The Smudge and I,
The Heretofore Unforeseen Benefits of Fudge
A Doctor Who Fanfic
Don't own 'em. Wish I did. Ditto. Ya gotta hand it to R. Davies, the Moff, and the BBC for givin us half of heaven, yah?
Oh, and kudos to whoever it was that thought up the cereal box decoder ring idea in the Doctor Who fanfic that I read last month. It was brilliant, and I decided to use it in here in tribute. So, hats off, what?
As it so happens, the most terrible, awful, horrifying thing in the universe isn't exactly what the normal, average human would expect. Well, me not being average and only recently half-Gallifreyan, half-human instead of the much-preferred three quarters and so on Gallifreyan, I certainly could've expected, given a quarter of a chance. I mean really, I'd call me a genius, but I'm in the room. Now, onto what I was saying before. Oh yes.
Oi. The creature to which I refer is not a Dalek, nor is it one of the creeping swarm of Vashta Nerada, or even a chunky, slimy, pudgy Slitheen. It isn't the Master, or the Rani, the Devil or any other being that you might think of when free-associating on the fine art of diabolical scheming as I have come to know it, expressed with wide diversity --and a bit too much pomp in regard to the rather less than delightful manner of execution and the overall excessive amount of pre-plan when compared to the paltry end result, if you ask me-- by the various nasty-minded types I have just mentioned, not to forget a great many more, as it were. Wouldn't want to leave out any of them. They might decide to have another go.
Which brings us to the Smudge. Not a very menacing name for an evil genius, unless you, as I have been, are lucky enough to witness the abject horror of his handiwork first hand. You see, the Smudge is only four years old. Still clings to his mum and what, but he always has time for a quick pass of candy from Nuncle Doctor. That's me, Nuncle Doctor. Cute, but scary, in a way. It really is quite amazing how such an adorable face can hide such depths of demonic intent, and I don't even believe, weeellll, not quite. 'Course, there WAS that planet with the being trapped in the pit...Anyway, in other words, if I haven't yet made myself clear as crystal, Trouble has a nickname. And a surname, apparently, which happens to be Tony 'the Smudge' Tyler. So short, and yet so horribly, evilly innocent. He likes to chew on my Converse, the chub-cheeked little blighter.
Soooo I keep extra candy in my pockets for just those occasions. Can't give him too much, mind you. His mum Jacks would have a fit and roast my bum. I know. She's slapped me before. It stings! Then there's Smudge's big sister Rose...my...Rose. Course she's not really MINE per se, but who's keepin' score? I'm a little bit foxy, remember? And we have kissed each other before. Wonder if she wants one of her own, one of OUR own, for keeps? I hope she does. There's nothing quite like children, or grandchildren. I had both, once. And I hope to again, with her.
But back to the Devil-Child. I didn't give that name to him by choice. Fate handed it to him, all wrapped up nice like those chocolates in shiny silver foil with the little paper ribbon-y things that go woosh when you pull on em a bit too...oh never mind. Seriously, though...Donna would have kept him in line. I know it.
The real bucket of fudge --oohhhh, I think I shall go steal some from Jackie's fridge later, enough to share with the Smudge, of course-- came on a sunny Friday evening. Jackie was asleep on the couch, so I planned the dinner and did the cooking, yes. The cooking. I DO know how to cook. I was making fudge, actually. Rose and Pete were off hard at work rebuilding Torchwood no. whatsit up all proper like, and Tony was playing outside, anxiously awaiting my outgoing call of 'Dinner's ready!' as he knew that I would sneak him a couple squares of fudge in my --magick-- pockets. What a lovely, eventually gooey mess, is fudge, all warm and sweet and delicious and creamy and squarish as it melts in your mouth, least I think so. So there.
Aaaand getting back to the diatribe...
I went to the door, called out for him. "Tony!" I yelled, well, spat really, being as that I had a mouth full of fudge. It wasn't all that often that Jackie (or I) made fudge, which served us both as a very good way to lure the Smudge safely away from whichever adventure he was on. He tended to stick to the yard, a very substantial yard, by the way, except that this particular Friday some quirk had spurred him to a rather unsubtle --and I daresay obsessive-- fascination with the neighbor's tree. I had been forced to extricate him twice already, and upon his absence from my immediate sight suggested to Jackie that I go and fetch him a third time, the offending tree being the place he was currently exploring, due to process of elimination. Watching children takes more than fudge and hugs, you know. It takes genius. Good enough, coz that's what I am, a genius.
Having come to this conclusion far earlier than Jackie --as I slipped out the door she actually yelled at me to give him a good talking to, as if I had the hearts for it. Still...she's loud and frightful, that one-- I trotted off in the direction of Tony's latest conquest. But as I reached the fence where the gnarly old apple stood guard, I stopped and just stood in the mud for a second or two, my heart not wanting to consider what my multi-hemispheric brain had already grasped. There was Tony, lying in a dark, forbidding puddle in the spotty grass beneath the ancient apple's curling boughs.
I felt dizzy then, my one heart pounding against my chest as though it meant to break free. I'd even had a headache exactly one hour before...stupid half-Time Lord. I hadn't even guessed. I cleared the fence in one leap, tearing my trousers and ramming my knee against the rotten old boards in frenzy on my way down. It hurt, but I didn't care. Tony wasn't moving. There was only a tiny smudge of dark brown across his temples where he'd fallen in the dirt and bounced. My vision swam red and black with worry as I crawled to him on my one good knee and dragged the blown one behind me like a lame mutt. The knee was nothing, less than nothing, compared with that tiny, damning pool of red stickiness that I couldn't seem to tear my gaze away from.
"Tony." I said, trying to get him to talk to me, say anything. "Don't move. Nuncle's here. Brought the fudge, like I promised. Don't come and get it just yet, though. I want to ask you something first, so just stay put, all right?"
No answer, and it shook me to my bones, turned me queasy. I laid a shaking hand on his forehead, checking for the alpha waves that would signal a dream state. A gentle, loving touch can do wonders for an ailing child. Then I began palpating his neck and limbs and spine, carefully monitoring his brain for any anomalous activity as I eased him into my lap. One must be careful to avoid moving a possible brain-injury victim, unless you happen to know what you're doing. They don't call me the Doctor for nothing. I was called Xue once, by the Chinese. It means 'He Who Heals the Sick'. If I can't save this tiny life, I don't deserve to claim the title, not after all the things I've...all the things I remember doing. Did I ever?
His breaths came in slow, quick gasps, while his tiny heartbeat raced through his chest at a marathon pace. He was fading. I could feel it. Well, I thought sullenly as I readied myself...not on my watch. Not again. Not a child, never a child, and certainly not my rowdy, demonic, adorable four year old nephew.
I grasped him like a doll to my chest and heaved, breathing with him, my life thrumming in time with his like double drums. We were in synch. It was now or never, before the damage to his brain grew too pronounced for me to reverse. With my small, somewhat disabused talent for telepathy running at full steam, I strained against his catatonia, desperate for an answering voice. "Do you want your fudge, now, Tony?" I asked, the anxious thought vibrating against both our skulls, creating a dreadful echo. "I'll give you an extra piece when we get home, if you'll only blink and move your toes for me. It's a lovely game. Why don't we play? Come on, blink. Wiggle your toes. Don't make me tickle you!"
But only a soft moan escaped his blue little lips, and I knew then. There was a sub-cranial hematoma somewhere, lurking in the dark of his skull. Gritting my teeth against the ache I delved deeper, casting aside the shreds of dull pain that floated into my path. The bleed was near the stem. The fight or flight mechanism. I concentrated, focusing harder as my free hand felt the faint brush of little fingers writhing, flexing jaggedly as if for the first time since birth. My own head was pounding, but I eased into him, gingerly clearing away strand after cobweb strand of damaged blood vessels, repairing what I could, replenishing his strength where I could. Mine, however...the thought of a goodly mound of fudge, of any fairly large amount of food, really, was burning a hole. Soon the swelling was down along his brain stem, and I pulled out slowly, sorely wanting --and needing-- a long nap in the most awful way, but secure in the knowledge that the last vestiges of the deadly, possibly damaging catatonia, as well as a healthy portion of memory concerning the pain of the fall, were gone from Tony's psyche. Then, before too long, he opened his eyes, and I thought I would pass out from relief.
'Can I have m'fudge now, Nuncle? You promised. See?" He sat up, eyes bright as starshine, and waggled his feet at me. "You said I could have extra!"
I looked up then, my eyes doubtless shadowed and gray from the effort of saving the darling little terror's life. "Yeah, that's right. I did say that. Here ya go, chubs!" It was a grand production you know, pulling those three pieces of fudge out of my pocket as though I hadn't just come far too close to losing the reason they'd been put there in the first place. "Or should I say Smudge? Look at that bit of mud on your forehead! You better not let your mum catch you climbing this tree any more, just so you can muck up her floors again. Quick as a lick, let me get that off your forehead! There! Get rid o' the evidence, then blame it on the grownup, that's always the smart thing! Sooo! Why don't you go and tell good ole mum we were making mud pies and I slipped? Coz I did, see here?" I pulled up my torn pants leg, revealing a nasty cut and a devilish, scuffed-up bruise that ran from knee to ankle.
The boy's face fell, his chubby features drooping in defeat. "I'm sorry, Nuncle."
I rumpled his dark hair, smiling and shaking my head as much as the not quite receded pain in my knee would allow. "Oh, nonsense. It was me that tripped! I'm a big gangly oaf, I am! Nothing but a beanpole, a clumsy old scarecrow! Now off you go. Go tell your mum."
My smile grew wider as I watched him run happily back in the direction of our humble abode, the Tyler mansion, and I found myself wondering about names for babies as I rested for a moment against the old dirty white fencepost, sighing to myself. I should have written a book back when I...ah. Definitely more than one moment, I decided flatly, hoping against hope that someone would come looking for me before nightfall, as I really didn't want to spend any more time in the muck. Plus, my head hurt, I was tired, and worst of all, I was out of fudge. So I allowed myself to fall asleep against the post, not knowing or caring how long I would doze.
When I awoke, Rose was almost on top of me already, with Jackie stomping after her down the way at a close second. "Oh." I murmured, scratching my head like the village idiot I was when it came to the Tyler women. "I guess I needed a nap. Hullo, Rose! Jacks! Did Tony send you?" Awareness set in like a firecracker in the ear, and my voice grew more stern, more...frantic. "Did he get home?"
"Well of course, you plum! But he took his sweet time about it, washed up first and what, the poor thing. When he finally told, we ran right up here. He's with Pete, up at the house. But you! You had us worried sick!" That was her, my Jackie-Jacks. Rose was just sitting there, staring at me. She knew something was up, but wasn't about to say a word about it to her mother. Smart girl, er, woman. Ha. That one would have cost me, if I'd said aloud. Then again, I AM a genius.
"Sorry, Jackie, Rose. Can't promise it won't happen again, but...I will try."
Jackie sighed and patted my head. "Try yourself into an early grave, you mean."
My laugh echoed hollow in my ears, and continued to do so, until suddenly an errant thought entered my head again, for which I was quite grateful. It was a now or never moment, and the moment, at last, seemed right to me. I turned to Rose, took her hand and said, softly and reverently, "Rose, I...wanted to ask you...a question. Is that all right?"
Her eyes met mine, and instantly I knew she had figured something out. She was brilliant, my Rose. It had a nice ring to it, that...My Rose. For that one shining moment, I almost felt like I had a right to her. I hoped there would be more of those.
"Sure. What?" Her face was close to mine, so close. I looked at her lips, so full, her cheeks so flushed with running. She was a wind-swept goddess, a queen from a storybook. And that was brilliant, too.
We held each other with our eyes as Jackie looked on, back and forth between the two of us.
So I sat there, kneeling awkwardly on one good knee and said, "Rose Tyler. Banana of my heart. Will you be mine for what's left of eternity? Will you have a child with me? Or two or three, and maybe four? Will you laugh at my dumb jokes and snog me senseless only when you feel like it?"
Her hand had long since crept over her gaping mouth. Such a lovely mouth, hers. Jackie, on the other hand, hadn't moved at all, hadn't even taken a breath since Banana of my heart...
"Ah, you really ought to remember to take in air, Jacks." I murmured, melting the glacier of social etiquette that now surrounded us. "It's rather a necessity for breathing, one would think. Time Lords like meself can hold theirs for quite a long...OOF!" One of them hit me on the head, and I saw stars, and little dancing bananas. Dancing bananas! Ha! I love it!
"What'd you hit poor Nuncle for, Mummy? He weren't doin' nuffin off!"
Jackie finally let out a gasp and turned to glare at her son, who just looked at her with a big, fudgy smile. "Because," she said, patting his cheek. "your Nuncle is a plum. He's just as incorrigible as you are."
"Smudge! Give me a cardiac yet, you will!" I cried, scrambling onto my one good foot and hugging him close. "You, you little devil, are very, very, very, very lucky that I found you before you suffered any permanent injury! You could have died, falling out of that tree like that! If I hadn't gotten here when I did, and...reversed the...damage, I don't..."
"Damage?" Jackie's question was a knife to my throat.
" He fell, Jackie. I fixed him. He's fine. I'm fine. We're both fine."
"Oh I know he is, but I don't believe you. Your leg, for one, tells me quite the opposite."
"Oh, come off, Jacks! I'm still breathing, oi!"
"What was that? Ohhhh! STILL all mouth and no manners! You are drinking some tea when we get home, and that's an end to it!"
"Well, some punishment that is! I happen to LIKE your bloody tea!"
"I might spike it, just to spite you, you blighter! I swear; you're worse'n he is!"
"Now you listen here, Jackie Tyler! You're not my mum! In fact, I'm old enough to be your grandfather fifty times over! So there."
"Doctor, look at me," Rose said softly, disrupting the argument with her quiet plea to me. Well, it definitely got MY attention, leastways. "You know, I...I've kept a ring in my pocket for you since the day you said 'Run!'" She stared at Tony, then at me, then at Tony, then back at me again, a worried look playing over her nicely rounded features. Then, she held the ring out to me with tears in her eyes, and I almost cried myself. "It's a decoder ring from a cereal box that was on the kitchen table the day we met." Both of us laughing, sobbing like loons, I let her slip it on my finger.
"Oh, Rose...you don't have to hold out any more. I'm here, I'm here, I'm here! And I'm about to touch you, about to hold you close to me. I won't let go, not for all the stars in all the wide universes." I took her in my arms, my knee forgotten, and kissed her on those fragrant lips. They tasted like banana. My lips left hers for a very small moment, and I believe I grew rather excited. "Rose...is that banana flavored lip balm? Cor! You think of everything! Blimey!"
"Well, yah! Men are so thick. Any way you cut it, you're stuck with us Tylers." She sighed and clapped a hand to her forehead, all Scarlett O'Hara like. "What WOULD you do without me?"
I was shaking my head at her, sporting this big toothy grin she said I must have stolen from Tony. Ohhhh...but she was a painting in a museum, a work of art. And she was mine. Mine! All mine! "Got no mule, and that's just fine! Got me a girl, and she's all mine!" At least, that's what I think I was singing as the three of them helped me limp back to the house. Not exactly sure, but I think they fed me fudge. Never knew you could get drunk on fudge. Must remember to do that more often.
Tony was smirking at me when I awoke the next morning, the hoppy little toad. "Well, well, well...if it isn't the Smudge!" I said, trying to make myself sound fairly well annoyed, I thought without much success. "I expect you won't be climbing any more trees after yesterday, will you now? Look what you've done! I'm laid up in bed with a bruised knee, coz of you!"
"M'sorry, Dockor. If your leg falls off will you die?"
"Die? Me? Because of a banged-up knee? Nooo! Course not! Oi, Smudge! What brought that on? Have you been at Jackie's fudge again?"
Then the waterworks appeared, and I was forced to rethink my position. Honestly, when confronted with that tiny, fearful, pallid little face, full of tears that glinted like bits of silvered glass, how could any sane man keep up the ruse? So I held out my arms to my adoptive nephew, and he climbed up, being ever so careful of my injured knee where my leg stretched out rigid on Jackie's nicely-folded duvet. When he finally found a spot, he began to eye my leg as if it might rot away right then and there, and I found myself wondering if he'd ever stop. But he did, and then I held him. He cried on my shoulder for a good long while till he'd gotten it all out, and then I sent him off to wash. As young Mickey once said, us blokes, we ought to stick together whenever possible. Hah. Never thought in a million years that I'd agree with Mickey twice in a millennium, but there it is.
You must understand about my nephew. Tony isn't really a bad child, he's just...just, shall we say, a bit accident prone when it comes to learning when one should or shouldn't disobey one's authority figures. Like the time he tried to use the stove by climbing inside it. Or the time he found a clump of...er...free-range mushrooms and I caught him trying to sample one. And let's not mention that one incident involving the neighbor's wood-chipper. He almost got made into mulch for the next-door garden, on that one. Smudge...mulch...smulch! Smulch, smulch, smulch!
Sorry. Got caught up, there. Moving on. Now comes the moral of, as it were. See, I decided to try and get up later that day, after catching a whiff of Jackie's cooking with my sensitive nose. Smelled like banana bread. Couldn't pass that up, on account of my not-so-secret love affair with the main ingredient, no, sir. So I eased out from under the covers and struggled into my robe, which, by the way, did NOT have a Satsuma in the pocket...sigh...and tippy toed, well, more like tippy hobbled, really, to the door of my room for a peek. No use trying to get into day clothes with my knee as it was, so I just tippy hobbled to the top of the stairs and managed to get halfway down before the Smudge came roaring past me, nearly knocking me down the last few steps. Course, then I made the mistake of trying to flatten myself against the wall...I ended up teetering off to one side and safely crash landing on Jackie. On JACKIE! JACKIE! In a word, Oi. Much too close for comfort.
"Good morning, Jackie." I managed, feeling justifiably squeamish. Course by the look on her face, she was clearly not up for playing Keystone Copper...
"YOU! You're certifiable, you are! Look what you've done to your breakfast in bed! And after I went to all the trouble of...wait. Where'd it go? The tray went sailing! Where'd it go?"
I was confounded. "Tray? What?"
"The breakfast, you nutter!"
Oh. Right. Ha ha. Yah, though. Where had it gone?
Suddenly there was the quiet tapping of a sneakered foot, and then Rose's voice sliced the tension like a hot pastry knife through German Chocolate Cake. Or fudge! "I. Am. Not. Amused."
After hearing that particular tone in her voice, that --you had better not TOUCH ANYTHING for the rest of the day-- tone, I knew exactly what had happened to Jackie's special breakfast. I was also acutely aware of the various health benefits of not turning 'round at that particular moment, lest I receive a parting gift unto oblivion in the shape of a nice silver tray with a Rose shaped dent in the center, all smushed with banana bread and egg and orange juice and whatnot.
"...I don't suppose my saying I could eat you up would help, aye?"
Too long a silence. That was never good. In fact, it quite frequently signaled imminent injury...
"Not hardly, Captain peg leg. You wouldn't be able to run fast enough, what with that bruised knee. It wouldn't be any fun then."
Feeling brazen, I decided to turn 'round, hoping against hope that I could dig myself a deeper hole. "What wouldn't? Chasing after me with a frying pan? Oh come on! I could limp off pretty quickly, if given the proper incentive..."
Rose came closer, tapping the badly bent tray in her other hand while her brown eyes nursed a wicked glint reminiscent of the Queen of the Racnoss. "Like what?"
"Hmmm, let's see. Did I mention you smell like banana bread? I still haven't had breakfast yet. A body needs its potassium, Rose. Too much, and your kidneys fail. Too little, and your kidneys rot like stinky tofu. Stinky tofu...bleah! Never visit twentieth century China before the 2008' Olympics. They'll feed you anything. SOOOO!" I was on a roll! "Have I made it up to you yet, or are you still going to brain me?" My teeth were like floodlights. Wait for it...wait for it...
"That does it, Doctor. I think I shall have to teach you a lesson."
"Oh, goody! What sort? Geometry? History? Chemistry, eh? Eh? Or...e r...recreational mathematics?"
"Actually, I thought I'd start at Remedial English...work my way down from there. That is, of course, if you're not too run-down from tripping over yourself yesterday."
Woo-hoo! Score! Silently I willed my injury to knit, and the pain from the bruising again diminished, for a while. "Honestly, Banana Bread, I think I'll manage. See?" I slapped the joint, covering a wince.
"Sure! And I s'pose you two want me to keep Tony out of your hair while you go at it?" Jackie was shaking her head at us as she reached to grab the tray from Rose's hand.
"Well...we were hopeful...Jackie." I murmured, looking at Rose and smiling brightly. Sharp as hobnails, my Jacks!
Rose stared back. "Well! There you go, putting words in my mouth 'stead of kissing me. What's taking so long?"
Suitably reproached, I had no choice but to fly to my beloved's side. My lips locked with hers and we swayed into each other's embrace. Then, of course, I lost my balance and we both fell to the floor in a tumble of eggy, banana-flavored mess.
"Blimey!" I groaned from the floor, not quite up to sporting a smile. "Well! Now we both smell like Banana. And taste like it too, I imagine. Want to have a go at licking me?"
"I swear I'll lick the both of you out the door if you don't quit playing fingers in front of poor Tony!" Jackie was hopping cross, and that was frightening. So frightening we both stopped mid-snog.
Suitably chastised, I stood up and nudged Rose into the guest bedroom with an awkward little limp and a wink for Jackie, who proceeded to scowl in our general direction in such a fashion that I was loathe to take a peek out the door that way again for several hours after Rose and I had left each other. Had to make sure it was safe, you see, as our Jacks has this tendency to lie in wait for me with some menial house chore when I 'd much rather be hoisting Tony onto my shoulders for a ride, or flirting with Rose...and as for that, no details as to how far I got or how often I get there. Suffice it to say that I do have SOME talent in that respect, mind you. Some things are best kept out of one's personal journal, as prying eyes are often prone to peeking into things that aren't remotely theirs...
...No time for journaling, now. Jackie's calling for Tony. She sounds frantic. Wonder what he's gotten up to this time? Sigh. Better be off then, so's I can save him from himself. Allonz y!
Allonz y. You see above, there? That was the last word the Doctor wrote in these pages before he ran out in front of the car to rescue my little brother. Poor Tony had wandered into the street again, and my mum had screamed after him like a bloody banshee. Naturally, my lover had gone running after Tony, into the street, into the rain. He would have died for anyone, not specifically Tony, coz that's just the way he is, beautiful and joyous and everything nice. And everything mournful. I watched him kneel down, there, in the middle of the street, and take Tony into his arms. He was holding him like a broken toy, then. His eyes were turned from me...and I knew, I just knew. They were glowing with life. There was no question what the Doctor was doing there, holding my brother in the rain. The Doctor was breathing life into Tony's little broken body. His own life, his own strength, willing the boy to survive being struck by that car. When I ran to him after, Tony was standing next to him, not touching, just...standing and staring at the Doctor like an angel. But John Smith, my Doctor...my angel...never moved from that place again. He died in the rain, on his knees in the damp of the street, saving my little brother from the darkness he himself had known so intimately, yet still had feared. He had used himself up, for Tony. Would you have? Sorry, sorry. I'm so sorry. Of course you would. You always did have a soft spot for children.
By the time you get this, and I know you will, I will probably be dead as well, and Tony, and my parents. But there is always our daughter, Reinette. Yes. His and mine, conceived on the day he left me for the final time. She is smarter than the both of you, you know. I hope she finds you some day. I think she will.
ROSE MARION TYLER
Her hair is all curls and long, and ginger like Donna's. Her eyes are like yours, only brighter. And she likes a banana sliced up in her celery soup.