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Author's Note: Written as part of the Minor Characters Ficathon For Raven, who wanted Nancy, the late(r) twentieth century, the Doctor as a fairy-tale figure, and Doctor Constantine.
Snow White Lies
by Tara LJC O'Shea
"Tell me a story, Mummy."
"About the Wolf and the Woodcutter?"
"Oh, that story."
The photograph was of a boy in uniform, scarcely older than she was. It shook in the old man's hand as she took it.
"This is John. Was John. Infantry, like his father before him. Both gone, now."
"I'm so sorry."
"He'd been away, at school. Such a quiet boy. Hardly any friends. Your Jamie looks so much like him..."
"Such a shame, so many homes and businesses destroyed by the bombings. Hospitals, schools, churches. So many lives torn asunder. So many records lost. Birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses..."
"But we can't."
"It wouldn't be right."
"A mother and her son, with no family to look after them... And old man, with no family left to look after. How could that be wrong?"
Once upon a time, there was a girl. Only she wasn't a girl any longer. But she wore her hair in two plaits, and threw away her lipstick, and she pretended. She was very, very good at pretending.
And no-one guessed.
The nurses gossiped, when they thought she couldn't hear them.
"She was a war bride."
"Doctor Constantine's grandson. Poor darling—he died, you know. In France, when the lad was still a baby. No memory of his father at all."
Once upon a time, there was a girl.
She didn't live in a house, like other girls. She'd been abandoned in the forest. But she was a clever girl, and she found all the other Lost Boys and Girls who lived in the forest and had no mothers to look after them. And she would make sure they washed behind their ears, and said 'please' and 'thank you' and when the Big Bad Wolf would howl at night, she'd go out into the forest and they'd follow her in a line, just like ducks.
And she always knew where to find hidden feasts left by kings and queens who were afraid of the Wolf.
There were roasts and potatoes and sprouts and milk and sausages and rashers, and eggs and tea and plenty of bread and butter, and sometimes, there was even pudding.
All the children of the forest had one slice each, and always did the washing up afterwards, and the Kings and Queens and Princes and Jacks and footmen never caught them.
He had a nice smile.
"C'mon, Nan! Just come down to the pub for a round. Just one."
"You can keep on asking, and the answer's always going to be 'no,' Doctor Paul Simmons, so I don't know why you keep going on."
"You know what they say. All work and no play, Nan."
"I ate an apple with my lunch. Do you know why? To keep the doctor away, you silly man."
"It's just a drink."
"And anyway, Jamie will be home from school."
"He's a big boy—what, twelve already?"
"Ten. He's small for his age."
Once upon a time, there was a Woodcutter who came through the Forest.
He had a long nose, and big ears, and he came and sat at the King's Table while the Wolf howled outside the door.
"Who are you?" asked Jim, with blue eyes.
"Who are you?" asked Ernie, with dark hair.
"Who are you?" asked Polly in her blue dress.
"I'm your Friend," he said.
She was so very tired.
"You never talk about him."
"It was a long time ago, Jamie—"
"I don't see why—"
"What was he like? Where'd you meet? Did he play with me, when I was little?"
"He was already gone, Jami—James. They stationed him in France when you were just a baby. You know that. I've told you that. You were too little to remember, that's all."
"You don't even have any pictures of him. Just the one of him in his uniform, same one Granddad has in his office. But you don't have any of the two of you."
"I've told you. We lost it all, when the house in London was bombed."
"But Granddad doesn't have any either."
"James Michael Constantine, that is enough! He was a good man, a good father. He loved you. That's all you need to know."
Once upon a time, there was a girl. And her own Jamie went missing, and the girl cried and cried.
They looked in the Forest, but he wasn't there.
They looked in the Castle, but he wasn't there.
They looked and looked and looked, but Jamie was no-where to be found.
Huddled under the blankets, he drew lazy circles on her bare arm.
"You're daft, you are."
"We're still young! Forty years young! We could scoot down to the registry office and elope. Skip all that white wedding nonsense, just you and me."
"Look, I understand why you wouldn't, when Jimmy was just a kid. But he's all grown now."
"It's not that."
"You love me, don't you?"
"You know I do. But why can't we just... stay the way we are?"
"What, the doctor and the nurse, kissing in closets?"
"You know what I mean."
"It would give the hospital a shock. The Prim and Proper Nurse Constantine, secretly a sex fiend beneath her linen. Think of the scandal!"
"Believe it or not, I've actually done scandal before."
"Never. How long before you'd even let me kiss you? Six years?"
"You were very persistent."
"You were worth it. Are."
"Now you're just trying to get into my knickers."
"Already in, remember? Seriously, Nance—I want to marry you."
"I'll think about it."
"Liar. But I'll never stop asking."
And they were all very scared, because they could hear the Wolf howling outside the door, and Ernie hid under the table, and Jim hid behind the door, and Polly hid under the blanket with only her toes peeking out.
And the girl stood by the window, looking out.
And the Woodcutter went out into the forest with his axe and hunted the Wolf.
It rained, the day they buried him.
"I just... I can't believe he's gone."
"No one lives forever, Jim. And he was getting on in years."
"He and Mum—they raised me together. I never knew my father. Granddad was the only father I ever knew."
"How's she taking it? Your mum?"
"You know Mum. I think she's trying to work herself half to death. It's always been her way—keep her hands busy, so she doesn't have to think."
"And she never remarried?"
"She said Grandfather and I were all the men she needed in her life."
"If you like, I could come by Sunday, help you get ready. If you think—if you think she wouldn't mind."
"Don't be silly, why would she?"
"I don't think she likes me very much."
"You know she does, Kate."
"She doesn't. She doesn't want to share you. I don't blame her. I wouldn't either."
All through the forest, the Woodcutter chased the Big Bad Wolf.
His axe blade was blue, in the dark.
"There you are!" said the Woodcutter, as he cut open the Wolf and out popped Jamie!
The baby yawned.
"Oh, look at her! She's beautiful! Isn't she gorgeous, Mum?"
"Of course she is. You had curls like that, when you were born."
"We wanted... Kitty, and I, we thought—"
"We want to name her after you, Mother."
"Oh, don't saddle the poor child with something so bland."
"And anyway—it's my name, and I'm not done using it all up yet."
"What do you think we ought to name her, then?"
"I've always quite liked Rose, for a little blond girl."
The Woodcutter took the girl and her own Jamie to Grandfather's House.
Grandfather had white hair, and a white coat, and a lap that was just the right size for little boys to climb into. And the white coat always had a sweet hiding in a pocket.
The boy fussed beneath his mother's gaze.
"I don't see why I have to."
"None of that now! You'll behave."
"Mark and Kelly's mum took them to the Museum by London Bridge, and they said they got to try on gas masks, and they had a whole room done up like it's a bombed out building! They said it was brilliant."
"Granny Nancy was actually in London, during the Blitz, John. Don't you want to talk to someone who was actually there, instead of going to some museum where it's all fake?"
"But she smells like old people!"
"Gran, this is John, my youngest. You remember him, don't you? We came at Christmas."
"Oh for heaven sake, I'm not senile yet. See there, on the mantle? What are those, then? Photos. Of my great-grandchildren. Of course I'm not going to forget his name! I've only six to keep track of—Mrs Stibbons across the way has 19, and don't you think she doesn't get them mixed up. Cos she does."
"John's doing a report for school, for V-E Day, and I thought—"
"You thought you'd pump the old woman for information instead of just popping in some video, eh?"
"You'd best go make the tea. You, Jack-me-lad. You can fetch down the box from the top of the cupboard."
"Just go and fetch it. You'll see."
And they moved far away from where the Wolf used to howl, in a cottage by the river, with Rabbits and Sparrows and two Cats named Churchill and Snow.
And the girl put on a white frock and her own Jamie went to the little school down the lane.
And they were happy, because they were a Family.
The photograph was of a man in a white doctor's coat, with a group of children in a hospital ward. A young woman stood off to the side. She looked very grown-up, in her smart tweed dress and her dark hair curled beneath her hat. Her hand rested on the shoulder of a small boy.
"Is this Granddad Jim when he was little?"
"Yes, at Albion Hospital."
"Where's Albion Hospital?"
"In London. That's where your great-great-grandfather worked. That's him there."
"He looks very old."
"He was only 68 when that picture was taken."
"Mum says you're very old."
"Mum says you're 91."
"Really? I don't feel a day over 85."
"Mum says you're still sharp as a tack."
"Boys ought to listen to their mothers."
"And then what happened?"
"How do you mean?"
"What's the rest of the story?"
"There isn't any more, silly boy."
"But what happened to the Woodcutter? And Polly and Jim and Ernie?"
"They all went home."
"Were you scared? Were you afraid the Germans were going to get you?"
"When did you stop being scared?"
"I met someone."
"And she wasn't German."
Once upon a time, there was a girl.
And she was very clever, and her favourite was her own little Jamie.
And they lived.