Rating: M overall, Teen this chapter
Characters/Pairing: Ten/Rose with LOTS of others
Summary: Rose Tyler, a writer for Smash Hits magazine, gets the opportunity of her career when she's chosen to go on tour with the new teen sensation The Vortex Boys. What happens when appearances aren't really that deceiving after all?
Author's Notes: My first entry for trope_bingo. This will fill the "au:band" square. If you're at all curious about my card, you can click here! Not sure how long it's going to be, but there is a deadline so I'm going to work through it as quick as I can! MANY MANY MANY thanks to timelord1, kelkat9, who_in_whoville, callistawolf, and kahki for looking this chapter over and all of the ladies over in bad_wolf_rising who helped me plot! This is going to be a fun one, so I hope you enjoy it!
Unless some drastic plot bunny takes over my brain, there will only be one chapter after this! Thank you all for your amazing support and reviews and love :-)
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 |
Rose had a difficult time getting out of bed that weekend.
If someone had told her three years ago that a man she'd been dating barely two months would dump her and she would spend two days hiding beneath her duvet she would have laughed in their face. But here she was, curled under her blanket, her face wet and her hair tangled, her mum tapping softly at the door and offering tea, biscuits, chip, long talks, vodka, wine...anything that she hoped would draw Rose out of the misery she was feeling.
Rose finally pulled herself up on Monday morning, slapping at her alarm and not feeling remotely well-rested despite dozing off and on for two days. She didn't feel much up to getting out of bed, and if she was being honest with herself a week could have gone by before she even took notice of time passing. But she knew she had to go back to work. Work would distract her, keep her sane.
She took a shower and had a brief cry when the memories of her and John sharing one washed over her like a wave. She half-heartedly applied her make up before donning a knee-length denim skirt, cotton blouse, and a plain pair of espadrilles. She tied her still-damp hair into a haphazard bun and choked down some tea and toast just to appease her concerned mother. Jackie knew the whole story, she'd sat with Rose all of Saturday morning while she cried it out. She understood her mum's hovering and worries. After all, Rose had never gotten this worked up over a break-up.
But then, this wasn't exactly a break-up. This was more of a devastation.
She got to work on time and got her usual latte, the routine still familiar even after three months absent. The baristas all greeted her warmly and asked how she liked her summer. She smiled and replied politely, trying to keep the tears at bay and not let on that the hole in her chest was pulsing painfully with their every word.
She said a small good morning to the receptionist and made her way to her desk. She'd barely managed to put down her latte before Sarah Jane was peeking out of the office. "Rose? Welcome back! A word?"
"Of course," she replied blandly, leaving her coffee and following Sarah Jane into the small room. She gestured to one of the chairs and sat in her usual spot, the irony of the situation not lost on Rose. It was fitting that the scenes that both began and ended her adventure would mirror one another to such an extent.
Sarah Jane peered at her. "Are you all right, Rose? You don't look well, and you didn't answer your mobile all weekend. I was concerned after you and John left without saying good-bye on Friday..."
"My mobile?" Rose asked, pulling her phone from her skirt pocket. Of course, she'd turned it off when she'd gotten back to the flat and, though she'd grabbed it out of habit, she hadn't turned it back on. She pushed the little button and started at the dozens of text and voicemail notifications. "I'm sorry, Sarah Jane, I must have turned it off and forgotten..."
She glanced back up at her editor, who was always professional but also kind and compassionate, someone Rose could consider a friend. She knew Sarah Jane would have never told John about the exposé, even in passing, nor would she have told anyone else. Sarah Jane had class and tact...something not all of her coworkers shared.
"I think...Reinette told John about the exposé I'd been planning..." Rose confided, tears gathering in her eyes just at the mention of his name.
"Oh, Rose!" Sarah Jane stood up and came around to her, wrapping Rose in her arms and stroking her hair gently. "I take it he didn't react well?"
"No, he didn't," she choked out, wiping the tears that were now leaking onto her cheeks. "I never told him about it. I'd given up on the idea, didn't think there was any reason to bring it up and now he'll never trust me again..."
"I'm sorry, love," Sarah Jane murmured, pulling away to hold her at arm's length. "You know, I've been wondering...did you share that information with her? That you were planning to write the exposé?"
"No, I never told her, and I know you wouldn't either."
"I wouldn't, and yet somehow, she knew..." Sarah Jane trailed off, brow furrowed in thought before she shook her head and regarded Rose once more. "I'm sorry I didn't warn you. She told me a few months ago..."
"Doesn't matter now," Rose said. She plucked a kleenex from the desk and dabbed at her eyes. "Not like it'll change anything."
"Rose," Sarah Jane told her gently. "John is obviously crazy about you. And you feel the same. You shouldn't give up something that important over a...misunderstanding. Talk to him, show him he can trust you. And don't forget, you have 2,500 words due in two weeks."
Rose gave her editor a watery chuckle and tried her best for a smile. "Yes, sir," she joked, squeezing Sarah Jane's hands. "Thank you. God, I must look like a drowned rat."
"A bit," she teased. "Go clean up, think about what you're going to say to John, and get to work. I need that draft by next Friday at nine AM."
"As if I could forget," Rose replied dryly.
Sarah Jane offered an affectionate squeeze of Rose's arm before she went back to her desk. Rose gave her boss a weak smile and left the office, pulling her mobile once more from her pocket and glancing through the texts. Her stomach churned unpleasantly at the long list from Jack, Sarah Jane, and Lynda and none from John. She switched over to her voicemail and saw much of the same.
She'd reached her desk at that point and turned on her computer, plugging her phone into the USB cord to keep it charging. A little dialogue box popped up, asking her where she wanted to save her new photos.
Some small part of her mind that had been shaken loose suddenly slid back into place. The photos! Oh, I am so thick! she thought, clicking and typing furiously to get them saved on her desktop. She set a password lock on the file before opening it quickly and perusing the documents she'd photographed Friday morning.
Most of the documents were boring and straightforward, merchandise proposals and even a movie deal that looked like it had been scrapped. Considering that it involved the Vortex Boys in skintight blue jumpsuits and cavorting through space, she thought that might have been a good decision on Saxon's part. She paged through the dozens of photos until she finally found something that caught her eye.
A page of each of the boys' contracts consisted of a breakdown of payments. It showed the initial investment on the part of Mr. Saxon and the repayment schedule. First of all, the number was unusually high. Rose didn't know much about the music business, but she did know that tens of millions of dollars was a great deal more than she'd seen the time she'd been working at Smash Hits. She also noticed that, after the initial investment was paid back, Harold Saxon would receive the same percentage of the record sales as each of the boys.
Rose knew that this was unusual. Managers generally had a flat cut of 10%. It seemed as though Harold Saxon was paying himself as a member of the group. As she flipped through the documents, she noticed that he was doing the same thing with merchandise, tour revenue, appearances, and several other aspects of the business. It was an obscene amount of money for one person, but the boys were most likely still paying on the investment and barely clearing a couple hundred thousand pounds for the year. Not a horrible living, but nowhere near what they should have been bringing in.
"Knock knock," a familiar voice cut through her thoughts. She'd been so engrossed that she had no idea anyone approached and jumped clear off her chair.
"Jack!" she exclaimed, smacking the handsome man on the arm. "Don't scare me like that!"
"You're yelling at me? Oh, that's rich," he said. "You and John weren't looking so good on Friday, then you both left and neither of you answered your phones...for all I knew you were lying dead in a ditch somewhere!"
"Yeah, well..." she replied, turning back to her monitor. "Not exactly dead in a ditch."
"What happened with you two?" Jack asked, pulling over a nearby chair.
Rose swallowed against the lump rising in her throat. "We're...I think we're over, Jack."
She gave him a brief overview of the story, admitting her stupid decision of not telling John about the exposé, even though she'd realized the error of her ways long before then and didn't think it mattered. She explained that she'd fallen in love with all of them, not only John, and she couldn't bear the thought of anyone hurting them.
"Oh, Rose..." Jack murmured, reaching over to rub her shoulders comfortingly. "You know, John wasn't exactly upfront with you, either."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"He's dated, a bit, since joining the band," he began. "But every girl he was with ended up being there for the wrong reasons. One was a singer, called herself Astrid, was only in it for the publicity. Dumped him pretty soon after she got a record deal. There was a gold digger named Christina Souza who left once she realized that he wasn't going to let her go on a spree with his credit cards. Cassandra O'Brien just dropped his name everywhere for everything from moisturizer to plastic surgery. The only one who was ever close to being serious was a woman named Joan, but she wanted him to leave his career behind and settle down. He reacted like that because he thought you were just another woman who was using him to get what she wanted."
"But I was, Jack! I absolutely was one of those women!"
"No, you weren't," he replied gently. "You may not have had good intentions at first, but that changed. You didn't know us then. I don't blame you for thinking we were all crazy sex addicts. You met Adam."
Rose managed a small chuckle at this. "I just don't know how I can get him to trust me again. I mean, I was stupid and didn't say anything. I don't blame him for reacting that way."
"Do you want me to talk to him?"
"No," Rose answered quickly. "No, I don't want him to think I'm trying to use you to get to him. But that doesn't matter. There are more important things happening right now. I really think that you should have an entertainment lawyer look over your contracts."
Jack's eyebrow shot up in question. "Really? Why?"
"Well, I can't be positive, but I think that, among other things, Saxon is pulling a Max Bialystock on you. He also apparently thinks that he's a member of the Vortex Boys even though I don't see him on stage every night working his sorry arse off for thousands of screeching teens..."
"Rose, calm down," Jack told her, a small grin on his face. "Start from the beginning. What was that about Max Bialystock? He wants us to do a song from The Producers?"
Rose sighed. "Look," she said, pulling up the photo in question and pointing out the area. "This number here is supposed to be his initial investment. This is a lot of money, more than I would have ever expected for him to put up, even for you lot. I'm thinking he fudged the books a little bit, you get it? Like, he told people that the cost of production was higher than it was so he could pocket the difference. Or get paid back an obscene amount more than he actually put in. See if you can get a look at his accounting books, or get a lawyer to order them. Especially because of this next part..."
She explained to Jack what she had found in the cleverly-worded contracts, that Saxon was taking his cut of the profits as if he was a sixth member of the group. "Did you even have anyone look over these contracts?"
"No," he admitted a little sheepishly. "They acted like since we auditioned, we wanted whatever they were willing to offer us."
"No one wants this deal," Rose told him, clicking "print" on the photos and gathering them up for Jack. "I did the math. Based on the hours you worked on this past tour, you were making less than ten pounds an hour. That's absolutely absurd, when your manager is building a palatial estate and buying jets. Really, find a good lawyer and figure out what you can do. He's up to something, and if he's doing this with every group he manages...well, you all have one hell of a law suit on your hands."
"I can't believe he would do this," Jack mused. "I mean, I know he was a little slimy. John never did like the vibe of him." A thought seemed to occur to him and he glanced at her, eyes quizzical. "Rose, how did you even get all of this?"
Rose flushed a bit and tried to look very busy organizing the pages. "Trust me, you don't need to know. I don't want any of you implicated in my stupid moves."
Jack didn't respond, at least not in words. Instead, he hoisted Rose to her feet and wrapped her in a huge bear hug. Rose automatically raised her arms and hugged him back, taking comfort in the familiar feel of the man who had quickly become one of her best friends.
"I can't believe you did this for us," he murmured before pulling back. "And when John finds out..."
"No!" Rose interrupted. "No, don't tell him. I don't want him to think I'm trying to...I don't know...manipulate him into trusting me again. If..." She choked a bit on the next words. "If he comes to the conclusion on his own, he knows how to find me."
Jack affectionately bumped his knuckles against her chin as she handed him the pile of documents. "Everything will be all right in the end. But I won't say a word. Thank you for the tip. I'll get a lawyer as soon as I'm back at my place."
"Good luck, Jack," Rose told him. "Please...take care of him? And keep in touch, yeah?"
"You think you're getting out of Friday night dinners?" Jack teased. "Bitch, please."
Rose laughed and hugged Jack once more. He left with a promise to call once he talked to the lawyer and they made plans for coffee later in the week. After he left the office, Rose sighed deeply and sat down at her desk, resolving to focus on work and turn her mess of random notes into an honest, cohesive article.
The next weeks passed in a haze of work, sleep, and state of mild depression. John was miserable. He couldn't sleep more than a few hours every night. He hadn't realized how much he'd come to rely on Rose's comforting warmth curled up against him until he felt the huge, cold expanse where she should have been. To escape, he was up at all hours composing and spent most of the days in the studio with the group. He was doing a lot of the arrangements on the Christmas album, something he'd never been able to do before and he suspected it was thanks to Donna. It wasn't the same as recording his own music, but it was something, and John was thankful for the distraction.
It was odd, how his head and his heart were constantly at war. He knew, in his mind, that Rose had broken his trust. She had admitted that she was planning the story, and why hadn't she told him before if she had given it up? His heart, however, ached for her. He had a very hard time shaking his faith in her. Even the songs that were pouring out of him should have been about deception and anger, but instead the words were entirely about missing her, feeling her absence acutely and even going so far as to feel as though part of himself was gone. But he had to be smart. He was successful, and people were lining up to take advantage of he and his friends and he wouldn't let that happen again.
They were in the recording studio, three weeks nearly to the day after the incident at the bar. They were working on the chorus of The Christmas Song, and he turned to the booth to cut the tape when he nearly dropped his headphones.
He recognized the older brunette that was standing in the booth, despite only meeting her once before. Everyone moment that he'd spent with Rose was burned into his memory, after all. Looking perfectly polished, with small smile on her face, was Rose's editor, Sarah Jane Smith.
"Can we have a mo'?" he asked the engineers, who glanced at one another and nodded. John placed his headphones on the music stand in front of him and moved into the booth, sticking his hands into his pockets and raising an eyebrow at Sarah Jane.
"Mrs. Smith," he greeted coolly. "What brings you to the studio?"
"Oh, well, I was just dropping off an advanced copy of Miss Tyler's article to Mr. Saxon. I have one for each of you as well, if you like."
"Well I can't speak for the rest of the group but I'll take a pass. Lovely to see you again," he dismissed, turning back to the studio.
"John," she said his name gently, almost imploringly. "Can we talk a moment? Perhaps in the hall?"
He sighed. His mind was screaming at him to politely decline and wish her well, but the bigger, stronger part of him wanted to hear what she had to say. She was a connection to Rose, after all. He knew Jack saw her often, but he never even really mentioned her in detail. Sarah Jane would most likely speak about her exclusively. And the part of him that missed her desperately was starving for any information he could get.
"All right," he murmured, feeling his shoulders sag a bit as a bit of his cool facade crumbled. They left the tiny booth and stood outside of the door.
"If I could be so bold," Sarah Jane began. "You're not looking well, John."
John blew out a noisy breath and ran his hands over his scruffy face. He had been going longer between shaves, and today it was particularly out of control. His hair was lying flat over his forehead, and he knew his clothes were wrinkled and obviously distressed. He was a mess, and frankly he couldn't bring himself to care.
"That's nice, thanks," he grumbled. "What can I do for you?"
"Rose isn't doing well either," Sarah Jane told him. "And before you jump to any conclusions, I'm not here on her behalf. In fact, she'll probably strangle me for getting involved. But the two of you are obviously hurting and...I thought you should know that she really wasn't planning the exposé. What she told you was true. She'd thought about it in the beginning, but it was practically a matter of days before she gave up on it. She cares about you, all of you, and she'd never do anything to cause you pain."
John shoved his hands in his pockets once more and dropped his gaze to the floor. He didn't want Rose's editor to see the hope that was beginning to shine in his eyes. "I don't mean to be rude, Mrs. Smith, but why should I believe that? I mean, you obviously care for Rose, and I'm sure you'd say anything to put her in a better light..."
He glanced back up and saw Sarah Jane inspecting him carefully. "Well, I suppose you're right. You barely know me, after all. But I suppose I can give you this..." She handed him a copy of the Enquirer, a bold headline stating MY NIGHT WITH ADAM MITCHELL! by none other than Reinette Poisson. "...and ask that you consider the source..."
He swallowed against the lump in his throat. He didn't have the words to respond.
"Also," she said, pressing a copy of Smash Hits over top of the tabloid. "Please read the article. She's convinced herself that you'll never read it, and it's one of the most honest, emotional pieces I've ever seen in my very long career."
He still couldn't speak, but he managed a nod even as he stared at the headline of the article. The Real Vortex Boys, by Rose Marion Tyler, Staff Writer. Sarah Jane squeezed his arm and left him there. Before he could register what was happening, his feet were walking him towards an empty conference room where he sat down and flipped to the page listed on the cover.
"Not many people would believe that I was dragged practically kicking and screaming into this assignment. I thought that The Vortex Boys were the typical artificial, manufactured boy band who enjoyed projecting that 'nice boy' image while hiding their true selves behind money and fame. What I didn't realize was that I would be embarking on the best three months of my life, shared with some of the most genuinely wonderful people I have ever met.
I didn't realize, in accepting this assignment, that I would fall head-over-heels in love with The Vortex Boys."
The article didn't take long to read, but the short time was filled with a maelstrom of emotion. Rose hadn't given away anything they had told her in confidence. She talked about them individually, and even praised Adam liberally. She talked about their rituals, how affectionate they were with one another, their strength, their spirits, and how from that point on, whenever asked, she would have to say she couldn't choose a favorite Vortex Boy.
He could feel the tension in his knees. He was coiled to spring out of the chair and run to her, find her, wrap her in his arms and never let her go. But a small, niggling doubt in the back of his mind kept him rooted to the spot. She had to know that what the article contained would get back to him somehow. It could still be the ploy of a manipulative, desperate woman who's sole purpose was to get what she wanted.
"Doc," Jack's voice assaulted him from the doorway. He glanced up and saw his friend and bandmate, clutching his mobile and a file folder and looking as though he was feeling some odd combination of excitement and nerves. "There you are. Listen, you're gonna need to hear this..."
"What is it, Jack?" he asked, pushing the magazine and thoughts of Rose to the side as Jack took the seat next to him and shoved the folder on the table.
"I just got off the phone with my lawyer," he rushed out. "We have a case. Against Saxon."
"What are you talking about?" he asked, pulling his specs out of his pocket and inspecting the familiar paperwork. "This is a copy of our contracts..."
"The contracts that contain proof of fraud, misrepresentation, and even suspected white-collar investment crimes," Jack told him. "Saxon's been paying himself as a member of the group since we started out. My lawyer contacted representatives of the other groups Saxon manages, and they all have similar contracts. He also may have committed investment fraud, which would land him in prison. I need you guys on board, though, I can't do this alone. We can all get our own lawyers or mine can represent us as a group, but we need to tell Donna and the rest of the guys..."
"Hold on, hold on..." John said, holding up his hands and gaping at the papers in front of him. "How could you possibly know about this? We all signed the same contracts! And you're just discovering it now?"
Jack hesitated. John could tell he was fighting some sort of internal battle, warring with himself. He always bit his lip when he was warring with himself, a brief thought flitted across him mind about how disturbing it was that he remembered that little tidbit. "Listen, don't get mad, please, because I swear, she asked me not to tell you..."
"Tell me what?" John asked, his heart picking up its pace. "Jack, tell me what?"
"Rose found all of this out. She had a feeling something was going wrong with our finances and she went digging," he rushed out. "I swear, John, I don't know how she did it, she wouldn't tell me, but I do know she didn't want me to tell you. She didn't want you to think that she was manipulating you into trusting her again..."
Before he knew it, John was out of his seat and sprinting towards the door. In that moment, for the first time in his life, the universe made sense. Everything was clear, but what was screaming at him with blinding certainty was how desperately he needed to apologize to Rose and win her back. "Something suddenly came up, Jack, and I need a little bit of time. Can you guys shift around the studio schedule?"
A knowing grin spread across Jack's face. "You do what you gotta do, Doc."
"Oh, you just watch me!" he said with a smile that practically set his cheekbones cracking. Oh, smiling felt good. He hadn't smiled nearly enough in the past three weeks.
Now, after far too long without her, he was finally going to win back the woman he loved.