the pieces start to click in her mind. She's never had to tell Stephanie more than once that she was declining a client, and yet here she is, meeting a third time with Harry Saxon, John's political rival.

She hopes, despite the evidence to the contrary, that this was just a case of her madam not knowing that Yana was Saxon. The pettiness after she'd refused to divulge John's secrets had been one thing, and Rose suspects it would have eventually blown over, but this something else entirely. Whether it's an honest mistake, a punishment, or something darker, she and Stephanie need to have a serious talk.

"Don't you worry, though, my dear," he promises, his voice turning silky, "after I unseat him, you'll still be welcome at Number 10."

"You're hurting me," she says again, slowly and as calmly as she can manage, focusing on the present. Thoughts of John and Stephanie have to wait if she wants to get out of this unscathed. Her initial impression of Harry Saxon hasn't changed and she fears the wrong word or motion right now could result in a serious injury. As it is, she doesn't know how she's going to explain to John tomorrow about the bruise she's sure Saxon is leaving behind on her arm.

But he continues to ignore her. "And what about your boyfriend? Does he treat you like a lady, tell you how special you are? Well, you and I both know the truth, don't we? All you are is a common whore." She flinches when he spits the word at her.

Saxon drags her off of the bed and toward the mirror above the dressing table. His hand is still wrapped tightly above her upper arm and it's him who makes their nakedness seem like a perversion to look upon. She feels the sting of tears behind her eyes as he touches her, but she won't allow them to fall, won't give him the satisfaction of believing that he's broken her.

He pushes her to her knees, and she's not at all surprised to see him hard again; from the beginning he'd gotten aroused when showing physical force. Finally releasing her arm, he tangles his hand in her hair, turning her head so that she can still see their reflection as he begins to stroke himself. It's over in minutes, but that's long enough for Rose to no longer recognizes the woman at his feet by the time he's done.

"Clean yourself up and get out," he barks, taking a step back from her.

Get outGet out. Get out. It's all she can think as she goes into the en suite. She's sweaty and covered in Saxon's come, but if he's letting her go, there's no way she's going to tempt fate by staying long enough to shower. Wetting a flannel, she cleans her face and hair as well as she can in quick, efficient motions.

He's there when she steps back into the bedroom, taking up far more space than such a slim man should rightfully be able to. Gathering her clothes in her arms, Rose moves to the lounge, hoping to get away from his gaze, but he follows her and stands in the doorway to watch as she dresses. 

"Give John my love," he says when she winces while stretching to hook her bra. The dress is torn, but she doesn't think it's bad enough that others will notice, so she puts it on as well instead of wasting precious seconds pulling her t-shirt and jeans out of the bottom of her garment bag.

Garment bag in one hand, purse in the other, she slips her shoes on at the door, still expecting to be stopped at any second.

"Think of me," he calls after her as she flees from the room.

Her arm is sore and already bruising before she gets to the lift. It's dark purple before the door of the cab she decides to splurge on closes. 

Rough sex is one thing, but not since Jimmy bloody Stone has she allowed herself to be manhandled, and she's certainly not going to put up with it now. Her decision is made before she steps into her flat, the resultant phone call merely for informational purposes.

"Stephanie, we need to talk."

Chapter Text

Rose wakes up before the sun rises and decides not to try to sleep any more since the few hours she'd managed to rest had been plagued by nightmares. In one it was Saxon, as he had been last night, rough and threatening. In another he was blond - though she can't imagine why - and Prime Minister, commanding her into a sick form of National Service as his mistress. The last one was John dragging her before Parliament and offering the talents of 'his whore' to anyone interested. That one bothers her the most, until she works out that her subconscious had put John's face on Saxon's body. She decides not to analyze it further. 

Her arm is stiff and painful, and the paracetamol she'd taken before bed has definitely worn off. After taking a couple more pills, she makes herself tea and toast, wondering idly if she'll be able to keep it down. Once the medicine starts working, she does a few exercises that will hopefully stop the arm from stiffening up again and realizes how lucky she is that Saxon is not left-handed, because John would definitely notice if she was favoring her right arm. 

Covering the bruise is going to be difficult, though, so there's a few hours where she tells herself that when John calls she's going to tell him she can't see him. But once he gets her on the phone that afternoon it's all she can do not to beg him to let her come over immediately. She needs reassurances she won't be able to ask for, but she'll gladly settle for holding him instead. They finally agree on six o'clock, which will be one of the earliest times she's ever arrived at Number 10. 

It's practically still the work day when she knocks on the black door a few minutes before six, smiling at Charles when he opens it for her. "Evening, Miss." 

"Good evening, Charles." 

Rose fights away tears as Charles goes through the motions of checking the visitors list for her name, even the black and white checkered tiles on the floor triggering her emotions. She's less patient when he requests her purse, fidgeting with nervous energy and barely stopping herself from rushing up the stairs while he rummages through it looking for goodness-knows-what. 

"Everything all right, Miss?" he asks when he hands her back her purse. Of course Charles would notice her distraction after more than six months of seeing her almost every week. It makes her wonder how she's going to fare against John's more intimate knowledge of her. 

"I'm fine, thank you, Charles. Do you need anything else?" 

He doesn't believe her, but seems to decide not to challenge her. "No, Miss. You can go up." 

"Thank you," she says again before hurrying up the stairs. 

The door to John's flat is open, and she can hear clinking and the low murmur of conversation before she even steps onto the second floor. The smells almost overpower her when she enters the room, and she takes in with a glance the white-jacketed young man from before who is unloading silver dishes from his serving cart. Her attention moves from him immediately to the other man in the room. "John," she breathes. 

He turns at the sound of his name, the smile when he first sees her fading a bit as confusion mars his brow, but by then she's already rushing across the room and into his waiting arms. 

"What's wrong?" he asks as she throws her arms around his neck. 

"Nothing," she replies, squeezing him tighter as she barely chokes back a sob. 

John huffs, but holds her, and after a moment the unbroken peace finally registers. "Send him away, John." 

The other man must have heard her because all John has to do is look up at him and the door closes a few seconds later. 

He nuzzles her ear and places a chaste kiss on her cheek. "Now will you tell me what's wrong?" 

"I'm here now, nothing's wrong." 

His shoulders slump a bit, but he says nothing, and she realizes how unfair it is to him as her friend and the man she loves that she's keeping this from him. But because he is also John Smith, she can't possibly tell him. 

He maneuvers them onto the couch, pulling her down onto his lap where they sit in silence for a few minutes. "I -- you -- I can help," he offers softly. "I want to help." 

She sits up, meets his eyes, caresses his cheek. "You are helping." 

John's eyes darken as his jaw sets. He opens his mouth and then closes it. His lips press together as his jaw tightens even further. 

"Come on," she says. "Our dinner is getting cold. I'm going to go freshen up and then we'll eat, yeah?" 

It takes him a second, but he nods slowly and then helps her off of his lap. 

She goes to the en suite in his bedroom rather than the loo off of the lounge for no reason save that it is farther away and will give her more time to compose herself again. One glance in the mirror, though, tells her why he doesn't believe her answer of 'nothing.' She hasn't shed a single tear, but her eyes are dull and red-rimmed from the effort of holding them back, and her cheeks are sunken in. She washes her face, only noticing when the cool water hits her skin how overheated she is. She's wiped off most of her make-up by the time she's done, so with a few more swipes she removes the rest as well. 

Rose is looking back at her by the time she finishes. So is John, standing imposingly at the door to the en suite, his blue eyes hard, his body tense as he watches her in the mirror. He moves out of the way when she places a hand on his chest, but he takes her arm when she passes him, pulling away as though he's been burned when she cries out. 

When the haze of the pain shooting up and down her arm clears, she sees John staring in disbelief at his hand, and Rose knows, even before she sees the stricken look on his face, that he's uncovered the bruise. The knowledge that she's going into this with the intention of lying to him - for his own good - sickens her while at the same time she's grateful for the fact that she's a far better liar than he is. 

"John?" Grabbing his chin, she turns his face toward her instead. "John, it's okay." 

"'It's okay?'" he spits, turning his hand to show her the makeup that rubbed off of her arm. "In what way is this possibly okay?"

"Because it's not what you're thinking."

"Oh! Oh, that's fantastic, that is," he replies, his Northern accent thick and filled with sarcasm, "because I'm definitely thinking I just uncovered a bruise on your arm that's roughly the size of a man's hand. A bruise that you tried to hide with make-up. But I'm a bit thick, me, so I'm glad you can explain how it's not what I'm thinking."

"It's just a bruise, John. It happens sometimes."

"And you think this is somehow okay?"

"He didn't hit me. This was an accident."

"An accident, that's rich." Then his voice hardens, "Who is he?"

"No. You know I can't tell you that. No one ever hears your name so I'm certainly not going to break trust with him by telling you his."

"Fine," he growls, and Rose can tell it is most definitely not fine. "But I don't want you to see him again."

She recoils, despite the fact that is her exact intention. "You can't dictate that."

"He hurt you."

"It was an accident. He grabbed me just right and it left a bruise. Months now you've known me, have I ever shown signs of being abused?"

"No," he bites off the word, a grudging admission.

"That's because I'm careful. I don't spend my nights walking the streets, and the clients I do take have to be checked out first."

"I don't like it."

"It's my job, John."

"I don't like it," he says again, forcefully this time. He's saying something different, though, has moved passed not liking that she was hurt and has moved on to not liking her profession. His words stir something primal inside of her.

"You don't get a say. It's my life. I chose this." If he were anyone else she'd have stormed out by now instead of allowing this to turn into a domestic -- stormed out and removed his name from her list of accepted clientèle. But this needs to happen between them. They've both gotten too comfortable with each other over the last few months, both forgotten what the real basis of their relationship is. 

"I don't like it!"

"Did you think you were the only one? I have dozens of clients, John. Clients: men who pay me money to have sex with them."

Cradling the back of her head, he pushes her against the wall, his lips already burning a trail of fire down to the pulse point of her neck, his other hand roughly covering her breast. "Oh, God, yes!" she cries. He's aggressive - possessive, if she wants to put an accurate name to it - pinning her to the wall with nothing but his hips, but it's gorgeous what he's doing to her with just his mouth and hand.

He's taken control away from her, but she's letting him, barely stopping herself from begging him to continue, to move faster, to give her more. There's going to be another love bite on her neck by the time he's done, but she doesn't care. She can feel him, straining where he's pressing into her stomach, and he's got no right to claim her like this, but she wants him so badly she may just implode if he doesn't take her soon.

He pulls away from her, swiping the back of his hand across his mouth. The same hand runs over his head. "Stop me," he growls. "Right here, right now, before this goes any further, or so help me I won't be able to stop myself. Tell me you don't want this."

She pulls him closer.

Without another word, John grabs the bottom of her shirt and drags it over her head. He steps away from her slightly as it passes between them, his eyes as dark as a storm when he returns. "I don't like that other men get to touch you. I don't like that they get to see you like this."

"No one sees me like this," she admits breathlessly. "No one has ever seen me like this."

He starts to lean toward her, but stops just as quickly, and Rose can almost see the argument taking place inside of him. When he moves again he's determined, but it's not until she feels his hand return to clench around the back of her neck that she figures out what he intends to do.

She could stop him. Despite his strong words, she's confident that he'd release her and walk away if she asked him to, probably grumbling all the way, but he'd never hurt her. She could - and should - put an end to this right now before it goes any further.

Instead, she nearly sobs with relief when his lips finally close over hers. The kiss is punishing, nips that are just shy of biting and a tongue too demanding to soothe them. But she returns it as best she can, enthusiasm making up for a lack of finesse. Ignoring the pain in her arm, she runs her hands over his close-cropped hair, hating that he keeps it so short because she would really love to have something to tug on right now.

John lifts her and carries her the few feet to the bed, dropping her so that she bounces when she hits the mattress, and is already sliding his jeans over his hips when she stills.

He runs his eyes down her body and it's enough for her to remember that she needs to undress too. But her motions are sluggish because of the pain and before she can shimmy out of her skirt, John joins her on the bed. He ghosts a kiss over the bruise and lowers her arm to the bed then takes over undressing her. 

His hands are gentle, and it's John, so even though he doesn't waste a single motion, every inch of skin he uncovers gets caressed. They're both naked and he's between her thighs before he moves to kiss her again, and oh, she hates the hesitation in his eyes as he lowers his lips to hers. 

Rose meets him halfway, and with a whimper his whole body relaxes into her. John rests his weight on his elbows and frames her face with his hands as his lips move against hers. This is no typical first kiss, sweet and tentative, nor is it another glorious assertion of dominance like the one they'd shared earlier. No, they kiss like lovers long parted and now reunited, hungry and desperate. He curls around her, throwing his entire being into the kiss, his tongue sweeping into her mouth to explore her thoroughly and without reservation.

After a moment, his hips start to rock against her. He's breathless and panting, and seemingly unwilling to break the kiss, diving back in immediately after every inhale he manages from the side of his mouth. It's driving her crazy, the slide of his tongue against hers, the press of his cock against her clit, the noises of need and pleasure he's making in the back of his throat. She's never come like this before, but she's close, it's going to happen.

Then he changes the angle of his hips so that he slips into her and she screams out her release before he's settled fully inside of her. 

"That's gorgeous, that is," he crows as he starts to move, prolonging her pleasure. "Yes, come for me."

She's crying by the time he finally lets her down, hot tears rolling down the side of her face. John kisses her again, losing finesse when his hips stutter as he follows her over, his mouth open wide against hers. 

Rose kisses him back to awareness, sucking his bottom lip into her mouth and placing little busses all over his face. John's smile blossoms slowly as his eyes refocus, and he catches her lips with his own. This kiss is tender and sweet - loving, though she wouldn't dare say the word out loud - and she thinks how nice it would be to learn all of John Smith's kisses. 

He breaks the kiss and slides out of her, swearing under his breath, and not in a good way, when his eyes fall to where he's just left her.

"What's wrong?" 

"Condom." 

"What about it?" 

"I didn't use one." 

"It's okay. I'm clean, John. You don't have to worry." His cheek twitches at the unintentional reminder of her profession, and Rose blushes hard when she belatedly realizes that an STI is probably not what he's concerned about. 

She's about to tell him about the implant and the diaphragm, and how condoms are really just to prevent STIs, help with clean-up, and to give the clients a bit of added peace of mind. Her methods are probably on the verge of extreme overkill, but in two years she's never had a pregnancy scare, and she likes it that way. However, she doesn't actually get a single word of the explanation out, because John is studying her, and it's remarkably similar to the way he looked before he first kissed her. Then he covers her with his body and plunges back inside.

"Oh, God!" she cries out in surprise. She hadn't even realized he was still hard - ready again? Not that it matters which, but he usually needs at least a little downtime in between.

He thrusts mercilessly, sparing neither of them, barely slowing when he hitches her leg higher around his waist. Now that she's thinking about it, Rose can tell the difference between the latex and John's bare skin sliding into her. Warmth pools quickly in her womb and she clenches around him, incredibly turned on by the feeling of being skin-to-skin with the man she loves.

"John - fuck - John."

But he's too far gone to respond, reduced to grunts and half-formed words. "Mine," he manages to gasp against the skin of her neck a moment later, his whole body stiffening above her. She can feel every pulse of his cock as he spends himself inside of her. And it's too much, from how infinitely more intimate sex is without a condom between them, to how certain she is that he has no idea what he's just said, and Rose comes hard, wrapping herself around him.

He doesn't withdraw this time, turning them together onto their sides and tucking her tightly against him, his arm firm across her hips. His unspoken intention is clear: she's to stay. Then, with one more soft kiss to her lips, he closes his eyes and promptly falls asleep. She envies him that ability. As she lies there, her lips swollen from his kisses and his come cooling as it dries on her thighs, Rose thinks maybe she's forgotten who she is more than he has.

Chapter Text

John had gone to sleep thinking of all the nights they'd spent together, that would be the one where he would also be able to wake up with her. 

It hadn't been, and morning hadn't seemed so empty in a long time. 

Unfortunately, this leads him to one immutable fact: he's hers, but she's not his. 

But there's no time to wallow because five minutes later he's standing in front of his en suite mirror, craning his neck to look at the source of the stinging pain that had drawn him from his bed: four unmistakable marks on his shoulder blade. He can't remember when exactly she'd managed to scratch him, but the fact that he'd made her lose control in the first place is enough to leave him hard and aching. 

The cold shower is no help at all, and when he gives in to his body's needs, he comes with her name on his lips.

By Sunday evening his leftover anger has cooled enough that he can laugh at himself when he puts his mobile down for what seems like the millionth time without pressing the call button, remembering that at one time he'd been able to go three whole weeks without seeing her. He still feels like a right arse for the way he treated her, but the idea that some faceless stranger hurt her, that there's nothing he can do about it, is a stabbing pain in his heart. 

She was absolutely correct to tell him that he's not entitled to a say in her life. But though it's true, it hasn't stopped him wanting. Except that now he also wants to be allowed to protect her if some wanker ever gets it in his head to hurt her again. He'd been too blind with rage to think about it at the time, but she'd been far more upset than was warranted for a bruise that had supposedly happened accidentally. John remembers exactly how tightly he'd held her when he'd bent her over the arm of his sofa and the fingertip-sized bruises that had resulted. Whoever had grabbed her had not only done so extremely forcefully, but most likely had held onto her that way for a while. The thought sickens him. 

In the end, what matters most is that she had come to him for comfort when she was scared and hurting. And, for that night at least, she'd wanted, too, breaking every rule she'd ever erected between them in the process. It's enough to encourage him to try to make her his, and the first step in that direction is to stop pretending that he's happy with their relationship the way it is. 

First thing in the morning, he promises himself.

It ends up being the third thing. No one has ever suggested his life is uncomplicated.

"Can I see you?" 

"I don't think that's a good idea."

Her reply crushes him and it takes several seconds before he trusts his voice. It still cracks when he tries to speak. "Is it - is it because of last time?" If she says yes, if she thinks him as bad as the one who hurt her... anything but that, please, he silently begs.

"No, it's not," she replies, and he's able to breathe again. But before he can compose himself enough to ask her why, she continues. "Have you seen today's tabs?"

"I tend to avoid them if possible."

"Maybe you should look at them."

"Why? What's there?"

"Just... it's probably for the best if you don't call me for a while."

"I don't understand. What --"

He's yelling for Daniels as soon as the call disconnects. But when the door to his office opens, it's not Daniels on the other side of it. Michelle Brooks enters, holding what John can tell even at a distance is a rolled up red top.

It must be bad if the head of his PR department is bringing it to his attention.

"Sir, I know you're busy, but if I can have five minutes of your time, we really must talk about this." She lays the tab on John's desk.

He's made the front page. The entire front page. 

His eyes rake over the title: "The woman behind the PM: Who's really running Great Britain?" before sliding down to the photographs. This is what she is so worried about? The woman in the pictures is clearly Belle - to someone who knows her as well as he does - but the pictures are grainy at best, taken in the faint light of late evening, and show nothing incriminating. He recognizes the outfit she's wearing, which dates the pictures at only two weeks old. In one, she's just standing on the street outside of Number 10; in the other, she's approaching the door. She could be nothing more than a curious tourist. 

The blurb on the cover promises details inside, so John flips to the correct page and quickly skims the article. There are a few more pictures, all taken in the early evening and, based on her outfits, within the last six weeks. But they're all basically the same shot of her standing on the pavement outside of the building. The article itself is utter twaddle, 99 per cent speculation, citing "sources close to the PM" and people "speaking under condition of anonymity." There are no verifiable facts worth mentioning. All of which means that they'd found some wanker with a grudge against him who likes to make up stories - probably Mitchell; Alaska wasn't nearly far enough. In fact, the only thing the article gets right is that he has a regular evening visitor who appears to be several years his junior. The guesses as to her identity and how they met are laughable, the suggestion that she's somehow influencing his political decisions even more so. In the entirety of the article, the only word that affects him is 'girlfriend.'

He closes the tab, folds his hands over it, and looks up at Michelle. "I'm listening. Talk."

"As you know, sir, we have a strict policy of not responding to rampant speculation about your personal life. Normally, I would ignore something like this, however... the photographs do lend a certain credence to the allegations."

"And?"

"It, therefore, doesn't seem to quite fit in the category of rampant speculation." 

"So?"

"With the election coming up..." her voice trails off.

"Is there a question in there somewhere?" he asks, his tone clearly indicating that he doesn't believe any such question is her business.

"No, sir."

John allows himself a small smile. "Good. Our normal response would be no response?"

"That's correct."

"Then, election or no election, I don't think that we should change our policy now. After so many years of silence, even a denial would only serve to lend credibility to what is obviously rampant speculation.

She fidgets nervously. "Yes, sir."

"I take it there's nothing else?"

"No, sir." She moves to pick up the red top, but John's hands flatten protectively against it. Michelle hesitates. Then, with a tiny nod she steps away from the desk, but stops a few feet away. "Strictly off the record, sir?"

John pinches the bridge of his nose and counts slowly to ten, only to find her still standing there when he finishes. "What is it?"

"I can't help but think that, ultimately, this is a good thing." The question beneath her words is obvious. 

He chooses his next words carefully. Then, "I don't think she sees it that way."

"You lead a very public life, sir, it was inevitable that something would leak out."

"Maybe not for much longer," he replies, adding sardonically, "Don't forget to vote next week." 

She smiles tightly. She's not even from Manchester, not that it will matter in the end.

Michelle dismissed, he looks down at the photographs, absently running his finger along the image of Belle's face. His lover, yes, though the article stops just shy of outright saying so, but also his friend and the woman he loves. Who had lived a quiet life up until that morning. 

What must it have been like for her, seeing this for the first time? Had she been standing in line at the supermarket? Passing a vendor on the street? Or had someone she knows recognized her from the photographs and called to tell her? She hadn't mentioned her feelings on the matter, save that she doesn't want to see him right now. What if --

A hand appears in his vision, tilted on its side. He looks up to see Michelle eying him expectantly. Obligingly, he places his hand in hers.

"I look forward to helping you introduce her to the world, sir." She pumps his hand once, leaving him gaping after her as she turns to exit the room.

"Michelle, wait." He gestures vaguely at the tab. "Get someone on this. Find out who their 'source' is. If it's someone on staff we need to know about it. Lean on them if you have to."

"I'll handle it personally."

"Thank you."

After she leaves, he takes out his mobile and fires off a text: I see what you mean. PR will handle it.

There's no response.

An hour later Michelle returns to his office, and the thunderous look on her face has him quickly ending a phone call with a terse "Something's come up. I'll call you back."

"It was Saxon," she says. "Dean was almost giddy he was so excited to have me on the phone. Promised me the cover if I'd give him a reaction quote."

"Saxon," John repeats dully as the bottom drops out of his stomach. "You're sure? I mean, he wasn't just taking the piss or trying to dig for a story?"

"No, if Dean says it was Saxon, then it's Saxon. He might be the scum of the earth, but he's honest. What I don't know is how Saxon knows about..." She pauses for a second, searching for a name she doesn't know, "her."

"He's known for several weeks at least, long enough to orchestrate this. He made some... rather pointed comments that I dismissed out of hand because I didn't think he could possibly..." He takes a deep breath, opens his mouth to speak, and then stops himself when he realizes that the name he's about to give Michelle is an alias. He starts again, making another decision at the same time. No more pretending. "Her name is Rose. And I want to keep Saxon away from her. I don't want this to go badly for her, regardless of what happens to me."

"The easiest way for us to protect her would be to bring her here."

He thinks of his mobile, still distressingly silent. "She's not going to want that." Something in his voice must give him away, because Michelle's expression turns to pity. He cuts her off before she can say anything. "We're not -- it's complicated."

"I know of very few relationships that aren't."

John gives her a tight smile. "There are only a handful of people on staff who knew about her prior to this: Daniels, maybe Collins, Graham, and the evening and night guards. It had to be one of them."

"I'll see what I can do." 

"Thank you. Hey," he says when she turns to leave, "did you give Dean a reaction quote?"

"Yeah, I did: 'No comment.'"

They share a brief smile and then she's gone.

John picks up his mobile again, types: We have a lead. Investigating. He hits send. 

Again, there's no response. 

He needs to decide how he's going to handle this, because he's not some hero from the telly, and Rose isn't a damsel waiting in a tower to be rescued.

Chapter Text

Defiant, Rose goes out for coffee Monday morning after deciding that she isn't going to let what happened with Saxon interfere with her life. It's not until she's standing in line at the coffee shop that she realizes the hum of conversation is louder than usual. Looking around the shop she sees that everyone has a tab in their hands, except those reading over the shoulders of the ones who do.

"What did Posh do this time?" she jokingly asks the guy behind the counter.

"Not Posh," he smirks.

"Harry?"

"Nope." He slides a copy of the red top across the counter at her. "The Prime Minister's gone and gotten himself a girlfriend." 

Dimly, she can still hear him talking, but her focus is entirely on the images of herself that are staring up from the front cover, right up until the moment she registers that he's said something insulting about John. She looks up at him and he takes a step back when he sees the expression on her face. Tossing the money she was going to spend on her coffee onto the counter, Rose leaves with her hand clutched around the red top. 

Her mobile starts to ring as she opens the door to her flat. It's John, but he hasn't seen the tabs yet and, after a brief conversation, she snaps the mobile closed, cutting him off before he can make her say more than she means to. 

She fell so far into her own fantasy that she'd forgotten it was a fantasy in the first place. She'd forgotten who he is and how badly their relationship could hurt him. She's had loads of powerful men for clients: titled men, businessmen, the occasional MP, but never someone like John. And it's never bothered her before that who she is could be used against one of them. 

Rose reads the article, too appalled at the content to laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing is. The photographs are especially horrifying, to learn that someone has been spying on her for months and she never noticed. If they have these, what others are there? What will tomorrow's headline be?

If this is what it feels like to be a celebrity, she'll never read the tabs again.

A text arrives from John, but she doesn't reply. An hour later there's another, but again she says nothing, stubbornly believing that maintaining distance now will make the situation less real, less dire. John's 'voice' in the messages comes through optimistic and a touch naive, as though he believes simply finding the source of the leak will make their problems disappear. 

Ten days remain until one of the most important events of his life, and he doesn't seem to realize that something like this could make it all come crashing down like a house of cards. Already her influence in his life is being scrutinized, if they find out she's an escort will they also question her motives or is that inevitable simply because she's sleeping with him? Will they second-guess every decision John has made since "My name is Belle"? 

She jumps at shadows all week, ordering her meals delivered when she runs out of groceries, and waiting for the inevitable phone call because someone has recognized her. The one time the intercom buzzes unexpectedly sends her into a tizzy of nervousness, only to find out the pizza guy pushed the button for the wrong flat.

John texts her with regular updates on the progress of the investigation, but their search is coming up empty. 

On Friday afternoon she receives a text instead of a phone call. Pap are camped out on Downing. Should probably cancel.

Okay, she sends back. 

A few minutes later she receives another. Miss you.

Her fingers hover over the keys, but she puts the mobile down instead of replying. 

If he loses this election, he'll not only no longer be the Prime Minister, he'll no longer be an MP. It would mean the end of a twenty year career, the thing that had sustained him when he'd lost his family, and a position where he's done a lot of good over the years. But Rose can only focus on the fact that it would mean he'd really be just John for the first time since she met him, without them having to rely on a closed door to sustain the fantasy. Would just John want just Rose? 

She struggles for days afterward with the guilt of hoping she'll have the chance to find out. 

Four days before the election, her mobile rings. 

"I need to see you," he says, desperation backed by a hint of steel.

"I thought we decided that wasn't a good idea."

"You decided it wasn't a good idea. I -- I don't think I can do this without you."

"This is not your first election, John. It's not even your first re-election."

"It's the first one since I've met you. Please. I need to see you, even if it's just for a little while."

"I don't know..." 

John latches on to her indecision, continuing on hurriedly. "It doesn't have to be here. I don't know how we'd sneak you in without alerting half the bloody world anyway. It would probably easier for me to sneak out." He pauses, then goes on much more uncertainly. "We could meet at a hotel."

"No," she replies firmly. "I'm not doing that with you." 

"I don't care where it is."

Rose sighs. "Come to mine. Just... make sure you're not followed, yeah?" She rattles off her address, makes him repeat it back to her. 

"Thank you. I'll see you soon. I - I miss you.

"Well, you wouldn't be missing me if you'd get your arse over here." 

He chuckles, the unexpected sound bringing a smile to her lips as well. "I'll be there as soon as I can." 

She closes the mobile and looks around the room, already wondering if she's made the right decision. She cleans nervously until the intercom interrupts her. 

"Yes?" 

"It's me."

Only after buzzing him in does she remember she's still wearing sweats and a t-shirt. "Too late for it now," she mutters, flicking the hem of the shirt. 

She jumps when he knocks on the door, her stomach fluttering like she's somehow internalized all of the energy she was using to clean, which is ridiculous because it's John, but at the same time makes so much sense because it'sJohn

And then he's there, smiling at her so broadly she can see the stress and worry bleeding away from his face. He grabs her immediately and pulls her into a hug. After a moment, he kicks the door closed behind him. 

They stand that way for a long time, breathing each other in and taking strength where needed. Then, he shifts, seeking her lips, and she barely manages to move in time to avoid the kiss. 

John freezes, his face hovering so close that she can feel his warm breath on her cheek, his disappointment a palpable thing between them. She detests that they keep ending up in this position. It would be easy to give in, to lose herself in him. And she wants to, so very much, but the things that needed to be said the first time he'd nearly kissed her still need to be said. It's her own fault that things have only become more complicated between them since then.

He puts just enough space between them so that he can look her in the eyes. It's far from the first time that he's taken a reading of her like this, and as she looks back at him, Rose wonders what he sees when he does. She looks back, seeing fresh sadness in his eyes that she put there, mingling with hope and determination. Without saying another word, he leans forward and presses his lips to her forehead. 

His hands slide from her shoulders down to her elbows, and she notices that he's putting much less pressure on her left arm than her right. Though the bruise has yellowed considerably since Saxon put it there more than a week ago, it still causes her a twinge of pain from even such a gentle touch.

John winces when she does. 

"I won't see him again," she says, as much to break the tension as to unburden herself. "I'd already made the decision when you... found out. There was a bloke in my past, a boyfriend, and he... well, let's just say I promised myself I'd never let it happen again. I was so stupid. I should have seen it coming this time, but I didn't." 

He shushes her softly as he cups her face. "It sounds like you’re blaming yourself for what happened. Don’t. I’m just happy you got away from him."

She nods. "As soon as I could, I ran. I hated being with him," she says, a tear rolling down her cheek to strike his fingers.

Rose tries to take a step away from him to compose herself, annoyed that she's losing control of her emotions, that she's wasting tears on Saxon of all people, but John wraps his arm around her waist and pulls her closer, holding her just light enough that she could break his grip if she wanted to. She takes the comfort he so obviously wants to give her, leaning into him. 

"Did he... hurt you in any other ways?" 

"He said some things, but that's all." 

"I hate him," he says, and there's a tiny undercurrent of sheepishness in his voice. "I don't even know him, but I hate him for what he did to you." 

She smiles tightly even though he can't see it because of how they're standing. "That's okay. I hate him, too." 

"My offer still stands. I could help." 

"No. He's not worth it. I just want to be done with him." Rose looks up. "Thank you, though. It... means a lot to me that you offered." 

John tucks a lock of her hair behind her ear. "I worry about you. I can't help it. You said your clients are vetted, but this tosser was one of them and look what he did. I want you safe." 

Her body moves without consulting her brain first, and she pushes up onto her toes and wraps her arms around his neck. She's inches away from kissing him when every one of his little autonomic responses register: the dilation of his pupils, the way he's suddenly started breathing as though he's just run a marathon, the fierce pounding of his heart against her own chest, and the tightening of his arms around her, all serving to remind her that she's not supposed to want to kiss him. She hovers, biting her lip, praying that he'll either put her out of her misery and take the initiative or allow her to back away from this gracefully. 

The hope that had flared in his eyes begins to fade as her hesitation turns into an out-right stall. When Rose sees that he's not going to be the one to move, she lowers herself to the ground and pulls her arms back while muttering an apology. 

"No! Please," he begs, trying as desperately to hold her as she is trying to get away. In the end, he releases her when he goes to grab her injured arm and barely stops in time. 

Rose steps away from him, her eyes closing of their own volition as she silently curses herself for the lapse.

"Why not? Tell me that at least." 

"John..." 

"No 'John,' no excuses, no avoidance." With one single step he closes the distance between them, his lips inching along her jawline to her mouth, and Rose feels her whole body betraying her by responding in exactly the same way she's just witnessed in him. "You feel it, too, I know you do. Why can't we have this?" 

Sod it. She'll save her regrets for tomorrow. 

Rose turns and presses her lips to his. 

It takes him exactly two seconds to respond. She knows. She counts.

Chapter Text

After what is arguably the longest two seconds of her life, John's lips begin to move against hers, followed quickly by a needy noise from deep in his throat and the feeling of his arms surrounding her again.

He holds her loosely and follows her lead with the kiss, seeming to understand how fragile this is without her having to say. Or maybe he's been listening all along to her unspoken needs, which is the most wonderful thing she can imagine - second only to the feeling of his tongue sliding along hers when he opens his mouth to her.

Rose can count on one hand the kisses she's shared with John Smith, including this one, and each one is wholly different from the others, a facet of the personality of the man she loves. This one, specifically, is the tender lover she'd first gotten to know, hesitant and shy, equally concerned for her pleasure as for his own.

His tongue dances slowly against hers, drawing back but not actually breaking the kiss as he adjusts the fit of their mouths, then diving in again to repeat the process, making it seem as though they are sharing kiss after kiss after kiss rather than one long thorough snog. He never overstays his welcome, never moves with anything less than what seems like calculated motions designed to make her want more.

Her hands clutch at him desperately, first his shirt front and then moving to the back of his neck as she presses herself closer to him. John's arms tighten around her as he lifts her slightly to minimize the height difference between them, but still he holds her like something that could flutter away in the blink of an eye.

She finally pulls away from him, her chest heaving with the effort of breathing as she rests her forehead on his collarbone. John recovers faster than she does - which stings a bit because she's a professional; but not with this, she reminds herself, never with this, all still so beautifully new - and he begins smoothing back her hair, his hot breath at her ear where he occasionally nibbles.

Rose stretches to put her mouth level with his ear where she whispers, "Come with me."

He moves with her when she takes two steps backward, but then his eyes flick up to see where they're going and his feet immediately grind to a halt. "No."

"No?"

"I didn't come here for that, I came here for you."

"But I thought --" He wants her, she could feel him hard against her abdomen only a minute earlier.

He leans down and kisses her again. "Do you honestly think that sex is all you're worth to me?"

She bites her lip. They're skirting dangerous territory here. They've never - not once - been together without eventually having sex. "I don't know how to entertain you without sex."

"Be yourself." His smile is gentle, and she wants to hate him just a little bit for thinking it will be that easy. "Offer me some of your lovely tea. And then we can sit together and talk. It's no different, really, from what we normally do."

But it is very different. She's wearing sweats, hardly any make-up at all, and they're in her flat. It's not Belle that he's asking her to be. And that scares the hell out of her.

Rose swallows hard. "So, tea?" That, at least, she can do.

"Please."

John follows her into the kitchen. Though she expects his presence to be awkward, it's surprisingly comfortable having him in her space. He flows naturally around the furniture, accepting a place at her table while she puts on the kettle. It should bother her the way he slides his jacket off and hangs it over the back of the chair as though it's something he's done a million times before, but it doesn't, and her eyes prick with tears that she blinks away before he notices. She's missed him more than she'll ever admit.

Rule number one of being an escort is keep your life and your job separate, something she'd been good at until John. But as he pulls her into his lap while they wait for the water to heat, it's hard to remember that he was ever a client. He's just her bloke. And that should bother her, too, the idea that John Smith is her bloke, but it doesn't. Rose Tyler and her bloke in her flat, enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon. Maybe it is that easy, after all.

"Can't wait for all of this to be over, me," he mutters, his chin on her shoulder.

"That bad?"

"Haven't you been watching the news?"

She shakes her head.

He holds her tighter. "I wish I could get away from it so easily. I've had to deflect more questions about my personal life in the last two weeks than I have in the last ten years."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It's not your fault they're parasites. It was inevitable that they'd be curious about you. Did you know there's some that believe you're the daughter of an MP? Of course, the photographs are so bad none of them can agree on which MP." He chuckles before becoming serious again. "I don't know why there's an insistence that you're related to one of my colleagues."

"It's because you don't get out and socialize, John. Where else would you meet someone if not at work?"

"A better question would be, when am I supposed to find time to get out and socialize?"

"You could make time."

He squeezes her again, not seeming to notice that they're rehashing an old conversation. "I like the way my time is divided now." He makes a thoughtful noise. "Though, the balance of a few things could stand to be adjusted."

The kettle whistles, and Rose leaves his lap to make their tea.

After a moment, John clears his throat. "What about you? What have you been doing?"

"Me? Mostly trying not to be recognized, so I've been staying in a lot. I've caught up on all my shows on the telly."

"I don't think you have anything to be worried about. There hasn't been anything new in the tabs."

"Well, that's something, at least. You had mentioned following up on a lead?"

"Yeah. We have the information our contact at the paper gave us, but we're having trouble proving it."

She hands him a steaming mug, but he puts it on the table without testing it. "You're not giving up, though, are you?"

"Not a chance. I plan to nail the bastard responsible."

"Good." Rose sips at her tea.

"There's something else you should know," he says softly, his eyes suddenly guarded.

"John?"

"It was done without my permission. I didn't have a say and I'm not happy about it."

Rose puts her mug next to his and then inserts herself between his knees. She cups his chin and drags his face up. She hasn't seen him this uncertain of himself in a long time, and it occurs to her that whatever his news is, he expects her to absolutely freak out when she hears it. He's terrified.

She leans down and presses her lips to his, loving that this is something they can do now, reassure each other with kisses. His fingers dig into her back when she tries to end the kiss. "What's wrong?"

"There's a reason nothing else has appeared in the tabs."

"Okay. And that is?"

"Michelle Brooks, the head of my PR Department, made a deal with them." He stops.

"Go on," she prompts, a feeling of dread building in her stomach.

"She promised The Sun an exclusive if they'll leave us alone until we're ready."

Her first instinct is to explode, but the feeling of John's body tensing against hers in anticipation of her outburst stalls her. Deliberately, she leans down and kisses him again, but stops him before he can deepen it, and then, also very deliberately, she steps out of his arms. She needs to move.

John opens his mouth, then closes it and exhales hard. "I told her she had no right."

Rose is already on her second circuit of the kitchen. She turns and glares at him. "You make sure to tell 'er tha' from me, too," she snaps, unconsciously slipping back into the South London accent she spent years trying to erase.

"That was from you. The things I told her from me were very choice." He pauses, takes a deep breath. "But she has a point."

"Wha'? Now you're defending 'er?"

"Her logic, not her methods. It's actually kind of brilliant --" He stops when she glares at him again. "No, listen, they're going to leave us alone until we're ready. It's an infinite reprieve."

"'s not a reprieve, it's admitting we're guilty!"

John stands, crossing her kitchen in a few brisk strides. He takes her hand, and the symbolism is not lost on her. "No, love, it's not."

She gasps and then scans his face to judge the sincerity of his words. The hope from earlier has returned to his eyes a hundredfold, bolstered by a wealth of emotion that is much harder to dismiss in the daylight than it was in the heat of the moment.

"You've never called me 'love' before," she says softly, her anger forgotten. Most of her clients toss endearments around so casually they're almost meaningless, but not John.

The corners of his mouth turn up ever so slightly. "Wanted to for a while now, me."

Rose's vision suddenly blurs at his quiet intensity as her eyes fill with tears. John cups her cheek with his other hand, running his thumb below her eye to wipe them away. Then, his lips brush against the corner of her mouth like he's done so many times before, a telling gesture in this moment now that she's given him tacit permission to kiss her properly.

"There's no guilt attached to how I feel about you, love, and I don't care if the whole world knows. I don't want to pretend anymore."

She can't decide whether to laugh or cry, so she does a bit of both. This is no longer skirting dangerous territory, this is jumping into alligator infested waters with both feet. He's naive and foolish to think that it will be that easy, and maybe she is, too, for not putting an end to such declarations immediately, but instead she loves him all the more for it.

John's energy changes, becomes wary, but she hardly notices until wariness turns into anxiety, his shoulders tightening and his body shifting restlessly against her.

"Oh, you daft git, come here," she says once she realizes, grabbing him and pulling him closer to her, seeking his mouth with hers.

He takes it as the acceptance it is, teaching her yet another kiss, one she quickly associates with the night he'd taken her against the door of his flat and the word 'Mine.' And she goes along with it because she is, utterly and irrevocably, his.

Rose's hands are already unbuttoning his shirt and this time when she whispers "Come with me," he nods and follows her down the hall to the bedroom.

Chapter Text

She expects there to be some noticeable difference in the way he touches her, some tangible proof of his feelings, but as he turns her around to nip at the side of her neck, his warm hands slipping underneath her t-shirt to rest on her stomach, Rose realizes the change in his touch happened a long time ago.

He feels reassuringly solid against her, his confidence having grown so much in the time they've known each other. It's her who now trembles in fear and anticipation, her Belle persona having deserted her completely. Even if she wanted to, Rose doubts she'd be able to make the mental transition, and there's no way John would remain ignorant if she did. So this is Rose and John, her bloke, tea forgotten to cool in the kitchen while they make love in the waning light of day. And it's been a very long time since she's been with anyone as just Rose.

John mutters something against her neck, drawing her attention away from her own thoughts, but she misses whatever he said and he doesn't repeat himself when she hums a question at him. His hands start to move, tracing her curves, dipping beneath the waistband of her sweats.

The sweats are bad enough, but renewed self-consciousness asserts itself when she can't even remember if her bra and knickers match. She tries to push it aside to focus on John's touch. It's all she has at the moment, because, with the way he's holding her, she can't touch him. The one-sidedness quickly erodes her patience, though, and she feels his smile pressing against her skin when she whines his name.

"Yes, love?"

"Want you."

"And I want you," he replies, then drops his voice to whisper something else.

"What --"

He spins her around so quickly it leaves her dizzy, but it's nothing compared to the way she goes weak in the knees when his mouth closes hungrily over hers. He scales back the intensity almost immediately, coming in again with tender swipes of his lips and tongue, his hand sliding up the back of her neck to cradle her head. She could touch him now, but she's too caught up in the moment to do more than hold him.

Then John breaks the kiss, grinning down at her when she chases after his lips. Once again his hand finds its way underneath her shirt, his long fingers caressing the skin just above the swell of her hip.

Rose grabs the hem of the shirt and lifts it over her head to drop it at her feet. John's eyes follow the motion, focusing on her breasts briefly before returning to her face. Rose looks down, too, just to remind herself which bra she's wearing.

"Something wrong?" he asks when she grimaces.

"'s nothing."

He skims his hand up her side until it's level with her breast, his thumb teasing along the edge of the cup. "And you say I'm a terrible liar."

Rose huffs, but he waits for her answer, maddeningly not moving his thumb any closer to her nipple. "'s just..." she gestures vaguely at her chest.

"Yes, they're very lovely."

"No. Git. My bra."

He looks down at the plain white cotton. "What's wrong with it?"

"'s not..."

"It's not," he prompts, then continues when she doesn't elaborate, "a red bicycle? You're absolutely correct."

"No, John. It's not pretty."

"Pretty," he repeats flatly. "Pretty. Can I ask you something?"

Frustrated, she drags one hand through her hair and down her neck. "Yeah, sure."

He gestures behind himself. "Should I close the door?"

"What?"

"The door," his voice is gentle, but restrained, like he's barely holding back his own frustrations. "Do you need me to close it? Because I thought this was about us, no expectations, no illusions, and no pretending. Did I get that wrong?"

"No."

"Then why do you feel like you have to put on an act for me?"

"Because I don't do this, John. I don't invite blokes over for a shag."

"I see. Is this - have we really changed so much in ten days that that's what this is?"

"'s not what I meant. It's never been just a shag with you, you know that."

Some of the tension leaves his shoulders. "Good. Do you know what this is, love?" He lifts one of the bra straps, releasing it so it snaps lightly against her skin. "When we started this, it was about thirty seconds away from being at the bottom of a pile on the floor. I don't care what it looks like. But I'll step back into the lounge, if you want, and you can change into whatever armor you need. Or, we can go cuddle on the sofa, turn on the telly, and watch clips of me making a fool of myself from the last week. I'm sure there are plenty of them to keep us entertained for hours. I told you earlier that I didn't come here for sex, I meant that."

I love you, she thinks, but doesn't say - won't say. Instead, she lifts herself up onto her toes and wraps her arms around his neck, drawing him closer. "Thank you."

He rests his forehead on hers. "You're welcome. Better?"

"Yeah. Much."

"So what will it be? Sofa or armor?"

Rose twists one arm behind her body and unhooks her bra. "How about 'pile on the floor' instead?"

The remaining tension in his shoulders finally dissolves. "Ahh, option C. My personal favorite." He waits until the bra falls to the ground before grinning madly and lowering his mouth to her breast.

She hums, a noise he echoes enthusiastically as he nibbles and sucks on her sensitive flesh. She backs up a few steps until her legs hit the mattress, but stops short of lying down when something occurs to her. "Wait. Let me get some condoms."

His face falls a bit. "But I thought..."

"I'm not as prepared as I was last time," she replies, cupping his face as she rushes to reassure him. "That okay? I could put in the diaphragm if you'd prefer."

"You'd do that?"

"Not normally for that express purpose, but for you I would."

He presses against her, claiming her lips in a searing kiss. "Maybe next time; I don't want to wait."

"You sure? You're waiting either way."

But he shakes his head and turns them so that he can sit on the edge of the bed. "Hurry back."

The box of condoms is underneath the sink in her en suite. It takes only a moment to grab a strip and then she's walking back into her bedroom.

John is where she left him, his feet now bare as he shoves his socks into one of his shoes then pushes them both underneath the bed. He smiles his 'clever' smile and wiggles his toes at her. It's utterly ridiculous - he's utterly ridiculous - but it's such a perfect image that all she can do for a moment is lean against the door jamb and grin back at him fondly.

He pats a spot on the bed beside him and she pushes off the wall to join him, dropping the condoms on the nightstand as she passes it. With John's help, she straddles him instead, but the minute Rose thinks she's in control, he turns their bodies so that they're lying side by side.

"That's not," she laughs, "how I expected that to go."

Without a word, John caresses her cheek with the backs of his fingers, his expression so reverent that his mood spills over to her. She pushes back against him, her eyes sliding closed of their own accord. Then, his nose brushes against hers, his breath hot against her lips when he not so much hesitates as pauses to let the anticipation build.

The touch, when it comes, is whisper soft and gone just as quickly with only her squeak of protest evidence of its passing.

"Ah," he breathes, a faint admonishment. "Patience."

"John."

"Yes, love?"

She opens her eyes, giving them the moment they need to focus on his features so close. His eyes are intense, dark, his clever smile still flirting around the corners of his mouth. She wants him so badly. "Patience is not my best virtue."

The hand that is still hovering near her cheek presses against her skin again, and he kisses her, lingering this time. Rose slides her hand into his open shirt, giggling into his mouth when his whole body shivers at her touch.

John breaks away from her, swearing under his breath. Rose dives after him, unbuttoning the rest of his shirt and flinging it open so that her fingers can dance over his skin. For several minutes he buries his face in her neck and allows her to play. It feels like discovering him all over again, mapping the spots that elicit the most delicious groans and tracing the play of his muscles.

He moans something into her collarbone that could be a word, but whatever it is seems to spur him back into action. Slipping off his shirt, he tosses it to the floor. "Your bra is getting lonely," he says pointedly, looking at her sweats.

Tongue in teeth, Rose grabs the waistband and slides the sweats off, throwing them in the same general direction John's shirt went. When she stills, he rests his hand on her waist. "When is the last time I told you how beautiful you are?"

She tries to remember, but so much has happened --

"Can't have been recent enough if you have to think about it." He kisses her again, using the motion to roll her onto her back and prop himself atop her. "You are so incredibly beautiful. I don't deserve you, but I'm far too selfish to let you go."

He closes his mouth over her breast, the hand that had been at her waist moving between her thighs, a tiny happy noise escaping him when he finds her knickers soaked. Then it's Rose's turn to swear as he teases her, only touching her through the cotton and never quite where she most wants him. The mouth at her breast turns insistent, nips becoming gentle bites, sucking becoming deep draws that seem to tug all the way into her abdomen.

"Ungh. John. Please." She clutches his head to her, the nails of her other hand digging into his shoulder as she tries to move her hips to get more friction.

John rolls his shoulder and Rose immediately pulls her hand away, horrified that she forgot she's not allowed to mark him.

His whole body stills above her. There's an audible pop as he releases her swollen flesh. Then, very slowly, he lifts his head until their eyes meet. If she didn't know this man and what he was truly capable of, the gentleness and kindness and occasional outright goofiness, she would be scrambling to get away from him based solely on the storm brewing in his eyes. "Put your hand back," he growls.

She does, eying the four tiny half moons she's already left on his shoulder blade. He watches the progress of her hand, waiting until her palm once again rests on his skin before speaking in the same dangerous, even tone. "Don't censor yourself. Not with me. Never again."

Her fingers curl ever so slightly into him, a reaction to the tone of his voice only, and his eyes roll slightly back. Oh, fuck, he likes it. Her knickers are ripped away and down her legs, and she doesn't care one whit about the actual ripping sounds that accompany their passage.

John shifts and kicks his trousers and pants to the floor in one motion, already reaching for a condom when he returns. Then, moments later, he slides into her smoothly with one long stroke, both of them groaning when he fills her perfectly in the way only he ever has.

Rose feels his lips moving against the skin of her neck, but there is no sound attached. When she opens her mouth to ask him about all of these secret mutterings, he begins to move, and her question dissolves into a gasp.

Her senses are flooded with him. The rhythm he establishes is gorgeous, needy, but just shy of impatient, and it's not long before she's chasing her release. "Oh God, I've missed you," she finally manages.

He grins, and it's his 'I'm so impressive' grin, but she resists the urge to take him down a peg because having him inside her again is so bloody brilliant. He kisses her then stays close, dropping little busses against her skin on every stroke.

It's bolder this time, the word that he's been whispering against her skin, and though he's already said it at least half a dozen times, this is the first time Rose hears it well enough to understand what he's saying. It jolts her so much that it disrupts her impending orgasm.

She'd almost forgotten that he knows her name. They've been seeing each other for months, but he's never used it. While they talked this evening he didn't call her by name once, either of them, and now she can't even remember the last time he called her Belle. But all she hears in this moment is "Rose," over and over, brokenly whispered in her ear as she can feel him straining to hold back his release until after she finishes as well.

"Are you --" he grunts. "I can't --"

"Come, John."

"You --"

"Come," she insists.

He does, grimacing because he's never happy unless she comes, too. His cock is still pulsing inside her when he slips a hand between them and presses his thumb against her clit, forcing her over as well. Only then does he finally relax fully, briefly capturing her lips with his own as he lowers his body to rest on hers.

She'd gotten lax about him pulling out afterward, due in part to the added security of the diaphragm and an unwillingness to be separated, but she has a burning need to take a step back from him now, even if it's just for five minutes so that she can pull herself back together. "The condom, John."

There's a pause before he stirs. "Yeah, you're right. Where's the bin?"

"In the en suite."

He places a kiss on her shoulder and leaves the bed. She loves him and is certain he feels the same, though he's said everything but the actual words. Yes, it was a shock hearing him use her real name, but she can't say that she's surprised after everything that's passed between them this evening and his insistence of 'no pretending.'

She's barely had time to digest everything when John returns, hovering at the doorway to her en suite, shifting nervously, his eyes trained on her where she lies on the bed.

Oh. They certainly are having a lot of firsts tonight, aren't they?

"Will they miss you tonight?" she asks.

His eyes widen.

"I mean, you could stay, if you want."

He gives her his biggest smile, and it's like the joy of a thousand Christmas mornings all rolled into one. "Yeah, I'd love to."

Chapter Text

"Brilliant. I'll just..." She gestures at the en suite and John wonders if she's already regretting her impromptu offer.

"And I should probably make a phone call." There are protocols that he needs to follow, even though he's pretty certain there isn't one in place in case the Prime Minister suddenly decides to spend the night at his girlfriend's flat.

His heart hammering in his chest and his stomach doing flips, John covers his reaction to his own thoughts by bending down to dig his mobile out of his trouser pocket, slowing to watch Rose when she gets off of the bed. He takes her hand as she starts to pass him, then stands again so that their bodies brush together. It's a quiet moment, the only noise in the room the sound of them breathing.

Girlfriend. It seems like such a trite word for what she means to him. And yet she would rail against it and the commitment it stands for, possibly push him away for even trying to cage her in such a way. Yet they've made such progress recently, hopefully one day soon the touch of fear he sees lingering in her eyes will disappear and he'll be able to be with her properly.

Rose breaks the silence first, a nervous tremor in her voice and her eyes not quite meeting his. "I'll be right back, yeah?"

"Yeah. I'm going to handle this." He holds his mobile up so she can see it.

As expected, the head of his security is not best pleased by the change of plans. "I don't care about any damn rules. Set up a security detail if you must." John turns and paces away from the bedroom, hand on his naked hip.

"Sir, this is incredibly short notice and any detail would be cobbled together at best. I'd feel much more comfortable if you'd reconsider and return to Number 10."

"I know it's short notice, but I'm not leaving. Here's an idea, if it's such a problem, sod off entirely and send a car for me at seven tomorrow morning." He reaches the far end of the lounge and turns to walk back the other way. Rose catches his eye, standing at the door to her bedroom still gloriously naked and patiently awaiting him so that they can go to bed together. "Make that eight," he amends before snapping the mobile closed.

"Is this going to be all right?" she asks when he walks up to her.

"It's already done." He smiles softly. "Besides, I'm a grown man, I don't need anyone's permission to spend the night with my..." He cringes as his words trail off.

"John, I..." she says at the same time he says "Sorry."

He leans down so that their faces are nearly touching. "It doesn't have to have a name. When you're ready, love."

She nods and kisses him, her mouth slanting eagerly against his. John tries not to read too much into it, but it fills him with hope that she's the one who initiated the contact. He sighs heavily against her cheek after she breaks the kiss, wrapping his arm around her shoulders when her head rests on his chest.

"I know it's late," she says after a moment, "but did you want dinner? We could order in."

"I'm fine."

"Bed, then?"

"Mm, sounds good."

Slipping her hand into his, Rose walks them back to her bed. He sets the alarm on his mobile by pressing a few buttons and then places it on the nightstand. When he's done, he looks up to see her kneeling in the middle of the bed, the sheets pulled back.

"How do you..."

"Relax, John. Lie down." He lies down on the bed, situating himself flat on his back.

"I've seen you sleep," Rose laughs, "and it looks nothing like that. Go on, then, get comfortable."

"What about you?"

"I'll figure it out. You're the one who has somewhere to be in the morning, so you're more important."

He turns onto his side, and when he stills Rose tucks herself into the space beside him, resting her head on his arm and one hand over his heart. "This okay?"

John nuzzles her hair as his arm slides around her waist. "More than. Good night, love."

"G'night, John."

John awakens hours later. They've moved in the night and Rose's back is now flush with his chest. He has a handful of her breast and an erection pressing into her bum which will not be fading any time soon. His alarm, set for seven, hasn't sounded yet, but the room is already brighter than his would be at that hour. Deciding he'll worry about the exact time later, he curls tighter around the woman in his arms and buries his face in her hair.

"Rose?" he whispers. Then, when she doesn't reply, "I love you."

She shifts against him and he freezes, his heart in his throat until she settles. The timing is shite, but he feels better for finally having said the words aloud, even though he knows that when the morning comes, their lives and her reasons will only muddy things again.

Releasing her breast, he sighs and breathes her in as he moves his hand down to her stomach, absently tracing patterns on her skin until she stirs against him.

"Good morning," he greets her.

She remains silent so long John wonders if he's wrong in thinking she's awake. Then she runs a hand over her face and up through the top of her hair, tickling him with the strands that move against his face and chest. "Mornin'. Time's it?" she grumbles, barely coherent.

"Doesn't matter." He presses his lips to the round of her shoulder. Once again there is a very long silence. John smiles at this new glimpse into her personality. "Not a morning person, love?"

"Hm?" She starts to turn, but a certain very insistent part of his anatomy finally catches her attention. With a bit of effort, she blinks away the haze of sleep and completes the turn, lying on her back beside him.

"Well, good morning indeed. What's this?" she teases, sliding her hand between them.

John grabs her wrist before she can touch him. "Please, only if you want."

She looks up at him in confusion. "Why would you think I wouldn't want you?"

"I don't want you to feel obligated."

"Obligated? To have fantastic sex with the gorgeous bloke I just woke up with? Anything but that!" She slips her hand free from his grip and touches his face. "I meant what I said last night, John. I want you. All the time."

Her words are achingly close to what he wants to hear, but so dualistic that the three words he wants to give her in reply stick in his throat. Since the beginning sex has been easy between them, it's the emotional part that causes their speed bumps. But it's the emotional part he wants right now.

The alarm on his mobile starts blaring, startling them both. John rolls onto his back and picks up the phone, pressing the button to dismiss the alarm. Rose turns with him, resting her hand on his chest and pressing her breasts into his side. "Grab a condom while you're there," she purrs as she nibbles on his earlobe.

John makes a quick check to verify that there aren't any missed calls or urgent emails he needs to handle, but Rose is distracting him expertly. She straddles his thighs, running the palm of her hand over his cock. Before he realizes what she's doing, she leans forward and takes him in her mouth.

"Fuck. Rose."

It takes him two tries to put the mobile back on the nightstand without fear of dropping it, but he manages to return with the condom as instructed. Rose takes it from him and rips open the foil, sliding the latex over him.

"Oh, love," he groans as she scoots forward and down onto him. He tangles one hand into her hair, pulling her mouth to his so that he can claim it with a lingering kiss. His other hand finds her hip, stilling her when she starts to move. "Slowly," he mutters against her lips.

"We don't have time for slow, John. Your car will be here at eight."

"Sod 'em. They can wait."

She releases his hand from her hair and laces their fingers together, doing the same with the one on her hip. Then, with a filthy grin flirting around her lips, she presses the backs of his hands into the pillow on either side of his head. They've never had to perform under pressure before, always having the entire night to play and touch and explore. However, as much as John wants to believe the hour they have is not going to be enough time, when Rose starts to move, he knows it will be plenty.

He's already on the edge, brought there by waking up with the woman he loves in his arms. He tries to move his hand between them to help her along, but she holds it firm against the pillow.

"No, no," she tsks.

"Rose, not going to last, me."

Taking pity on him, she changes the motions of her hips from a brisk up and down to a leisurely rolling back and forth. "Tha' better?"

'That' is torture, but, after a bit of consideration, he nods because he no longer feels as though he'll pop off at any second.

Her breasts are swinging in his face, so close that he tries to catch one with his mouth every time they swing forward. She giggles at how ridiculous he looks, but John doesn't care about his pride in this moment. On the fifth attempt, Rose stills and leans farther forward than necessary, offering her right breast to his mouth.

John darts his tongue out and laps at her nipple, looking up at her through his eyelashes to gauge her reactions. Her eyes flutter closed when he draws her whole nipple into his mouth and her hips start to move again, a tiny grind of her clit against his pubic bone. And, just like that he's riding the edge again, watching and feeling her pleasure herself on his body.

"John?" Her hands tighten against his. She's getting louder, and John can feel her getting closer.

"You first this time, love."

She grunts, and then a second later cries out as she comes apart, John following her almost immediately.

Keeping their bodies interlocked, he turns onto his side, pulling her with him. Then he kisses her, relishing the feeling of her so relaxed against him.

"John, the condom."

He strokes her cheek. "It'll keep a minute longer," he says, kissing her again.

"You don't have a minute."

"Shhh. Just John is making time." She whimpers and he kisses her a third time. This time it's him who breaks the kiss. "I want you again," he complains, dropping his head onto the pillow.

"There's no --"

"No time. I know." He sighs. "All right, I'm getting up, but be aware that it's under protest."

She giggles, but it turns into a groan when he slides out of her.

"I should probably shower, too. Do you have my bag?"

"Yeah, let me get it for you."

Later, when he steps out of the en suite, a towel wrapped around his waist, Rose is sitting on the bed wearing a small satin dressing gown and nursing a steaming mug of tea.

"That thing is practically indecent," he says, eyeing the tops of her thighs where the dressing gown stops. He bends down and kisses her cheek. "I love it."

Rose turns her face up to him, pressing into the kiss. "You look pretty good yourself," she says, bringing her hand up to touch the droplets of water on his chest. Then she gestures at a second mug on the nightstand when he starts to pull away. "I made you some tea."

"You're amazing." He picks up the mug and sips at it as he looks around the room. "I can't help but notice my clothes have disappeared. If you want me to stay, you only have to ask. I'll even stay naked without too much prompting. We can institute Naked Mondays. You'll have to comply as well, of course, that dressing gown will have to go."

The most endearing blush colors her cheeks and she gestures to something behind the en suite door. John turns to see his trousers and dress shirt, both neatly pressed, hanging from the door handle of what must be her walk-in-wardrobe.

"You did this?"

She nods. "I did the best I could in such a short time, but we really shouldn't have left them on the floor all night. At least your jacket was hung up properly."

"I take it back. This is why you're amazing," he says, finding his pants beneath the trousers on the hanger. He puts them on and then pulls on the trousers.

His mobile rings as he's putting on his shirt. It's 8:01. "Yes?"

"Sir, your car has arrived."

"I'll be down in a few." He closes the mobile and turns back to Rose. "I guess that's that."

"I guess so."

He buttons his shirt, leaning down over her when he comes to the small buttons at his wrists. "This was good?"

"Yeah," she answers. "This was good."

"I'd like to do this again," he says very carefully.

Rose's eyes are suddenly a touch too wide.

"It doesn't have to be tonight or even tomorrow," he continues in the same neutral tone, hopefully conveying that he's not backpedaling, but giving her options and space. "I am willing to wait as long as you need if that's something you want, too. All I ask is that you give it some thought."

He waits, uncomfortably reminded of the night he asked her to be his partner in bed and how quickly he would have backed down from the request had she resisted. He tries to tell himself it's different this time - that they're different - and he shouldn't worry, but the fact that she doesn't appear to need him in the same way he needs her and might still be able to walk away when he is so far gone is terrifying.

Finally, she nods. He doesn't even care if she's agreeing to consider it or agreeing to spend another night with him, it's an acceptance and he'll take it. "Thank you, love. When you're ready." He kisses her lightly. "Now, where is my jacket?"

"Where you left it, of course."

John offers her his hand, which she takes as she gets off of the bed. They walk into the kitchen side-by-side until he steps away from her to rinse his mug in the sink. Rose is holding up his jacket when he turns away from the sink, and it's the first time in ages he's thought about how domestic this whole thing has become with her. As he eases himself into the jacket and faces her again, he realizes he doesn't care.

She straightens the lapels of his jacket and then kisses him again. "Go on, before they come up after you."

"I'll call you later and we can make plans. I'm not going to live in fear of the pap."

Chapter Text

"We have a problem," Michelle starts without preamble, her voice breaking through the bubble he's been in all morning.

John looks up to see both her and Daniels hovering over his desk. He focuses on Michelle first. "You are very lucky she didn't throw me out on my arse after what you did."

"Sir --"

"No, right now I'm going to talk and you're going to listen. You make no more decisions concerning her without discussing it with me first. This one seems to have turned out all right, but I'm not going to have you risking --"

"Sir, I appreciate your concerns, but, really, this is important."

He looks back down at the documents he's supposed to be reading, but had really just been using as a cover for his daydreaming. "Can it wait? The election is on Thursday. Most likely whatever it is you want to tell me won’t matter by then anyway."

"It will matter to you." Suddenly her voice sounds like a doctor delivering bad news, tight and full of consolation. Seeing that she now has his full attention, she turns to Daniels. "Tell him."

The small man is already fidgeting. "We have discovered a discrepancy with regard to Miss du Jour."

Michelle doesn't even flinch, and it occurs to John that she now knows a lot more about Rose than just her given name. He straightens. "What kind of discrepancy?"

"Namely that no one from the office staff knew that she had visited more than once."

"That’s impossible." John looks from one to the other before settling back on Daniels. "Someone had to know. Her card didn’t just leave my drawer and put itself on my desk after that flap in Afghanistan. It had to be you."

"Yes, that was, but as you recall, I left for the day without making any such arrangements. I wasn't aware that she had been called."

"I was calling her. But obviously someone was arranging her payments; she wouldn't have come if she wasn't getting paid. She --" But they're both looking at him blankly. "It's been months. She said it was being taken care of..."

Daniels blanches. He and Michelle exchange a glance before looking back at him but it’s her who speaks. "How many visits, sir?"

"Every week," he replies tersely. "Since before Christmas."

"I see. And you assumed Daniels was paying her."

John only glares at them.

"I see," Michelle says again.

"She never asked for money. I didn't know. It's not like I've done this before. No one's been paying her?"

"Only one payment was made through our office," Daniels says.

He lowers his head and closes his eyes. He doesn't want to jump to conclusions - oh, who is he kidding? Something kept her coming back week after week, and he doesn't for one moment believe it was the sex. The only answer reverberating through his head is the one he most wants to be true, the one that would best suit him.

"Sir, I feel it's my duty to mention the timing."

"What are you on about now, Daniels?"

"With the election and Mr. Saxon. Those photographs had to come from somewhere, and we've not found any evidence to suggest it was someone on staff."

John’s stomach churns as a second possibility opens up. It's being taken care of, she'd said. Not Your office is handling it or Daniels leaves a cheque for me on his desk.

No. Just... no. He's not going to believe that it was all some sort of elaborate plot of Saxon's. He's not going to believe that she would do something like that, that the last several months meant nothing to her, that last night meant nothing to her.

"Find out," he eventually manages, his voice pained, because he has to be sure.

"Sir, might I suggest you --"

"Brooks," he snaps, "if the next words out of your mouth even remotely resemble a suggestion that I stop seeing her until this is resolved, you can leave now and pack your desk."

"Of course not, sir." But she makes no effort to finish her sentence and his stomach sinks a bit further.

After a moment of heavy silence, John waves the two of them away.

* * *

Rose's stomach churns as she knocks on the door; she's nearly sick by the time it finally flies open. The woman on the other side blinks, but only hesitates a second before coming forward to embrace her.

"Rose!"

"Hi, Mum."

Jackie Tyler straightens and holds her at arm's length. "What's wrong? What's 'appened? Are you 'urt?"

It's never been a secret that her mother disapproves of her lifestyle, but this one moment gives Rose hope that they might one day be able to have a relationship again.

"No, Mum. Not hurt."

Ever intuitive, her mother studies her. "But something's 'appened."

"Yeah," Rose nods. "You could say that."

Jackie opens her mouth, but closes it almost immediately. Then, "You may as well come in, no sense standing out there all day."

The minute the door closes behind her, the floodgates open up and the tears begin to fall. Jackie's arms surround her again and the next thing Rose knows she's sitting on the sofa leaning into her mother's embrace. "It's okay," she mutters, her soft reassurances only serving to make Rose cry even harder, "I'm 'ere. Whatever's 'appened we'll get through it together."

When she's all cried out, her mum stands. "I'm gonna fix you a cuppa and then we'll talk, okay?"

Rose agrees, following her into the kitchen and sitting down at the table. It's Jackie's way. As far as that woman is concerned, a good cup of tea can solve any problem.

"There you go," Jackie says, putting the cup down in front of Rose a few minutes later. "So, what is it?"

"I love him," she replies.

For one very long second Jackie doesn't breathe. Then, her whole body relaxes. "Is that all? I was so sure you'd say you were - you're not, are you? Pregnant?"

She shakes her head.

"Okay. Good. Does 'e know about..." She gestures vaguely at Rose.

"Yeah, he knows."

"And?"

"He hates it. Loves me, hates my job. But not like --" you.

Jackie is instantly contrite, "Rose, I --"

"No. It's okay. Really. I understand. I've seen what happens to girls when they're not careful. I wouldn't want any daughter of mine doing it either." She clears her throat and continues before her mother can answer. "He doesn't like sharing me, is all. Wants me to himself."

"And this is bad?"

She nods, turning her mug in her hands.

"Is 'e married?"

"No."

"Drugs?"

"No."

"Then what's the problem?"

"It wouldn't work."

"'e loves you." It's not a question.

"Yeah."

"You love 'im." Also not a question.

"Yeah."

"Then what wouldn't work?"

"It's... complicated."

Jackie scoffs, making her opinion of the situation clear. "Who is 'e, then? What's 'is name?"

"I'd rather not say."

"Rose, I'm your mother."

"I know, but I can't tell you. Confidentiality."

She wants to argue, Rose can tell, but she doesn't.

"Are you going to see 'im again?"

"I don't know."

"Then what are you going to do?"

Rose just looks at her, finally deciding on "Can I stay here a couple of days?"

"Of course."

Later that afternoon she goes back to her flat and collects up some clothes and essentials, even filling up her purse with little items when she runs out of space in her two small suitcases. Jackie's eyes widen when she returns to the small flat the two had shared for over twenty years.

"Moving in?"

"Jus' don't want to have to go back more than necessary."

She starts to wheel the suitcases down the hallway to her old room, but her mother's voice stops her cold. "There was a time you wouldn't have run away like this."

"'m not running away, Mum, 'm trying to do what's right."

There's no longer any doubt in her mind that he loves her, his early morning confession when he'd thought she was asleep has cleared up the question. She'd never been more grateful about being so slow to wake. But in his own words, he's too selfish to let her go, so it falls on her to put space between them.

Rose wakes up the next morning disoriented, and spends the first several minutes of her day wondering why she spent the night with a client who has such an uncomfortable bed. It's not until the bright pink walls assault her eyes that she remembers where she is. Only a few seconds later, the why comes crashing down around her, too.

Slippers on her feet, she shuffles into the kitchen in her pyjamas like a zombie and makes herself a cuppa, not even noticing Jackie is in the room until the other woman shrieks.

"What is that?"

"Hm?" she asks sleepily, taking the first sip of her tea.

Jackie grabs Rose's elbow and twists her arm slightly. "This. What the bloody 'ell is this? You said you weren't 'urt."

The bruise. Now nearly two weeks old and faded to a yellow-ish brown, it still aches when she bumps it. And she'd foolishly walked out of her bedroom wearing a sleeveless vest. "'s nothing."

"That is not nothing. Did 'e do that to you?"

"No."

"Sweethear', if 'e 'urt you --"

"No, Mum, it wasn't him. I swear. It was someone else. J --" She stops, silently cursing herself. She's obviously still half asleep to make such a slip in front of her mother. "He wouldn't."

The bruise is forgotten as Jackie latches on to a new mystery. "J? James?"

"No."

Her expression darkens. "Jimmy?"

"It's not Jimmy, Mum. I learned that lesson."

"Jack?"

"Mum, stop. I'm not going to tell you."

"Joseph?"

"Can you please just --"

"John?"

Rose stills, glares at her mother.

Jackie preens, happily oblivious. "John, then. Oh, come on, sweethear'," she adds dismissively when she finally notices how upset Rose is with her. "It's just a name. We can't very well keep calling 'im 'im, can we?"

"It's more than a name. It's his name. It's halfway to a full name, which is an identity, which is the exact reason I'm here and not out there with him right now!"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

She throws her hands up in the air. "I'm not having this conversation with you. I've said too much as it is." Rose turns and tries to leave the room, but Jackie intercepts her at the kitchen door, already building up a good head of steam.

"Did someone tell you you're not good enough for 'im? Did 'e tell you that? Because let me tell you, you're my daughter and that makes you --"

"He would never. He loves me - John loves Rose, or at least he thinks he does, the daft git. Hardly knows 'Rose' at all. So please stop trying to blame everything on him. He's done nothing wrong. I'm the one out of place here. And I am trying very hard not to do something stupid that could potentially ruin his life. So, please, it's already hard enough being here when I want to be with him instead. I don't need you digging for details."

There's a text waiting for her when she returns to her room.

"I wish you were here."

She puts the mobile back on the nightstand without responding. "I wish I was, too."

Chapter Text

"Sir, DI Bishop has arrived."

"Send him in."

This whole situation nauseates him. But Rose isn't answering his texts and Brooks and Daniels have gotten more insistent with each passing hour. He keeps hoping for a golden piece of information to fall into his lap which will make everything after Monday morning at 8:05 seem like a bad dream.

His office door opens and Daniels gestures an older man in. DI Bishop is balding but clean-cut, his blue suit well-pressed and highly starched. The lines on his long face hint at a tendency to frown, but his eyes are alert as he crosses the room. He tips an imaginary hat. "Prime Minister."

John offers the other man his hand, still hoping he's not making a huge mistake. "Detective Inspector. Have a seat, please."

The DI sits on the edge of the chair opposite John's desk. "Please excuse me if I'm less prepared than you might expect. Your secretary was not very forthcoming when we spoke on the phone."

"I understand." He takes a deep breath. "This is a... personal matter. I was told you could be trusted to act with discretion."

"Sir?"

He slides the weeks old tab across his desk. "You are familiar with this, I presume?"

Bishop picks it up and glances over the cover. "I saw it briefly when it came out. Seemed like the standard filth." He puts it back on the desk and shrugs. "Nothing of any consequence."

John lays Rose's headshot on top of the tab. "The important details of the story are true."

The DI hesitates before leaning forward to pick up the picture. "She's very beautiful," he says after a moment, putting it back down.

"Yes, she is. And, no matter the outcome, I do not want her name involved in this."

"What is 'this,' exactly?" he asks, pulling a notebook out of his jacket pocket.

"We've traced that filth, as you so eloquently put it, back to Harold Saxon," John says, pointing at the tab. "Mostly I need to know how he found out about her, but I'm also under a lot of pressure to find out if she was involved."

Bishop settles into his chair. "Why don't you start from the beginning?" he prompts, pen poised over the notebook. "How did you meet her?"

John wants to start his story with caveats and disclaimers about how he hasn't spent all but the first two years he's been in office hiring women to keep him company. It's the first time Rose's concerns about their relationship becoming public really sink in. All this time he thought she was worried about her own privacy, now he wonders if her fears are for him.

He gives DI Bishop the abridged version of their relationship, facts only, glossing over most of their encounters with a 'this pattern continued for several months.' He explains about Saxon's cryptic threats, how Brooks had connected him to the article, and then how Daniels' investigation of their office staff had lead to the discovery that Rose had only been paid once, casting suspicion on her.

"Do you think she is?" Bishop asks when John completes his narrative.

"What?"

"Involved with Saxon. You've known her for seven months. What do your instincts tell you about her?"

John closes his eyes and sorts through his memories of her, mostly the ones from Sunday evening and Monday morning but there are also many older ones. His initial reaction to Daniels and Brooks' allegations was disbelief, and it's the same feeling he gets now when he thinks about her working with Saxon. He shakes his head. "I trust her."

Bishop closes his notebook and puts it back into his pocket. "Then I would say trust your instincts."

"What, just like that?" John asks, looking up at the other man as he stands. "Not that I don't appreciate hearing it, but I expected something more."

"Human beings have a remarkable ability to tell when someone is being disingenuous. So, for now, yes, exactly like that. I'll investigate the matter and get back to you. But in the meantime, it might be prudent to not allow the young lady unsupervised access to restricted areas or information."

"How long do you think your investigation will take?" John gestures around the room. "I may not be here at the end of the week."

The frown that had been hinted at when the Detective Inspector entered his office makes an appearance. "I'll see what I can do. Not to worry, though, sir. I'll find you if necessary."

After Bishop leaves, John pulls his mobile out of his desk drawer and scrolls through all of the unanswered texts he's sent Rose since Monday. He'd deliberately not told the Detective Inspector about them. There are so many reasons he can think of for why she isn't answering, and none of them are good.

He presses the call button. Waits. "Rose," he says as calmly as he can when the answerphone picks up instead of her. "You're not answering my texts. I - I'm worried about you. I hope you're all right. Please call or text me when you get a chance, anytime day or night." He huffs. "Wish me luck tomorrow. I miss you, love."

* * *

"Where are you going?"

"It's Thursday."

"And?"

Rose sighs. "The election is today, Mum. I'm going to vote."

Jackie scrunches up her nose. "Since when are you worried about that?"

Since I fell in love with a politician. There's only one race she really wants to vote in, but is unfortunately ineligible. Still, she has every intention of doing what she can. "You could come with me, yeah? We could go for lunch after. I'll buy."

"Oh, all right," Jackie grumbles as she lifts herself up from the sofa. "But no more chips, anything but chips."

"Sure, Mum. Whatever you want."

"Let me get my purse."

Jackie is her usual self the minute they step out of the flat, boisterous and friendly to everyone they meet, introducing and reintroducing Rose whenever the need arises. It's the first time Rose has been outdoors without trying to hurry from one place to another since her pictures appeared in the tabs, and it's nice. She'd forgotten what that kind of freedom feels like.

They end up taking so much time with Jackie's friends that lunchtime comes and goes before they even get to the polling station.

"C'mon, Rose," Jackie whinges as they pass a sandwich shop. "I'm 'ungry and you promised me lunch."

Ahead of them, Rose can see the school that is their destination, and her feet itch to finish their journey. But Jackie is pulling her inside before she can protest.

"You all right, sweethear'?" Jackie asks when they sit down with their food. "You've 'ad your 'ead in the clouds all day."

Rose picks at her chips. "Yeah, Mum. 'Course."

"You're thinking about 'im. Oh, don't give me that look. You can admit it. It's not like I 'aven't seen you mooning over a boy before. Go on, then, tell me about 'im."

"I really shouldn't."

"One thing that doesn't break your confidentiality rules."

Her eyes scan the room, looking for what, she doesn't know, perhaps just to stall, but when she looks back across the table Jackie is patiently waiting. "He was so shy when I first met him," she says eventually. "And that's nothing like him at all."

Jackie's hand closes over hers on the table. "Good."

"Mum, I love him so much," she says as the tears she's been holding back since that first outburst finally spill over.

"I know, sweethear'."

"I'm so scared."

"I know that, too." She squeezes Rose's hand, looks down at the food neither of them have touched. "I'll be right back." She gets up and returns a few minutes later with a box to put the food in and a handful of paper napkins. Shortly after that they're walking out of the restaurant.

"You were right, I did run away," Rose says. "Smiled and kissed him goodbye when he left for work, all the while calculating how quickly I could get away after he was gone."

"And now 'e's worried sick about you."

Rose wipes her nose with one of the napkins. "How do you know that?"

"You think I 'aven't noticed you checking your mobile a dozen times a day, that I don't see 'ow upset you get every time? You think I don't know what it's like to love you and not know if you're all right?"

She stops, turns to the other woman. "I'm so sorry, Mum. For everything."

Jackie nods at Rose's left arm. "You got that at work?"

"Yeah."

"Does your John know about it?"

"Yeah."

"Maybe you should tell 'im you're all right."

Rose feels herself pale and Jackie's hand shoots out to grab her elbow to steady her, but Rose shakes her off. "I'm fine, Mum. Just give me a minute."

Jackie looks toward the school they're nearly upon. "I'll go on ahead a bit. You follow when you're ready."

"Thank you," Rose says, drawing her mother into a hug.

She pulls out her mobile before Jackie has even taken a step away, and then becomes too engrossed in rereading all of John's messages to notice if she goes any further. There's a steady decline in his mental state evident in the messages that she'd missed while she had her head too far up her own arse.

"I'm fine," she texts back. "Standing outside the polling station now. Good luck."

Rose catches up to Jackie and gives her another hug.

"What did 'e say?"

"He's working today so I didn't think it would be a good idea to call. I texted him, but I may not hear back from him for a while."

As if on cue, her mobile rings. Rose pulls it out of her pocket and then stares at it in awe. "It's him."

Jackie smiles smugly and steps away again.

"Hello?"

"'I'm fine,'" he sneers. "Beside meself for three bloody days, and all I get is 'I'm fine'?"

"Calm down, John."

"I will not --"

"Yes," she says sharply. "You will."

"-- calm --" He takes a deep breath, but even that is seething. "Three days, Rose," he says, each word harshly clipped.

"I know."

"Do you have any idea how worried I've been?"

"I'm sorry. Really, I am. I wasn't thinking."

"You weren't thinking," he repeats slowly. He sighs. Barks a humorless laugh. "You made me sound like I'm your father."

Rose looks up, catches a glimpse of her mother going into the school. There's only seven years between her mum and John, a smaller age gap than between herself and him, and she wonders how Jackie will react to that. "If it helps, I don't think of you as a father figure."

"Well I should bloody well hope not." She giggles and he sighs again, but it's more relieved this time. "Are you really all right?"

"Yes." They're silent for a moment. Then, "You know, you missed a perfect opportunity to threaten to spank me."

"Don't tempt me," he growls, but there's an undercurrent of amusement in his tone now.

"I expected you to be busy today." She'd hoped he would be too busy to notice her text, if she's honest.

"It's a lot of waiting, actually, sitting around biting fingernails and shaking the hands of the ones whose constituencies finish up early. I could use a distraction."

"I'm sure getting angry at me wasn't what you were hoping for."

"I'm not angry, I'm -- all right, I am. Just don't do that again, please."

"John?"

"Yes, love?"

"I really am sorry."

"I know, love."

"I should ring off if I want to get home sometime tonight, the queue is starting to back up."

"Tell them who you are and they'll move you to the front of the queue," he jokes, but his words only succeed in pulling her insides in conflicting directions. "Have them ring me if they don't believe you."

"I don't think it works like that, John."

"Ah, well." He sobers. "I'll call you after all of this."

"Yeah. Do."

"I miss you, love."

"Good luck, John."

She finds her mum standing off to the side of the queue just inside the building. "I was right," she gloats before Rose can even say a word. "'e was worried."

"He was," Rose replies, resisting the urge to parrot 'beside meself' in his accent.

"You two better now?"

"He said he'll call me after -- in a few days." Rose looks around the room. "Let's do this and go home."

Once they've voted and made their way back to the Powell Estate, they have an early dinner of the sandwiches they should have had for lunch and then settle on the sofa together. They quickly figure out that there's not much on the telly that isn't related to the election. Every station is broadcasting recaps, from voter turnout to exit polls to interviews with the candidates, though, thankfully they don't manage to see any of John.

After an hour, Jackie stands up. "I can't watch any more of this. I'm going to go take a nice, hot bath and go to bed."

Rose stands as well and gives her mother a hug. They've gotten along better in these last few days than they ever had before, and she's glad to see their relationship mending. "'Night, Mum."

After her mum's bedroom door closes, Rose sits on the sofa and turns the volume on the telly as low as possible. It's silly, but she couldn't sleep now if she tried. She settles on BBC News and wraps a throw around her shoulders to wait.

Chapter Text

Sometime after midnight Rose falls asleep, only to wake a few hours later when her mum's neighbor slams his door as he leaves for work. Coverage of the election is still going, but no numbers have been verified for Greater Manchester yet. It is still dark outside.

By four, the results from Leeds start to scroll across the bottom of the screen. At half four, Rose leaves the room to make tea while an interview with Harry Saxon airs. He's retained his seat, and is flashing a crocodile grin when the feed switches over to him - that's another race she would have liked to vote in, she thinks as she rubs her arm.

When she returns to the lounge, Saxon is gone and the results from Manchester are coming in. John's name is the first that scrolls across the screen. He's won.

"Rose, what are you doing up?"

She reaches guiltily for the remote before realizing that she's not doing anything wrong. Shaking her head at her own silliness, she forces herself to relax.

With a huge yawn, Jackie sits beside her on the sofa then blinks blearily at the telly. "And why are you still watching that?"

"It's interesting, yeah?" she says, her voice carefully neutral.

The look she gets in response is very eloquent.

It's that moment - of course it is - that the BBC chooses to replay some footage of John from the previous day. He looks so tired and haggard that her heart goes out to him. He'd changed so much from that man during their time together that it causes her physical pain to see him so far regressed. She hopes - for what it's worth - that the footage was shot before they'd spoken yesterday afternoon, that talking to her had helped at least a little. By the time the thirty second clip has ended she's nearly in tears again.

"Well," Jackie says dryly as the feed switches back to the newsreaders.

Wordlessly, she throws herself into her mother's arms and bawls her eyes out. She doesn't know how long she stays there, Jackie's hand rubbing gently up and down her back, but not another word is spoken until she sits up on her own again.

"So, 'John'. 'e's... older."

Rose sniffs and wipes her eyes. "Mum, please --"

"Just making an observation. Lord knows 'e deserves some 'appiness after everything 'e's been through."

"Mum, we can't - it'll get out, who I am, how we met. It'll destroy him. It almost did."

"What are you talking about?"

"A couple of weeks before the election, there were some pictures in the tabs of me going into Number 10."

Jackie gets up and rifles through a stack of newspapers, pulling out a copy of the tab in question. Of course her mum would have it, why is she even surprised? "You don't mean these 'orrible, blurry things, do you? Could be bloody Sasquatch for all the detail. Besides, the article never said you were a..."

"Call girl, Mum."

She seems almost relieved at the relatively demure word. "...call girl, just 'is girlfriend."

"'m not his girlfriend, though."

"Oh, don't be stupid. You two have been together 'ow long? About six months? Seven?" Jackie laughs at her surprise. "We all wondered what 'ad 'appened to 'im. 'e was so different Bev thought 'e'd been replaced by an alien." Rose grins tightly. "You said 'e loves you, but that's not a bad thing. The whole world watched it 'appen, sweethear', and we're 'appy for 'im. And if you love 'im back, then I'm 'appy for you, too."

"I wish it was that easy, but this isn't exactly an episode of EastEnders. This is his life, his career, the whole country, Mum. Yeah, you and Bev are happy for him, but how will Parliament feel about it? Other world leaders? The Queen?"

"Oh, come off it. You act like you're the only couple in the 'istory of ever to have sex."

"I'm a call girl, a whore," she spits, ignoring Jackie's wince. "For the last seven months I've been sleeping with the Prime Minister, and you don't think that distinction is going to matter?"

As Jackie struggles to formulate a response, the newsreader announces that a majority has been reached and John will remain Prime Minister.

"Well, that's it then." Rose stands and walks toward her room.

"What's it?"

She gestures at the telly. "He's won."

"So?"

Rose levels a glare at her.

Jackie's face falls. "You're not going back."

"I'm not going back," she confirms.

"Rose --"

"Thanks for letting me stay. I'll find another flat as soon as I can."

The older woman can't help but offer one more parting comment as she walks away. "You made 'im better, sweethear'. Don't forget that."

She crawls into her childhood bed, pulling the duvet over her head as the only concession to the fact that the sun is rising.

It's early afternoon by the time she stirs again, bleary-eyed and hollow inside. There's a note from her mum on the kitchen table that she's gone shopping, and Rose decides the present is as good a time as any.

Flipping over her mum's note, she scribbles one of her own and heads out of the flat.

Exhausted, she returns to the Estate later that night, a box under her arm and a new key on her keyring. Her flat had been unbelievably easy to pack. Most of the large furniture wasn't hers, and she'd donated the majority of her 'Belle' clothes to a secondhand shop that had been more than happy to come pick it all up. They'd even volunteered to box it for her when she'd told them how much of it there was. The small appliances, bric-a-brac, and the rest of her clothes had been boxed and delivered to a storage unit where they'll stay until she finds a new flat.

Mostly, she's glad the flurry of activity had been enough to keep her from thinking. Now, though, she hopes she's tired enough to fall asleep quickly.

* * *

She's expecting a call from the estate agent, so when her mobile rings Rose answers it automatically, not realizing until she's hearing John's voice on the other side that she really should have checked the CLID first. They haven't spoken since the day before the election, now six days ago, his "I'll call you" having apparently gotten delayed due to work.

Her eyes meet her mother's from across the room, and she can tell that Jackie instinctively knows who's on the other end of the line. Rose gestures down the hallway and Jackie nods, drawing Bev's attention to give her privacy.

"I'd like to see you --"

She closes her door, blocking out the sound of the women talking in the lounge. "No."

"-- tonight. What?"

"I said no, John."

"Rose, what --"

"Belle."

In his silence she can picture his face, shock with a hint of anger.

"Your name is Rose," he says finally, decisively, and she can hear in his voice how right her guess was.

She almost chokes on the next words, "Clients are never meant to know that."

"I've known it from the beginning. Did you think I'd forgotten?"

"It doesn't matter what I thought. What matters is that I've never given you permission to use it."

"What is this about? Because I called you by your real name?"

"No, John. That's not what this is about. It's about me not being able to see you anymore."

"Rose --" He growls but continues with barely restrained annoyance, "Belle, what's going on?"

"We're done. That's what's going on."

"I won't accept that. Talk to me, please. Whatever happened, we can work it out."

"There's nothing to work out. Please don't call me again."

She closes the mobile, cutting off his arguments, then just stands there breathing, her pulse running rampant. After a few minutes of telling herself she isn't going to cry, she returns to the living room. Jackie's eyes are full of curiosity, but it's Bev who asks, "Who was that, Rose dear?"

Her question is cut off by the mobile ringing again. This time, Rose looks down at it first, sending the call to the answerphone with the push of a button.

"No one."

Bev's eyebrow rises. "It doesn't sound like no one."

The mobile rings again. Rose looks down. "Give me a mo'." She walks back to her bedroom, clutching the phone in her hand.

The smashing sound is almost cathartic, but the pieces of the mobile flying around the room may as well be the pieces of her heart.

She doesn't know what excuses her mum makes to Bev, but the next thing she knows, she's being bundled up in bed, a fresh cuppa on her night stand, and her throat raw from screaming she doesn't even remember.

* * *

The fourth time the call goes directly to the answerphone, he gives up. That lasts all of five minutes.

"I'm going out," he barks as he passes Daniels' desk.

"Sir?"

"There's something I have to do. I'll be back."

He doesn't know what he's expecting. If she's adamant about not seeing him anymore it's not like she's going to open her door and invite him in for tea. What he's not expecting is to find the door open, the flat devoid of any personal touches, and the landlord walking around inside it with another potential resident.

"The girl," he says, drawing the attention of both men, "the girl who lived here, where is she?"

"Moved out. Four days ago - no, five. Didn't give me any notice, either."

"Did she leave a forwarding address? Alternate phone number? Anything?"

"No, nothing." But John is already walking away before the man finishes speaking. Five days. It doesn't take a genius to do the math: she'd moved out the day after the election.

"Daniels!" he yells before the door to Number 10 closes behind him.

He has only a second to wait before the other man comes skidding into the hallway. "Yes, sir?"

"Get DI Bishop on the phone," he barks as he storms through the building dragging Daniels in his wake. "I need to talk to him."

"But he's here, sir, in your office. He arrived just after you left."

"Fantastic. See that we're not bothered."

"Yes, sir."

"Belle has disappeared," he says by way of greeting, closing his office door behind him, the alias like bile in his mouth. Rose, her name is Rose, she can hang her permission.

The DI had been looking at a painting on the wall, but he turns at the sound of John's voice. "Disappeared, sir?"

"Gone," he snarls. "Her flat is empty. The landlord says it's been days."

Bishop pulls his notebook out of his pocket and starts writing furiously. "When's the last time you spoke to her?"

"Today, not two hours ago," he says, dropping into his chair. "She says she doesn't want to see me anymore."

The pen stills, hovering over the paper. "Did she give a reason?"

"Not one that I'm willing to accept."

"Do you think she was being coerced?"

"No. I almost wish I did."

"Well, I can't answer to her reasons without looking into it first. As my wife frequently reminds me, I'm rubbish at understanding women. I can tell you this, however: I don't think she was involved with Saxon."

John sits straighter. "That's the first good news I've heard in days. What did you find?"

Bishop flips to another page in his notebook. "Harold Saxon. Age: 36. Wife: Lucy Saxon nee Cole. No children. Apparently has no problems with infidelity, so long as it's his; there's a string of mistresses in his past, including a dalliance with one Stephanie Charlton." He stops, looks up at John.

"Is that name supposed to mean something? I was following along fine up until that point."

"Ms. Charlton is a madam, specializing in high end escorts. Former employer of one Rose Tyler alias Belle du Jour."

"Former employer?"

"Yes, sir. It appears they very recently parted company."

"How recently?"

Bishop flips to another page. "Date of separation: 22 April."

John feels his heart skip a beat. "You're absolutely certain that's correct? 22 April?"

Chapter Text

Bishop glances at the notebook again, but it appears to be a formality only. "That's the date I was given. Is it significant?"

Significant? Their first kiss - and their second and third; all of their kisses had taken place after the 22nd. Of course, he knows now that he hadn't actually been paying her the whole time, but that Friday and the Sunday evening he spent at her flat have suddenly taken on new meaning. She truly was Rose when it mattered the most.

Then John remembers why he'd kissed her in the first place and all of the hope from the previous few minutes bleeds from him.

John opens his desk drawer and takes out the tab with the article they'd traced back to Saxon, laying it on his desk. "She showed up that Friday visibly upset, with a large, fresh bruise on her arm. It was the first time I'd ever seen her injured, but she wouldn't tell me anything about how it had happened. This was three days later."

His hands are shaking when he points at the date, 26 April. "Tell me it wasn't Saxon," he says dully.

"There are three anomalous deposits --"

"Tell me it wasn't Saxon."

"-- in Ms. Charlton's account, beginning in --"

"Tell me he's not the one who hurt her."

"-- March of this year and accounting for --"

"Please, Bishop."

"-- nearly a quarter of a million pounds." The facts covered, his eyes and voice soften. "I can't."

"You said she wasn't involved!" he yells, slamming his hand on his desk.

The other man barely flinches. "I don't think she was complicit. There are no anomalous deposits whatsoever in Miss Tyler's account. Whatever happened on 22 April, if it was even work-related, there's nothing to suggest that she was ever paid for it. Not only that, but there is an obvious sharp decline in deposits beginning in December of last year."

"Could she have been paid in cash?" he asks, though he doesn't want the answer.

Bishop shakes his head. "There’s no indication that the money ever left Ms. Charlton’s account."

"So, what? Rose finds out about Saxon and her madam, threatens to expose him and he --" John swallows hard as he remembers the fear and pain in her eyes. "No, she wouldn't do that, too much risk of her involvement with me coming to light. She liked her job, Detective Inspector; I don't want you to think less of her for it. And while I hoped she would one day give it up, we had not gotten to the point in our relationship where I would have felt comfortable asking her to leave it for me. Something bad happened to make her quit, I'm sure of it."

"If it was Saxon, do you think Miss Tyler would be willing to testify?"

"Testify?" he squeaks incredulously. "She's disappeared from her flat and I can't even get her to answer her mobile. And that is because of me, because I got too close. I can't imagine how she'd react to facing someone who had hurt her." He sighs. "No. No matter what, I do not want the name Rose Tyler escaping to the media. Especially now when I can't protect her."

"Do you think Saxon knew her by any name other than the alias? A statement, even one --"

"I said no."

"Yes, sir." After a moment Bishop chuckles, his stoic exterior finally breaking.

"What's so funny?"

"You managed to get me off track; that's rare. There is good news for you in all of this."

John runs a hand over his face. He's not sure he can take much more, even if it is good news. "And that is?"

"The reason I came to see you." Now he sounds positively gleeful. "The 240,000 pounds was paid out of Mr. Saxon's Parliamentary Expense account."

He blinks, knows he's staring at the other man, but for a moment no words will form.

It's been almost a year to the day since the Daily Telegraph began publishing leaked copies of MPs' expense records. Dozens of MPs had been implicated, accused of misusing their allowances and expenses. So many had stepped down, quickly retiring to save themselves the embarrassment of getting removed from office. John himself had even fallen under suspicion briefly, but somehow Saxon had managed to avoid getting his name dragged through the mud. A quarter of a million pounds discrepancy is going to put him at the forefront of the accusations.

"You're pulling me fucking leg," he finally manages.

"No, sir."

"Is he stupid or just that cocksure? They're announcing more and more criminal charges by the day!"

"And they'll have their hands on another very soon."

"You haven't told them yet?"

"I wanted to bring it to your attention first." John belatedly realizes he never offered the man a chair when Bishop finally sits, excitement glowing in his eyes. "I have an idea."

* * *

The click of the tape recorder breaks the uneasy silence in the room. "This is Detective Inspector Frank Bishop. It is the 24th day of May, 2010. I am here speaking with Harry Saxon. To my left is John Smith, Prime Minister. The time is half nine. Gentlemen, I thank you for your time this morning; I know you're both very busy. We're deviating a bit from standard protocol having you both here, but seeing how fast these things tend to go once the media gets their hands on it, I thought it best that we not waste time. Prime Minister, since you were the one who first expressed concerns about Mr. Saxon, why don't we start with you? If you would, please, bring us up to speed on how this whole thing came about."

"Well, as I'm sure you know, DI Bishop, some weeks ago an article appeared in The Sun which made certain allegations about my personal life. My office was able to trace the article's source to Mr. Saxon. However, during the course of our investigation, we were very surprised to discover that over the last three months nearly a quarter of a million pounds had been paid by Mr. Saxon to a madam by the name of Stephanie Charlton. Ms. Charlton, unfortunately, seems to have disappeared, but we were able to piece together enough information to determine that the article was the result of a plan between the two of them to shake voters' faith in me. We assume the girl in the photographs was either a student or model hired for that express purpose."

The Detective Inspector's pen scratches across his notebook. After a moment he stops and looks up at the third man in the room. "Mr. Saxon, do you have anything to say?"

Harry smiles his biggest smile. "I do, indeed, Detective Inspector. Write this down in your notebook: You've just been lied to by the Prime Minister. While I do not doubt Ms. Charlton has 'disappeared,' I am sure that if you care to look you will likely discover that her disappearance was orchestrated by John Smith's office. Because, you see, the girl in the photographs was not a student or model, she was an employee of Ms. Charlton, a prostitute. And while I was the one responsible for the pictures ending up in the tabs, I had nothing to do with said prostitute's weekly visits to Number 10."

John shakes his head benignly. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Oh, please," he scoffs, turning back to the DI. "I heard from a little birdie that after so many years of being alone, the Prime Minister had taken a liking to a particular little whore under this madam's care. I thought I'd see what the fuss was about. I'll admit the price was steep, but I assumed she must be worth it, if John was spending so much time with her. However, it turns out she's just a chavvy little thing, fresh from the Estate, as much as she tries to hide it with her fancy clothes and her oh-so-careful diction. Strip those away and she's not bad for getting a leg over, I suppose, if one were just coming out of a dry spell. But she's nothing special." He finishes then turns his attention back to John, satisfaction already glowing in his eyes at the reaction he's anticipating.

It's not there. John is watching him coolly. This isn't the same as when Saxon ambushed him in the Cabinet Room; he's had weeks to prepare himself for what might be said. And no one in his position can afford to be ruled by his emotions.

Bishop looks from one man to the other. Then, "Sir?"

John turns to him. "It's an interesting story, certainly. But, as I said, I don't know anything about a 'little whore.'" He looks back at Saxon. "And even if I did, I wouldn't be stupid enough to use my expense account to pay for one."

Harry pales considerably. "He's lying."

"I have no reason to," John replies calmly. "There's no whore."

"Whore, call girl, prostitute, it doesn't matter what you call her, that's semantics. I've seen her going into Number 10. I've fucked her."

John stands, buttons his jacket and looks at the DI Bishop. "I don't need to sit here and listen to this. If there's nothing further you need from me?"

"No, sir. Thank you --"

"Ask him for his expense records!"

Ignoring Saxon's increasingly mad voice, John shakes DI Bishop's hand and then turns to leave the room.

"How does it feel, John," Saxon taunts before he can reach the door, "to know that I've fucked her? Huh? Did you enjoy the present I left you last time?"

His stomach turns. The bruise. It has to be. How he'd hoped he was wrong about its origin. John stops, closing his eyes briefly before turning back to the room. He sighs dramatically as he adjusts the cuffs of his jacket. "Would the past six months' records be sufficient to end this?"

Saxon gapes at him. DI Bishop barely blinks. "Certainly, sir, if you're volunteering information relevant to the investigation, we wouldn't turn you away."

"I'll have Collins send over my expense records for the last six months." He glares at Saxon briefly. "And just to ensure there won't be any further accusations, I'll have Daniels send over my personal records for the same time period. I assume that will be sufficient?"

"More than. Thank you, sir."

Nodding, John then turns to Saxon, who's still completely gobsmacked. "I told you, Harry, there's no whore. There never was."

Stepping out into the hallway, John breathes deeply for the first time that morning. As much as he wants to walk into the room adjacent to the interrogation room and watch Saxon's undoing unfold, he makes his way to Bishop's office instead. There will be plenty of time for that later, at the trial.

John drops into one of the plastic chairs Bishop keeps around his office, his eye on the large yellow envelope he'd brought with him to the station that morning which contains the last six months of his life. Every I is dotted, every T is crossed, and there's not one period misplaced. But, most importantly, there is no reference to Belle, Rose, or Stephanie Charlton.

It's been more than three weeks since he's seen or heard from Rose. He texts her at least once a day, often more, in the hopes that she'll respond, but there's been nothing. No one could be that patient so either she's gotten a new number, blocked his, or he's right to be quietly awaiting a restraining order.

He's been in Bishop's office for an hour when he sees Sir Thomas Legg arrive and enter the interrogation room; DI Bishop exits shortly thereafter. "Sir Thomas has arrived," Bishop says, joining John in his office and closing the office door behind him. His voice is calm, and John wonders how he manages before remembering that this is surely not the most difficult case Bishop has ever worked. "He'll be taking over the investigation from here."

"How are things looking for Saxon?"

"Oh, even worse than when you left. I reminded him several times of his rights, but he wouldn't stop talking. I don't expect he'll be bothering anyone for a long time when this is done."

"That's good. Did he mention her?"

"There was quite a bit of insistence about a 'Belle,' but he made no mention of your young lady."

John stands, offers the other man his hand. "Thank you, Detective Inspector, for everything."

"You're very welcome, sir." He gets a few steps away from the door when Bishop speaks again. "Have you heard from her?"

He's been holding himself so stiffly all morning that it's painfully obvious when his shoulders slump.

"Technically, sir, she is a missing person. It would be remiss of me not to offer to investigate her disappearance."

"I don't even know if I have the right to ask you to do that. She asked me not to call."

"I'm offering. It's not the same thing. Besides, my wife would have my head if I didn't at least try."

"Then find her," he decides, nearly choking on the tightness in his throat. "But don't do anything, just figure out where she is and what she's doing. She has a mother who lives here in London, you can start there. But don't -- they don't get on, so tread lightly."

"Yes, sir."

John doesn't allow himself to think about what he's just agreed to until he's sitting in the car on the way back to Number 10. Closing his eyes, he takes a moment to catalogue everything he can remember about Rose. He doesn't doubt for an instant that Bishop will be able to find her, but success there does not guarantee he'll be able to see her again. Or that he'll ever hold her in his arms again even if he does.

He squeezes his eyes even tighter. Please, please let her love him as much as he loves her.

Chapter Text

"And in a startling twist, only two months after winning re-election, Opposition Leader Harry Saxon was arrested this morning for problems with his reported Parliamentary expenses." The feed switches to a video of Saxon, his hand raised in an attempt to block the camera's view of his face, getting out of a car and walking into the police station. The pavement on either side of him is lined with reporters thrusting microphones in his face and shouting questions, but there's no sound attached as the newsreader's voiceover continues. "As you know, it's been over a year since the first such accusations were made public, and Mr. Saxon had managed to stay above reproach --"

Rose switches off the telly. "Good. Wanker," she spits so vehemently that it brings her mother in from the other room. She rubs her arm, unaware of the motion until Jackie's eyes widen.

"Sweethear'? Is there something you want to tell me?"

She stops rubbing and meets the other woman's gaze. The bruise may have faded, but Rose will never forget it. "Confidentiality, Mum," she says evenly.

"I always knew there was something off about 'im," Jackie offers, sitting on the sofa beside Rose.

"Liar," Rose laughs lightly, leaning her head on her mum's shoulder. "Never could shut you up about how handsome he is."

Jackie tsks. "You must be thinking of someone else, sweethear'."

She's not. Her mother's appreciation of Harry Saxon's appearance is well remembered. "Of course. My mistake." Rose takes a deep breath. "I love you, Mum."

"I love you, too, Rose."

Eventually, Jackie grabs the remote and turns the telly back on. The images of Saxon are gone, replaced by an interview with John, and Rose stiffens.

"You should call 'im."

"No. Nothing's changed. Not really."

"That's right. None of the important stuff's changed. You still love 'im." She gestures at the telly. "And 'e still loves you."

"I was horrible to him."

"'e'll forgive you."

Rose takes the remote out of her mum's hand and changes the channel.

* * *

John pulls his jacket tighter around his body to defend against the autumn chill. There's a certain anonymity to the campus which is greatly assisted by the cool weather. Heads are tucked into flipped up collars and eyes are firmly on the pavement as students scurry toward carparks and bus stops. No one takes note of him, leaning against an unmarked black car in a line of other similarly waiting vehicles.

He's managed to get this far without talking himself out of it, but, now that the sun has fully set, his doubts are creeping back in. DI Bishop had informed him that Rose was staying with her mother, the handful of flat applications she'd put in proving fruitless, not surprising considering her state of unemployment. By mid-July he'd ceased all attempts to communicate with her, utterly convinced that she was never going to change her mind about wanting to see him again, what had started out as several texts a day having already dwindled to only one every couple of days by that point.

Then he sees her, exiting the building, and he's very glad he didn't allow himself to give up. Her hair's a honey brown, her natural color, he assumes, and he came close to overlooking her amidst the sea of other heads because of it.

John pushes off of the sedan, barely hearing the door open and close behind him as the guard steps out of the car and onto the pavement.

Rose is in a hurry, like everyone else, but he catches up to her with a few long strides, easily falling into step beside her. "Hello."

She jumps, a tiny thing, quickly smothered. "Hello."

"Belle?"

"Rose," she corrects, her pace becoming more leisurely and he slows to stay with her. "Belle is... for lack of a better word, dead."

He hums. "I'd say I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm afraid you'd misunderstand."

"No, I understand," she says softly. "It was time."

"I saw you'd left Ms. Charlton's employment." She winces, but says nothing. "I'm glad, especially considering that nasty business with Saxon."

"John --"

"I don't care." He puts his hand on her sleeve and she stops obediently. It makes his heart hurt, because she was a lot of things during their time together, but never anything less than a partner. "Whatever happened with him, I don't care, so long as you weren't involved."

"How could you possibly think --"

"I don't," he rushes to assure her. "Really. I never doubted you for a second. Just tell me it's over, that I won't have to worry about you going back to it, and I promise to never bring it up again." He doesn't even bother to censor his words. His mere presence should be enough to tell her that he intends to discuss their future.

She tightens her hand around the shoulder strap of her bookbag. "I'm out. I've got this now." She gestures at the building behind them. "Brighter futures and all that, yeah?"

"I'm very glad to hear that. There is, however, one matter we do need to discuss related to all of that unpleasantness. Apparently there was an accountancy error, some invoices were lost, and it seems to me that I owe you a great deal of money."

"You don't owe me anything."

"Are you sure? When I say a great deal of money, I mean a great deal of money." He nods at the building. "It would go a long way towards college expenses, university."

She glares at him, but he can see the tears forming in her eyes.

He pulls her into a hug, and they're being jostled around by passing students - and God she's young, older than most sixth form students though still young enough that she is only a few years older than his daughter would have been - but he can't bring himself to care.

"What did I do wrong, Rose?"

"Nothing. You were perfect." She's crying in earnest now, her tears falling on the old leather jacket he's wearing.

"Then why did you leave me?"

She cries even harder, sobs wracking her body. He waits a few minutes for her to settle, but when she doesn't, he lifts her face and wipes away her tears. Slowly, very slowly, her crying subsides until all that remains is the occasional hitch of her breath.

"Let me tell you a story and maybe you can help me with the ending. It's about a very old man whose heart was burdened by loss and responsibility. One day he met a girl, a very young girl, who helped him feel light again. And even though he was reluctant at first, he found himself making room for her in his life. It wasn't until he was faced with losing her that he realized how much he loved her and needed her. But then she disappeared, nearly breaking his heart. He knew he couldn't let her go that easily, so he searched high and low, and when he finally found her he said, 'I love you' and she said..."

He's holding his breath, but she's just looking at him, her eyes wide, bottom lip still trembling.

"This is the part I need your help with, Rose: he said, 'I love you' and she said..."

"I --" she croaks, looks down at her shoes and then back up at him. "I love you."

John bends down and presses his lips to hers.

* * *

"I love you, Rose Tyler," he says against her lips when he breaks the kiss, like he can't say either the words or her name often enough.

"I love you, too." And then it finally hits her what she's saying and that she's standing in public kissing the Prime Minister - no, more, the man she loves. A ball of giddy laughter bubbles up and escapes her as she drops her bookbag at her feet so she can wrap her arms around his neck. "You have no idea how long I've wanted to say that."

"You? What about me? When you stopped taking my calls... you can't imagine what that felt like."

She pulls back from him, smacking him soundly on the shoulder, hardly even noticing when he makes a "stay back" gesture to someone outside of her line of sight. "I can't imagine? It's been months, John, months! I thought..."

"I called! I texted! You never returned any of them!"

"I wanted to. But I had to stay away. I didn't want who I'd been to reflect badly on you."

His lips seek hers out again; it seems like he hasn't been more than a few inches away from her mouth this whole time. "You've always been Rose Tyler and that could never reflect badly on anyone. I was so afraid you didn't want me. And coward, me, I waited so long that by the time I'd gathered up the courage to contact you again, you'd already started the enrollment process." He gathers her up in his arms and swings her around once. "And look at you, getting your A-levels! Did I mention how bloody proud of you I am?"

Rose is laughing when he puts her back down. She doesn't feel the ground beneath her feet, though, she's too busy standing on air.

"Come home with me," he mutters against her lips, and it's at once a request and a sensual promise that sets her body alight. "I'm not in the flat during the day, you can study there. I can have a car bring you to class in the evenings."

"You're asking me to move in with you?"

"I am."

"Are you sure that will be okay?"

"It had better be. Because I'm prepared to leave it all behind if it's not."

"John --"

"I would, you know, if you asked me to. Just say the word." A beat passes and then another proud smile works its way across his face. "Never even occurred to you, did it?"

"Of course not. I could never."

"Then be there with me. This old life is better with two."

She smiles, that tongue-touched grin that he loves. "Better with you."

Chapter Text

"I'd offer you tea," he says as they enter his flat, "but, frankly, Rose always makes it better than I do, and I wouldn't want to insult you." He walks her to the dining table and offers her a chair.

Jackie shakes her head. "Sit down, John -- oh, and I'm going to be calling you 'John,' none of this 'Prime Minister' and 'sir' business, so you'd better get used to it."

"Of course. Yes."

"And you'll call me Jackie."

"If you like."

Jackie looks at the chair between them pointedly until he gets the hint and sits down.

"I see where she gets it now," John chuckles as Jackie disappears into the kitchen.

She putters around, but it isn't until John hears the kettle click that he realizes she shouldn't know where anything is. However, when he belatedly follows after her, everything is neatly laid out.

"Yeah. I definitely see where she gets it." He shoves his hands into his pockets as an uncomfortable silence descends. This is exactly why Rose was supposed to be here, to fill up these silences. He also wishes he was wearing the neatly pressed oxford and trousers that are hanging up in the walk-in-wardrobe instead of the plain jumper and jeans he'd been bumming around the flat in all day. At least then he'd feel more like a man accustomed to meeting intimidating world leaders instead of a nervous boyfriend meeting THE MOTHER for the first time. "Jackie, I don't -- I'm not -- I think I keep expecting you to slap me," he finally manages when she hands him a mug.

"'ave you done something to deserve it?"

"I'm sure a lot of people would think I have. Mothers especially."

"No, Rose makes 'er own choices. 'ave you ever tried telling 'er not to do something? Besides, you're the reason she left that 'orrible job, so I may be a touch grateful." She points at him menacingly. "You keep in mind that I will slap you if I start to think you deserve it, but for now you're safe."

He tamps down a smile because she's being so serious that he doesn't doubt her for an instant. "Thank you, I think."

Jackie nods sharply like they've come to an understanding. "Speaking of Rose, when will she be back?"

John looks up at the clock. "Any minute now. Would you like to have a seat in the lounge while we wait?"

The sound of the door opening preempts her answer. "John, I'm home! Mum should be here soon, and we still have to --"

John steps out of the kitchen.

"Hey." Rose closes the distance between them and wraps her arms around his neck. "Missed you."

He presses his lips chastely to hers, ignoring when she tries to deepen the kiss. "I missed you, too. And your mum showed up about twenty minutes ago."

Her face contorts, and she slowly slides her arms away and back down to her sides. John turns to let Rose see Jackie standing behind him in the kitchen.

"Hi, Mum. You're early," she admonishes softly as she hugs the older woman. "I thought we were sending a car for you?" she looks to John for confirmation.

"She took the bus."

"What?" Jackie asks to Rose's incredulous look. "It's been a month, I couldn't wait any longer."

"Another hour wouldn't have killed you. Besides, you know I've been busy with school."

"You've been busy all right." She tilts her head in John's direction.

"Mum!" Rose links their arms together and pulls Jackie into the lounge. "Come on, let's sit down, you can tell me all of the gossip from the estate while John gets the food sent up."

John smiles as he watches them go. Rose had been so nervous about him meeting Jackie, had put it off several times, in fact, her schooling just being a convenient excuse. But it looks like things are going to be okay.

Chapter Text

In their flat a small Christmas tree stands in the corner of the lounge. It's dwarfed by the one on the ground floor at the base of the stairs, but Rose absolutely insisted that they have one. The big one is for the employees of Number 10, the visitors, and, ultimately, the world. This one is theirs.

There's his side of the bed and hers, determined early on because John needed to be closer to the alarm clock, which Rose wanted no part of. Each side also has a nightstand with a drawer, and when Rose hides John's Christmas present in her drawer she declares it off limits to him. She also insists that he not get her any gift he can't hide in his own.

As they enter their second year together, John's transformation is nothing short of miraculous. He looks younger, healthier, and everyone including the Queen has commented on it. It particularly shows when he's like a kid on Christmas morning, brimming with energy that belies his age.

In their bed skin slides against skin with an almost embarrassing regularity. The sex is affirming, confirming. And after John's bounded around the flat for a few hours, he discards his clothes and slips back into bed beside Rose. It's a Saturday morning ritual and it is, after all, Saturday. With gentle but sure touches he coaxes her to wakefulness.

When Rose dashes to the loo John takes her Christmas present out of his drawer and slides it under his pillow. She returns to their bed and slips between the sheets, scooting as close to him as she can, mumbling a soft "Hey" as she rests her head on his chest.

"Happy Christmas."

"Oh! Happy Christmas."

"I have something for you."

Rose grins up at him cheekily. "Yeah?" She cups him where his body strains, aching to be connected with hers. "And what would that be?"

John moans. "Well, that, too, but I meant your present."

She removes her hand, pressing it against his shoulder until he lies flat on his back. Straddling his thighs, she lays her torso over his and rests her head on his chest again, just listening to his heartbeat for a moment. His erection digs into her stomach, but it's a pleasant sort of feeling, and she doesn't seem in a hurry to move.

Eventually she moves, quickly dropping a sweet kiss on his lips before shimmying down until she is level with his cock. He inhales raggedly when she blows one anticipatory puff of air on his heated skin before dodging to the right instead.

"This is probably my favorite spot on your whole body," she announces, nibbling at the jut of his hipbone.

"There? Really?" he grips the base of his erection, only inches from her face. "You sure?"

She sucks hard on his skin, smiling when he bucks beneath her. "'Course I'm sure." She tongues hard against the same spot, biting gently at the circle of pink she's creating.

"Rose," he groans.

"Yes?"

But before he can answer, her mouth swiftly covers him, sinking down until he feels himself pressing against the back of her throat. "Oh, fuck."

John buries his hand in her hair when she starts to work him earnestly. "I had a plan for this morning, love," he gasps after a minute, "and you're disrupting it."

She smiles, and it's both filthy and triumphant. Then, holding suction tightly around him, she slowly lifts her head until he pops free of her mouth. "Am I, now? You don't sound like you're complaining too much."

"Come up here." John doesn't issue commands very often when they're in bed. He has a lingering distaste for it; he wants her to be an equal participant, and a part of him very much likes having the ability to relinquish control over at least this small corner of his life.

The only problem, for what it's worth, is that Rose loves it when he gives orders. Her eyes are dark and heavy-lidded when she stalks up his body like an animal on the prowl.

"And what, exactly, is your plan?" she mutters in challenge against his lips.

He wraps one arm around her waist and flips them. Rose gasps when her back hits the sheets, and then releases a beautiful cry of pleasure when John pounces without warning, his mouth latching on to the side of her neck.

"Oh, yes, please," she begs, her nails curling into the skin of his shoulder and back, the tiny points of pain only heightening his pleasure at her reaction. As he bites and sucks, Rose writhes beneath him, trying to line up their bodies, but John holds himself away from her.

She whimpers when he gentles his assault, lowering his mouth to her breast and lapping against the tightly ruched skin. "I'm okay with this plan," she says after she catches her breath.

"This isn't the plan," he replies between licks.

"Well, what is then?"

He rests on his knees, taking one of her hands in each of his and threading their fingers together. Then, leaning forward, he plants their hands on either side of her face.

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

"Do you know what my favorite part of your body is?"

Rose wiggles her hips a bit. "I can guess."

John smirks. "You'd be wrong." He returns his mouth to the side of her neck and places a few kisses there before trailing kisses and nips down her arm. Lifting their hands, his right and her left, he continues down the back of her hand to just past the first knuckle on her fourth finger. "Right here. This is my favorite spot."

Her eyes widen. She tries to speak, but her voice is completely gone. Stopping, she swallows hard, and then continues in an attempt at nonchalance. "Right there, huh? Any particular reason?"

He rests her hand on his chest and slides his under his pillow to pull out her gift. "Because after you agree to marry me, that's where I'm going to put this ring." He places the whole thing, velvet box and all, on the center of her chest.

Rose inhales sharply.

"I want forever with you, Rose Tyler. Marry me?" Opening the box, he turns it so that she can see the ring inside.

"Oh," she squeaks at the sight of the diamonds. Cupping his face, she pulls him down to her and kisses him.

"Is that a yes?"

"Of course that's a yes, you daft git."

John kisses her again before taking the ring out of the box and sliding it onto her finger. "See?" he preens. "My favorite spot."

Rose admires the ring for a moment before her expression turns to horror. "Oh my God, John." She smacks him across the shoulder. "I told you not to get me anything big."

He laughs, picking up the box to show it to her before discarding it over the edge of the bed. "It's not big! It's tiny. It fit in the drawer and everything!"

"That's not what I meant when I said that and you know it." And then she deflates. "Your gift," she gasps. "It's nothing like --"

Transferring some of his weight onto her, he stretches his legs out. "I'm not worried about that." He kisses her again. "In fact, at this exact moment I'm rather more concerned about making love to my future wife."

She makes a noise in the back of her throat that has him hard again in seconds. He hums as he traces her lines, guiding his fingers to her core where he finds her wet and wanting. And when he slides inside of her, she welcomes him home.

"I love you," she breathes against his lips as he starts to move.

"I love you."

He keeps his rhythm slow, carefully placing each thrust to draw out the best reactions from her.

The glint of light that reflects off of the ring frequently catches his attention as her hands move about his face and shoulders. He grabs her hand and kisses his favorite spot, ring and all, and then gradually picks up the pace until she is crying out beneath him.

"John, please."

With one press of his thumb against her clit, he pushes her over, barely holding on until her cries subside before following. Afterward, he lifts his head from her shoulder and drops beside her, wrapping his arms around her to pull her close.

"Happy Christmas, love."

"The best Christmas."

Chapter Text

There's a leather-bound Dickens sitting in the shop's window display, of course there is.

Wednesday afternoon and Christmas is in the air. Fairy lights are strung from the buildings and trees; giant lit presents and umbrellas hover above the streets. Shop windows are decked with stockings and spray-on snow. People are everywhere, couples and families huddled close for warmth as they move from shop to shop.

Rose had been wandering aimlessly, window-shopping to the fullest extent of the definition. She had no one to buy presents for - except her mum, and she couldn't see herself showing up there bearing gifts - so there are only a few things for herself in the bag she carries.

Until the bookshop.

The display is Christmas themed, naturally, and who better to showcase at Christmastime than Dickens? It's daft that she's even considering asking after the book, but her feet pull her into the shop anyway. Her hands and face are immediately grateful, however, as it is far warmer inside the shop than it is on the pavement outside.

She glances at the display as she passes the window from the inside this time. There are several other leather-bound volumes, but it appears to only be one copy of each. Rose continues walking, exploring the store and trying to distract herself from something she has no business buying.

In two years she's never bought a gift for a client. Sex toys and accessories, specific kinds of lingerie, those kinds of things don't cause a problem, because though they are purchased for the client's enjoyment, ultimately, they remain hers. But something like this, an I-saw-this-and-thought-of-you, is unprecedented. Besides, they've only been together the one time, there's no guarantee he'll ever call her again, and wouldn't she feel silly then.

But he'd love it, and so she finds herself repeatedly drawn towards the display.

"Go on, then," a voice says from behind her the third time she passes it. "They're meant to be taken home. Which one has caught your eye?"

Rose turns and sees a clerk hovering.

"I'm sorry?"

"The books in the window," he says. "I wouldn't have put them there if I didn't expect to see them purchased. We do gift wrapping, if that's something you're interested in."

"No, I -- it's for a... friend, and I don't even know if I should."

"Do you want to look at it? Might help you decide."

"I really shouldn't."

He shrugs. "Hey, no problem. We have a strict no-pressure sales model. You let me know if you change your mind."

"Yeah, I will. Thanks."

She walks around a bit more, picking up a few books for herself, but her feet are persistent and she finds herself once again drawn to the front of the store.

"The Dickens," she sighs at the smirking clerk.

"A Christmas Carol?"

"No, the other one, the leather-bound."

"Ah, Miss has a very discerning eye. That's a good find." He leans over the display and pulls out the book. It's a slim volume, a fraction of the size of the book John already has. She takes it from the clerk and flips it open.

"Yeah, like I said, it's for my friend. He's a huge fan, but there's this one short story he loves and it's probably not even --" By now she has the book open to the table of contents. The Signal-Man is the third story. "It's there," she breathes.

Her fingers trace the lettering on the page.

"Do you want me to wrap it for you?" the clerk asks, startling her out of her reverie.

What is she doing? Rose shakes herself and then hands the book back, much to the confusion of the clerk. "No. Thank you." She holds up the two books she'd chosen for herself. "Just these, please."

* * *

So many shops have packed up their Christmas decorations that Rose is not at all surprised to see the bookshop has as well. Masking her disappointment, she enters the shop and begins to browse. The fact that she glances through the Ds is a complete coincidence, especially when she doesn't spy a certain leather-bound edition.

"Oh, hello."

Rose turns to see the clerk from before. "Hi."

"Something I can help you with?" He glances meaningfully at the shelves.

"No," she replies, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "Nothing."

She shouldn't even have looked. Inappropriate only begins to cover it, especially now that the convenient excuse of Christmas has passed. They have a working relationship, she and John, one that now involves chips and her participation as a full partner in bed, apparently, but not one that involves gift-giving.

"It didn't sell, you know, the Dickens." He says as she turns to leave.

"It didn't?" She spins around so quickly it makes her a bit dizzy.

He smiles understandingly. "After you left, it never actually made its way back onto the display. It's in the back, if you --"

"Yes, please."

A few minutes later she holds it in her hands again. It's a near perfect match for the book he already has, considerably less loved, of course, but perfect.

She nods to the clerk.

As she walks out of the store, bag in hand, she almost has the courage to hope that one day she'll have an occasion to give it to him.

Chapter Text

When Dean is finally ushered into the Prime Minister's office, he's surprised to see that it's just the two of them. The Prime Minister rises from his desk and offers his hand. "Rose will be right down," he says, gesturing at a sofa and chairs and, sure enough, they've barely sat down when the door opens again.

"Sorry I'm late."

As both men stand to greet her, Dean can tell right off that the Prime Minister is entranced. And it's easy to see why. The pictures didn't do her justice. From them he'd estimated her age at close to his own, but here under proper lighting, it's clear to see that unless the British government is hiding some kind of space age moisturizer, she's only in her mid-twenties. She moves with the confidence of someone comfortable in their own skin, though. She's lovely, her hair pulled up in a messy bun and wearing a maroon blouse too short to hide how well her black trousers hug her hips.

She has eyes only for the Prime Minister, as well, and they are several minutes into a private conversation Dean can only make out snatches of before she even notices that there's someone else in the room.

"Mr. White?"

He offers her his hand. "Call me Dean, please."

"Dean. And you can call me Rose."

John is behind her and he gestures to the sofa. "Why don't we get started?"

"Are we waiting for Ms. Brooks?"

"I don't think that's necessary. Do you?"

It doesn’t escape him what a huge gesture of trust that is. "No, I think we can manage without her. Thank you, sir."

Rose looks over her shoulder at John and it's the first sign of trepidation she's shown since arriving. He smiles reassuringly and takes her hand.

It's not until she fidgets a bit before settling into the sofa that Dean notices the diamond ring on her left hand. Looking down at the notepad in his hand he scratches out several of the questions on it. "Why don't we start with the obvious: that's a very lovely ring."

Rose smiles as she extends her fingers. "Thank you. I think so, too." She looks at John and he is smiling as well.

"Can I ask..."

"I rather think that's your job," John quips, earning himself an elbow to the ribs. "Ow!"

"John," she hisses. "Rude."

"It's quite all right," Dean laughs. "Have you set a date yet?"

"No, not yet. It's only been a couple of weeks."

"Ah. Christmas?"

She nods.

"Well, congratulations."

"Thank you."

"Now let's go back to the beginning. Rose, why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself? I'm sure everyone is very curious."

"There's not much to tell, really. I was raised here in London. Dad died when I was a baby, so it was just me and Mum."

"So you're not secretly a princess or the daughter of an MP, I take it?"

"No," she laughs. "Nothing like that."

"All right. Enough of the ancient history, what are you doing now?"

"I'm in school, actually. I never got my A-levels and I've always regretted it, so I decided to go back."

"Any plans for after?"

"Not at this time. I've got another year to go before I sit for my exams. And my life is considerably more complicated now than it was when I decided to go to college, that's all going to have to be taken into account."

"Do you think that puts you at a disadvantage in the eyes of the world? The last several Prime Ministers' wives have all been highly successful in their own right."

"No, because I don't expect to be involved in the politics too much. If anything, I think going back sends an overall positive message."

"Never too old, right?"

"That's right."

"Well, how did you two meet? I'll admit, it doesn't seem likely."

John squeezes her hand and speaks up for the first time. "Actually, we have your paper and Harry Saxon to thank for that."

"I was working this dead-end job when a bloke approached me about doing some modeling. I was worried it was going to be something skeevy, but he just wanted me to dress up and walk around on the pavement. It was a bit of quick cash, so I said all right. I didn't know what they were going to be used for until I saw the paper."

"Her name came up during my office's investigation of the article. We brought her in to find out how she was involved, and afterwards I couldn't get her out of my head. If it hadn't been for Saxon's meddling, we never would have met."

"I just wanted to crawl into a hole, I felt so bad about my part in it, but he was persistent."

"First date? Where did you go? What did you do?"

"We aren't exactly inconspicuous," she says. "And it's hard, especially in the beginning of a relationship, trying to be with someone who's sort of a celebrity."

"'Sort of' a celebrity?" John mutters incredulously under his breath, earning him a teasing grin.

"Neither of us really craves the attention, so rather than going out and causing a scene we just prefer to stay in. Our first date was here -- I'm going to ruin your reputation, John -- He had no idea what I liked, so dinner was a little bit of everything. Then we danced. It was so sweet. Very low pressure. If I didn't know who he was, I never would have guessed."

"And now? What do you like to do for leisure?"

Rose laughs. "We're both big readers. Movies - oh, I can't wait for the last Harry Potter movie."

"Anything else?"

"Not really. We're very boring."

"How did your mum take the news that you were dating the Prime Minister?"

"Honestly? She was completely gobsmacked. I still don't think she's over it. She's the talk of her friends, though. And loving every minute of it."

"They get on all right? He and your mum?"

She laughs again, bolder this time. "What do you expect me to say? No? Of course they do."

"So, it's been a little less than nine months since you met, and you're engaged already. When did you know he was the one?"

She sobers. "I think I've always known, from the first time I met him."

"And you, sir?"

"I was faced with the possibility of losing her, all because I hadn't the courage to tell her that I loved her. That's not something I wanted to go through again, especially not if I had the chance to prevent it. That kind of thing forces you to reevaluate your life."

Rose leans against him and he presses a kiss into her hair.

"Prime Minister, I know we've been focusing a lot on questions for Rose, but here's one for you: what's the biggest difference Rose has made in your life?"

"I'm living again. There's really no other way to put it. I'd gotten so wrapped up in being an MP and then the Prime Minister that I'd forgotten how to be myself. Rose reminded me that it's okay to take time to be just John Smith."

"Rose, how does it feel it be engaged to someone with so much power in the world?"

"At our first meeting I was really intimidated by who he is, but once I got to know him I found out that he's really a normal bloke. It was weeks before I thought of him as the Prime Minister again, and by then I was already falling hard."

"I resent the implication that I am just a bloke."

"You're my bloke, if that helps."

He holds up his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart.

"Oh, he's also very impressive. Did I mention he's very impressive?" She laughs. "It's a job. Yeah, it's an important one, but he goes to work early, comes home late, there's the occasional middle of the night or weekend emergency. Sometimes he says things like, "I've got a meeting tomorrow morning with the Queen," and I'm sure there aren't many people who hear things like that over chips. But like he said, when he's home, he's John."

"Now, I don't mean to seem indelicate, but, Rose, exactly how old are you?"

"I'm 27."

"And Prime Minister, you have a birthday coming up; you'll be 42 next month. How many -- that's fifteen years, not an insignificant age difference."

"I don't like to think about it much."

"And you, Rose?"

"He can still keep up with me," she replies with a tongue-touched grin. "I think I'll keep him a while longer."

"Oi."

Still smiling, she reaches up and pats his face. "I don't think about it either," she admits, looking at John and not Dean. "You can ask any couple with an age difference, whether it's two years or twenty, if it matters to them and they'll tell you it doesn't."

Her voice drops, "When you find that connection you hold on to it."

For a moment they seem to forget they're not alone in the room in the room. John's hand comes up and wipes at her eye, but from where Dean is sitting he wouldn't have known there were tears there.

Dean clears his throat gently to draw their attention back to him. "There are going to be people who disapprove of the age difference, what would you say to them?"

"I don't see what business it is of theirs," Rose snaps, instantly hard.

John had pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, and he presses it into her hand. "We --"

"No," she says firmly, swiping at both of her eyes with the handkerchief. "I'm answering this one."

"Rose..." he starts to argue, but she looks up at him again and he relaxes into the sofa, yielding the floor to her with a small wave of his hand.

"If it's the idea of mortality that bothers them, any one of us could lose a loved one in the blink of an eye. Happened to my mum and dad and they were the same age. It happened to John. If it's compatibility, no one is going to know us better than we do. We're the best judges of what makes us happy."

"Sir?"

He shakes his head. "I don't have anything to add to that."

Dean looks down at his notes. "Those are all of the questions I have for you. I thank you again for your time."

Everyone starts moving at once, standing up, offering handshakes.

"I'll send a copy of the article by before it goes to print."

"Very good. And if you need anything further, please don't hesitate to call Michelle. We'll do what we can."

"Thank you, sir, that's very kind." Dean gets almost to the door when he remembers one other thing he'd meant to ask, but when he turns back, the Prime Minister and Rose are in a tight embrace, his hand cupping her cheek, their lips touching gently. He leaves, quietly pulling the door closed behind him. It wasn't important anyway.

Chapter Text

"Have you seen this yet?" he asks, nudging the tab that's sitting on the sofa beside him when Rose breezes into his office, a blur of pink.

She'd worn that dress for him, as she knows it's one of his favorites. Just this side of demure, he loves the way the v-shaped neckline hints at cleavage and the short skirt makes her legs look so long. She hadn't been the only one disappointed when he'd been told this morning that Parliament had been recalled for the day. It's supposed to be the first day of summer recess, seven weeks of not having to worry about anything except Rose's birthday and their wedding and honeymoon. Instead, he gets this to deal with.

"What is it?"

Picking it up, he glares at her over the top of it. "The Daily Mirror. You've made the front cover. Apparently it's not scandalous enough that my fiancée was photographed laughing and hanging on the arm of her oldest and dearest male friend, she committed the even greater sin of doing so while not wearing her engagement ring." He closes the tab and scowls.

"It's been a slow news week, John. You can't be taking it seriously."

"They say you're having cold feet about marrying me. Daniels saw another rag that suggested you're cuckolding me. By the way he was wringing his hands when he mentioned it, there's no way I'm going to see that one short of running down to a newsstand myself." He rubs the bridge of his nose. "Remind me again whose idea it was to have your ring sent to the jeweler's for cleaning the week before the wedding?"

Rose takes the tab from his hands and throws it over her shoulder. Straddling him, she settles onto his thighs, her hand already reaching for the knot of his striped tie. "Yours. I believe you said something about wanting it to 'shine like a star' when you slide my band next to it."

He grumbles, laying his large hand over hers to stop her from removing the tie.

"John?"

"Meeting this afternoon."

"It's only lunchtime. That's at least an hour away."

"More like two."

"Then what..." She blinks, taking in everything, the stiffness in his shoulders, the wrinkle that has taken up residence between his eyebrows. "I can't believe it, you're really upset about this!"

"Don't you think I have a right to be?"

"You can't possibly think I would --"

John's eyes widen and his hands come up to rest on her hips. "No! It's not you. It's them." He nods in the direction of the paper. "I'd forgotten what it feels like to have complete strangers publicly speculating about my personal life."

"It hasn't even been a year since we went public. We're still a novelty. They're just looking for a crack in the facade. Eventually they'll figure out that there isn't one, and hopefully they'll leave us alone."

He pulls her down to him, kisses her. "I love you. I think you're far more optimistic than you are right, but I love you."

"Let me do something for you," she mutters against his lips, slipping her hand between them to palm him through his trousers. "Take your mind off it."

"Rose..."

She moves her mouth to his jaw, stopping his protest with nips along the skin there. "Please, John. I want to."

"Yeah, all right," he says after a moment. He runs a hand over his short hair. "But you'd better lock the door first."

"Don't move." Rose hops off of his lap and hurries to the door to lock it - silently, he hopes. Not that he minds doing this here, but he doesn't need every staff member in his front office knowing about it. And then she's back, kneeling before him, her elbows resting on his knees, the tips of her fingers tracing the stitching on his trouser zip.

"Close your eyes," she orders, her voice low and even, and then she stares at him until he obeys. "Now lay your head back and relax."

He squirms a bit on the sofa, tilting his head back until just the crown is touching. The rest of his body is still tense.

Rose's fingers get more insistent, asserting pressure against his burgeoning erection. "This is between us. Try not to think about anything else. Just feel."

Ever so slowly she opens his trousers and lowers the zip. He's only about half hard when she releases him from his pants.

John's breath catches when she leans forward, but instead of the anticipated wet heat of her mouth he feels the softness of her cheek on the shaft of his cock. Her hand is pressed against the other side, holding him to her. "I love you," she says as she nuzzles against him.

The response is automatic; his hand comes up to caress her head. Rose hums contentedly and turns her face, her lips fluttering along his length as she moves up.

"I love you," she says again, her tongue peeking out to lap at the tip.

He's almost fully hard when her fingers wrap around the base of his shaft and she begins moving in a slow, steady rhythm that she knows frustrates him endlessly.

"Rose," he whines.

"I love you," is her response, but her hand moves no faster.

He grunts, and even though his eyes are closed John can sense her smirking at him.

She waits until he is fully hard, his hand fisting in her hair and his hips thrusting shallowly before leaning forward again. "I love you." And then she closes her mouth around him.

John winces when a cry escapes him uncensored, and he hopes the walls are thick enough to muffle it.

"Fuck, love," he growls, and now he no longer has to imagine her smirk, he can feel it.

In no time at all, he's chasing his orgasm, but then Rose backs away, releasing him completely.

"Ugh, no!"

His head jerks up, but it's not until Rose's quiet, "Look at me, John," that he opens his eyes.

Any hint of teasing is gone. "I love you. It doesn't matter what they say, because I'm here, with you, forever, yeah?"

"I know. Of course I know. I'm --" She licks him from base to tip, holding his gaze as she sinks down around him again so that he can watch every inch disappear into her mouth.

When she starts to move again, John knows it's going to be quick. Then there's a pause, like the breath before the final note in a song, and he swears in that instant that he'll drag her onto the sofa and fuck her until she cries at the beauty of it if she stops a second time. But almost before the thought is fully formed she sucks once, hard, and he's coming, his hands holding her to him. She makes the most pleased noise in the back of her throat as she milks every last drop from him.

Rose leaves him and climbs up onto the sofa beside him, pulling him into her arms. "I love you, but I'm going to tell Daniels to stop giving you those things."

He sighs, the very last bit of lingering tension bleeding from his shoulders. "Yeah. Do that."

Chapter Text

"Dean, welcome back." As she shakes his hand, Rose glances to where John sits at his desk, his head buried in a pile of paperwork. Her voice drops. "I heard you'd been picked up by a reputable paper, congratulations."

Dean chuckles. "That tends to happen when people think you have an in with the Prime Minister."

"Well, you'll always be welcome here."

"Thank you, Mrs. Smith."

She waves away the formality. "It's Rose, remember?"

John joins them and shakes Dean's hand as well. "I'm sorry. I've only got an hour."

"That should be more than enough time, sir, thank you."

They all sit in a way that's very reminiscent of the last time Dean visited. "Well, like I said, certain things tend to happen when people think you've got the ear of the Prime Minister, and part of that is I've been receiving questions from the people to ask you. The first one is - ah, yes. You guys have been married a little over two years now, do you have any plans to start a family?"

Rose looks incredulously from Dean to John and back again. "You're kidding. Who sent that one?"

Dean looks down at his notes again. "It just says 'Jackie from London.'"

John snorts, and it's hardly a dignified noise, but it's nearly drowned out by Rose's growl as she gets up, marches over to John's desk, and picks up the phone.

"What --" Dean starts.

"No, no," John interrupts, still laughing, "let her."

"Answer the phone," Rose chants with each ring. "Answer the phone."

"'ello?"

"Mum."

"Oh, 'ello, sweethear'. I was just 'aving tea with --"

"You submitted a question about us to the newspaper, Mum," she says flatly.

"I don't know what you're --"

"Yes, you do. And it's not just 'What's your favorite flatware pattern' either."

Jackie blusters for a moment before giving in. "Well, I wouldn't 'ave 'ad to if you'd just answer the question. But there's always an excuse, isn't there?' Oh, sorry, Mum, the Minister from' - I don't know - 'Darjeeling just walked in.'"

"Darjeeling is in India."

"Whatever. You know what I mean."

Rose presses her fingers to her temple, her eyes sliding closed as she massages for a second.

"I just want to know if I'll be a grandmother before I die... Rose?"

The phone lifts away from her ear and is immediately replaced by John's hand sliding into hers. She looks up at him and smiles wanly. He's no longer laughing.

"Jackie? John... No, no, I understand... Yes, she's been very busy. But I think we have a bigger problem right now. You appear to be upsetting my wife... Well, I appreciate that. I just don't think it's healthy for a woman in her condition." He thrusts the phone away from his ear, holding it at arm's length as Jackie's shrieks fill the room. His smile is smug as he leans down and presses a kiss to Rose's forehead.

After a moment he lays the handset back in the cradle, despite the fact that Jackie is still screeching at the top of her lungs. The immediate silence is a blessing. John picks up the phone again as soon as he's certain the call has been disconnected and presses the intercom for Daniels' desk.

"Hold all calls for myself and Rose until further notice. And Daniels? I apologize in advance."

Hanging up the phone for good this time, he coaxes Rose back to where Dean sits, eyes wide and a touch fearful.

"Where were we?" John asks after they're seated.

"I think we'll skip that one," Dean offers, glancing at Rose.

"I think that's a very good idea," John agrees.

Half an hour later they're finally alone again. John brushes his thumb over the apple of Rose's cheek before pressing his lips gently to hers.

"You lied to my mum," she accuses softly as she curls into his side.

"Yep."

"Why?"

"I don't want to wait anymore."

Rose inhales sharply.

"I've given it some thought," he continues. "I've had two terms, that's more than enough for anybody. I don't have to run for re-election. We could buy a house anywhere you want, be just John and just Rose again."

"And baby makes three?"

"Or four or five." She makes a small noise and he turns to face her. "Is that something you want?"

"I hadn't really thought about it, aside from dodging Mum's questions."

"I'm almost 45, love, I'm not getting any younger. If we're going to do it, now would be a good time."

Rose studies him. "Do you miss them, Romana and Susan?"

His gaze shutters briefly. "I do. But I'm not asking for this because I want to recreate what I once had. I'm asking because it's something I want with you."

She bites her lip. "Can I think about it?"

"Of course, love. We can talk about it again when you're ready."

It takes a long time for her to be ready. John decides not to run for re-election anyway. The house, when they finally find one, has a large rear garden he barely resists mentioning would be perfect for a child to play in. The Christmas Eve following their fifth wedding anniversary, Rose presents him with a pair of baby booties. Their son misses his mother's birthday by three days.

Chapter Text

It's late evening when a knock at the nursery door draws Rose's attention away from studying long eyelashes and tiny fingers.

"Mrs. Smith? I hate to disturb you..."

Rose looks up at their housekeeper. "What is it, Maddie?"

"There's a young lady downstairs asking for you. She's, um, not in a good way."

"Thank you." She stands and hands the baby over. "Here, take Tyler and I'll go meet her."

"Mum?"

John, Jr. and his sister Amelia had been playing with their toys at her feet for hours, but now they are looking up at her expectantly.

"I won't be long," she tells them, "and I'll just be downstairs. Daddy will be home soon to put you to bed."

Jack's nose scrunches up adorably. At six years old, he feels he's too mature to call his parents 'mummy' and 'daddy'. Amy, who is only a few weeks shy of her fourth birthday, has no such problems, and squeals delightedly.

With a kiss to the tops of each of her children's heads and a nod to Maddie, she leaves the nursery.

Rose finds her visitor in the sitting room, a stuffy, formal place that is nothing like the warmth of the room she's just left. The woman's hair is limp and lifeless, her gaunt face swollen and bruised. She shivers in clothing that is little more than rags, her hands wrapped tightly around a steaming cup of tea while she perches on the barest edge of the sofa.

"Hello," Rose says evenly so not to startle her.

It doesn't help. The woman jumps up from the sofa at the sound of her voice, nearly sloshing hot tea over the rim of her cup.

"Oh, my lady!" she exclaims, setting the cup on the table with a clink and curtsying awkwardly.

Rose comes forward, her hands outstretched. "No, no, no. Not 'my lady'. It's Rose. Just Rose."

The woman quickly takes a step back from her.

Rose stops moving. "I'm not going to hurt you. If you're here it's because you've heard that I want to help, right?"

A tiny nod.

"What's your name?"

The woman hesitates.

Belle, thinks Rose with a touch of sadness, it's Belle.

"Lilah."

"That's a lovely name." She gestures to the sofa. "Why don't you have a seat and finish your tea and we can talk?"

Moving like a skittish animal, Lilah returns to the sofa and sits.

Rose chooses a chair a respectable distance away. "Why don't you tell me how you came to be here?"

Lilah begins to tell a story that Rose has heard many times over the last few years, one of physical abuse and drug abuse spiraling out of control. It's a dark path too many have walked, and has become a frequent reminder of exactly how lucky Rose had been.

Twenty minutes in, the door to the house opens and Rose recognizes all of John's little noises as he kicks off his boots and hangs his jacket on a hook by the door. Then he's standing by the open door to the sitting room.

He knows better than to enter, having learned that lesson the hard way early on. Thankfully, the scratches hadn't scarred.

When Lilah finally notices him standing there her voice fades out in the middle of a sentence.

John nods to her politely before turning his attention to Rose. "I'll be upstairs if you need anything."

"Thank you."

It's not until the sound of his footsteps on the stairs fades away that Lilah relaxes again.

"What do you want for yourself, Lilah?" Rose asks, drawing the other woman's attention back to herself.

"I don't know, my -- Rose."

"I can give you clothes, a hot meal, and wish you luck. Or I can give you a flat, a job, and set you up with counseling. It won't be easy and it will be entry-level work, so the money won't be what you're used to, but it will be yours. Have you managed to save anything at all?"

Rose is not surprised when Lilah shakes her head. The ones that are this bad off never have.

"Your choice. Do you want to go back or move forward?"

She swallows hard. "I'd like to move forward."

Rose smiles. "Good."

It takes a little more than an hour to get everything set up, a vast improvement over the early days. It's a small flat they're sending her to, but it's furnished, and the block is largely populated by others Rose has helped. Rose also flubbed some of the details in her offer, because there will be a hot meal and clothes awaiting Lilah when she arrives at her new home.

Housing is always the easiest part, it's the counseling that will take time, the job that will feel like a setback rather than a step in the right direction. But so many of the girls who come to her have no skills, no A-Levels, and sometimes no GCSEs either. And those things take time to acquire.

It's not until they're saying goodbye that Rose gets close enough to judge Lilah's age. The girls who come to her are usually young, a gulf that will only grow wider as years pass, but this one may be the youngest yet. She looks to be only about half Rose's age. "If you need anything else - anything at all, even if it's just someone to talk to - you call me, yeah?"

"Thank you, my - Rose."

Rose smiles and sees Lilah to a waiting car. She'll be in the hands of Rose's staff now, a tightly knit all-female group that happens to include some of her greatest successes.

When Rose is finally able to return to her family, the children have already been bathed and dressed in their pyjamas. Even John has exchanged his usual jeans and jumper combination for a pair of cotton sleep trousers and a t-shirt. The four of them are in Amelia's room, crowded on her bed, her under the covers and pressed tightly into John's side, Jack spread out sideways across the bed at her feet, and baby Tyler between them.

"Harry had never believed he would meet a boy he hated more than Dudley, but that was before he met Draco Malfoy," John reads.

Rose realizes with a pang that in addition to their typical nighttime routine, she's missed a whole chapter.

Sensing her presence, John looks up. "Hi, love. Got it sorted?"

"Yeah."

"Daddy," Amelia whinges sleepily, "you stopped reading."

"And you were asleep." He moves the bookmark to where he'd stopped and puts the book on the nightstand. "Time for bed, loves."

"But Da!" Jack argues.

"No buts, I promised you could stay up until Mum was done." He leans over and kisses Amy's forehead, scooting her down underneath the covers until her head rests on her pillow. "Good night, sweetheart."

"'Night, Daddy."

Jack literally slides over the edge of the bed, allowing gravity to deposit him on the floor in a heap of long legs and arms, and Rose has to bite her lip to stop from giggling at how ridiculous he looks lying there. John stands with a sigh and gathers up Jack, who continues to do his best impersonation of bonelessness in silent protest of bedtime.

Rose kisses Amy's cheek and squeezes her tightly. "Good night."

"'Night, Mummy."

Picking up Tyler, Rose scans the room once more before flicking off the light and following her husband across the hallway.

"But I'm not sleepy," Jack protests even as he crawls underneath his duvet.

"It's well past your bedtime, Jack."

"I know, but --" he breaks off with a huge yawn, and has the grace to be embarrassed about it when he finally stops.

Rose puts her hand on John's shoulder. "Stay with him a bit, yeah? Get him settled." John nods his agreement and Rose bends down to kiss Jack. "Good night."

"Good night, Mum."

John wraps his arm around her waist to stop her from leaving right away. "I'll be in shortly."

"All right." She presses a kiss on his lips, acknowledging the muffled 'ewwww' coming from beneath the duvet with only a raised eyebrow.

"You've got five minutes," John says as he sits on the edge of the bed and ruffles Jack's hair affectionately, but as Jack enthusiastically launches into a detailed story about his day, Rose knows that five minutes will turn into ten and ten into twenty before John even knows what hit him.

"And then there's you," she mumbles to the sleepy two month old in her arms as she leaves the room. Though the nursery is set up as Tyler's room, he's far too dependent upon her to have actually spent the night there yet, so, like his brother and sister before him, his cot currently takes up a corner of his parents' bedroom instead.

Rose settles into a rocking chair beside the cot and goes back to admiring her youngest child. Of the three, he's the only one to have inherited his father's crystal blue eyes, though Jackie predicts they'll go brown before long. He regards her sagely as he sucks on his dummy, his eyelids growing heavier and heavier with each back-and-forth motion of the chair.

A rustle near the door reveals John already leaning against the jamb as though he's been there for several minutes. "There is no sight more beautiful to me," he says as he crosses the room, his voice pitched barely above a whisper, "than seeing you cuddle our children." He nuzzles her cheek with his nose, one large hand resting gently on the top of Tyler's head.

Rose closes her eyes and nuzzles him right back. "Jack?"

"Out. Mid-sentence."

She looks down at Tyler, who has also given in to sleep. "Let me put him down."

John takes a step back and offers her his hand to help her stand. "How did it go tonight?"

"About as well as can be expected." She lays Tyler on his bed and then backs away when he doesn't stir.

Her husband is waiting with his arms outstretched. "Are you all right?" he asks, wrapping them around her.

Rose hums noncommittally as she turns and snuggles into his chest. "It's never easy, seeing them like that. Remembering."

"You're giving them a chance they wouldn't have otherwise." It's the same reassurance he's given her since the first time she suggested setting up the assistance group.

"I know. But she was so young."

"So were you."

"Not that young. I don't think I was ever that young."

John smiles indulgently. "You should try to get some sleep before he wakes up and needs you."

"Yeah." She steps out of his embrace. "Give me a minute."

When she returns from the en suite, John is already in bed, his shirt discarded, a book in hand. The book is placed on the nightstand as soon as she crawls into bed, and he turns to face her. "It's a good thing you're doing," he says, pulling her close, "by helping them and by remembering."

"I never had it that bad."

"Something I am thankful for every day." He starts brushing the backs of his fingers lightly across her cheek. "Go to sleep, love."

Rose shifts even closer to him and rests her head on his chest. "The light, John."

"I'll worry about that. I love you."

But Rose is already asleep.

Chapter Text

"Do you remember the names?"

"Yes."

"You have the checquebook?"

"I do."

"What about --"

"I think you're more nervous about this than I am. You'd think, for someone who'd already done it that you'd be calmer."

"I get like this every time you're on camera, I just don't usually have so much control over it."

He grabs her chin, distracting her from fixing his hair for the tenth time, and places a quick kiss on her lips. "Well, if someone wouldn't have nominated me..."

"I needed a third name, John, I told you that."

Tired of being the Prime Minister's 'uneducated' wife, despite the fact that she's been in university the entire three years they've been married so far, she is finally doing what she's always done best: helping others. Her charity is starting to get off the ground, and a few early successes had really bolstered her confidence.

Then this whole ALS Ice Bucket Challenge thing had stormed the internet. Rose had been challenged by one of her new philanthropic friends and had jumped at the chance to do something to further prove herself. And now she was going to dump a bucket full of ice and water over his head - after he wrote a rather substantial checque as a donation, of course – because ultimately he could deny her nothing.

"I know, love. Is the camera ready?"

She glances over her shoulder at the video camera and tripod a few feet away. "Looks like. Are you ready?"

"As I'll ever be."

"Okay. I'll start filming and you start talking then I'll come up behind you with the bucket."

John sits at their patio table while Rose makes a few last-minute adjustments to the camera, and when she gives him the nod he picks up his pen and starts writing as he talks.

"Hello. My name is John Smith, former Prime Minister of the UK, and I was challenged by my wife Rose." He holds up the checque so that the amount is visible and then pushes it away because Rose is coming towards him with the bucket and everything around him is about to be soaked. "I'd like to nominate my dear friend JK Rowling - I don't know how you avoided it this long - Journalist Dean White, and --"

Rose is poised with the bucket, easily within the shot.

He's supposed to give the name of the new MP from Manchester.

John grins. "-- Jackie Tyler."

Rose's outraged gasp fills the garden and the next thing he knows he's covered in freezing cold water, her aim spot-on. He swears without meaning to - that will have to be bleeped out later - and jumps out of the chair. His shirt is clinging to him and there's a rivulet of water going straight down the back of his neck. He shivers and jumps around like an idiot for several seconds only to blink and find Rose inches from his face, seething.

She's gorgeous. 

"My mum! You were supposed to say --"

She never sees it coming. John wraps his arms around her waist and pulls her close, pressing his lips to hers. She gasps when the front of her t-shirt is instantly soaked and he seizes the opportunity to dive deeper into her mouth.

Slowly she melts against him and he just as gradually lessens the intensity of the kiss.

He looks up at the camera. "We can edit that last bit out."

She smacks his shoulder ineffectually. "Git." Twisting out of his arms, she grabs a nearby towel and throws it at him while she goes to stop the recording.

His shirt is holding so much water it's just easier to take it off, so he does, laying it across the back of his chair. He drapes the towel over his shoulders and uses a corner to dry his hair.

"Umm, John?"

He runs the towel over his head one more time. "What, love?"

"I forgot to hit record. You'll have to do it again."

Chapter Text

Things are different since he retired. The house they occupy is far more spacious than his flat in Number 10 had been, even though with it being only the two of them there really isn't any need for so much. John keeps his opinions about one possible use for the extra space to himself. Rose knows where he stands on that particular subject. They've already discussed it twice, if the strained conversation they'd had with Jackie the Christmas after her little stunt with the newspaper counts. But as the years march on and he finds himself closer to fifty than forty, his eyes tend to want to linger on children playing in the park near their home and mothers cradling infants in their arms as they shop at Tesco's. He knows Rose has noticed, but he doesn't want to pressure her into anything. Even if he thinks she'll be a brilliant mother.

Despite the changes they've made, one thing that had been reassuringly familiar was Rose's morning routine. She used to be slow to wake, happily indulging her body's need for an extra ten... twenty... sometimes as much as thirty minutes of sleep, while he would tiptoe from his side of the bed to the en suite to shower and perform the rest of his morning routine. For the last few weeks, though, she's been getting up at the same time as him. It has nothing to do with the assistance group she founded after he retired, because she'd specifically arranged matters so that she didn't have to be in an office at a set time, and she hasn't been ill, though on the rare occasions when she has been, she's spent more time in bed, not less.

If he's honest, this change has him worried.

He cracks an egg into the skillet and looks over his shoulder to where she sits at the tiny breakfast table where they take most of their meals - the mahogany eight-seater in the dining room has to be dusted regularly it gets so little use - opening letters that he assumes have something to do with her work.

"How do you want your eggs?"

Rose's lips part as she inhales with a tiny gasp and her tongue sneaks out to wet them. When she looks up at him, her eyes are dark and her cheeks are slightly flushed. John has the presence of mind to reach behind himself to shut off the hob because when Rose pushes her chair back and stands there's not a doubt in his mind what's going to happen next.

She's gorgeous as she stalks toward him, exuding sexy confidence with every step, and he's half hard and breathing heavy just from looking at her. He turns to face her fully, taking a step sideways in the process, because the skillet is still hot and he doesn't much fancy the idea of getting pressed backwards into it.

He knows her well enough that when she stops before him and looks up at him through her lashes, he has a moment to prepare himself before she wraps her hand around the back of his neck and pulls him down so that their lips crash together. They're going to do this, right here, right now, and it's going to be hot and needy, and thank God. It's not that they've fallen into a rut, per se, but they've been making love a lot more often lately than they have been coming together hungrily - which he loves; he's the last person who would complain about his love life - but maybe there's a little part of him that wonders if she doesn't miss the adventure of her former job, if maybe she hasn't become a little bored with domestics.

Rose untucks his Oxford, and he shivers when her fingernails scrape along the sensitive skin of his stomach before dipping into the waistband of his trousers. With a tongue-touched grin, she tugs him along behind her as she leaves the kitchen in favor of the lounge.

Pressing him down onto the sofa, she hikes up her skirt with one hand and straddles him. John wraps his arms around her and draws her in for another kiss, fighting to keep up the momentum from the kitchen. Her hand slides between them to palm him through the trousers, and she smiles against his lips when he groans into her mouth.

She starts moving her hips, mimicking the motion of riding him, her hand cupping him so tightly it almost convinces his brain that he's really inside of her.

"Rose," he growls, fisting his hand in her hair as he turns his attention to her neck. "I need you."

Still smiling, she flicks open the clasp of his trousers and slides her hand inside, pushing the back of her hand against the zipper to force it open as her fingers seek the base of his erection. But now that they're actually skin to skin, her touch is light and teasing, and after the promise of desperate fire, it's not nearly enough.

With a roar, he lifts them both off of the sofa and turns to lay her down on the cushions. She shrieks in delight but then pouts a second later at the ripping sounds that precede her knickers ending up crumpled on the floor, a pout John misses because he's distracted by the glistening wetness of her opening. It doesn't make sense that she's this worked up already, he hasn't even touched her yet, not really.

Looking up at her, the question dies on his lips when he sees how dark her eyes have become.

"Please, John," she says, each syllable deliberate, soft and intense.

He pushes his trousers off of his hips, letting them pool around his knees, and then he leans over her, supporting himself with one hand on the armrest above her head as he lines their bodies up.

Rose looses a long, low groan as he enters her, her back arching off of the sofa. A lot of the urgency has passed, but when he starts to move he sets a pace that is anything but domestic or boring. It feels amazing; she's tight and hot and so so wet, and her hands are everywhere, encouraging him along.

He falls seconds behind her and when their eyes meet for the first time after, they both start giggling.

"Sooo, not hungry for breakfast, then, I take it?"

"Nah," her foot skims up the back of his leg, "but I wouldn't be opposed to working up an appetite."

"Let's see how hungry we can make you."

***

Months later, his head resting gently against the soft swell of her stomach, the impossibly small baby booties she'd gifted him with at Christmas sitting in a place of honor on his nightstand, John listens as Rose speculates about when their unborn child was conceived.

"I'd been using one of those fancy thermometers for weeks, and you're supposed to wake up at about the same time every day and take your temperature first thing. It had been rising and it was a little bit lower that morning, and then you said eggs, and John, I..."

He shifts to lay beside her, but his hand gravitates to where his head had been. In a little more than five months he's going to be a father again. Most days he can hardly believe it, but he hasn't for one moment stopped being overjoyed.

"You what?"

She smiles, the corners of her eyes crinkling. "I thought 'fertilized,' and then I just couldn't help myself."

John laughs and draws her closer. "Oh, love, I'm so very glad you did."