Everyone remember! The Support Stacie Author Auction is going on right now! You can get 5000 words from me for the winning bid! Also, for those interested, a 2500 word NQN 'verse fic is up for sale! More information on my LJ.
About this story: It was taken out of my fic, Misadventures in Babysitting, because it interrupted the flow. However, it works fine as an independent story if the reader can accept this fact: Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness got caught in a botched time travel experiment and turned into children. Mostly, they are themselves, trapped in younger bodies, but they have a few glitches here and there in their behavior. This is an older work, but a related piece is owed to a bidder, so I wanted to be sure both were available!
Young Rose Tyler Tells an Aesop's Fable: An Out Take of Misadventures in Babysitting
The Doctor made his way back to his room - the room where the children were sleeping - on silent feet. Like the close cropped dark hair and the blindingly fast way he moved sometimes, the silence was an artifact of the Time War, something he didn't think he'd ever lose, not any more. Just like his ability to operate heavy weaponry and scare the hell out of himself some times.
He stepped up to the door, and heard the sound of soft little voices, so he was quiet, listening to them.
"Why doesn't he do domestic, though?" Jack whispered. "He's really good at it."
Rose's voice, now, a whisper of a sigh. "Let me tell you a story, Jack," she said. "Then maybe you can get back to sleep."
"Maybe so," he agreed, his piping voice soft and sad.
"Once there was a wolf, a wise and clever wolf, and he was a lone wolf, separated from his pack for a very long time."
Her voice was soft and lilting. The Doctor leaned against the wall, carefully, listening attentively to her story, curious how it could relate to Jack's question or if she was changing the subject.
"One day, while traveling, the wolf came across a wondrous tree, where a healthy grapevine had grown, spiraling up the base of the tree, strong and very tall. And it grew out along the branches, and hanging from the branches of the tree were several bunches of grapes."
She apparently shifted in the bed, and Jack's voice complained sleepily.
"The grapes were quite the most beautiful the lone wolf had ever seen. They were plump and round and purple, and they smelled like street corners at two a.m. and houses with curtains and families and dancing. The wolf sat down under the tree to admire them, wishing that wolves could climb trees or that grapes would fall from heaven.
"They really were very beautiful, those grapes, and they made the wolf hungry and thirsty and sad, because he had tried grapes before, a very long time ago, with his pack, but now he couldn't any more, because he was a lone wolf."
"That's sad," said Jack, softly.
"Yes, I'm afraid so. Some birds came along, and the wolf made a deal with them. If they would pluck down some grapes for him, he would dig them up some nice, fresh worms. After all, wolves have claws and are quite good at digging when they want to be. The birds agreed, and the wolf started to dig, but as soon as he had unearthed some fresh worms, the birds fell to eating and forgot all about the lone wolf. As soon as they were full, they flew away, fat and happy, and the wolf still didn't have any grapes."
"Those were mean birds."
"Very," Rose agreed. There was a smile in her sweet little voice that the Doctor could hear, but she sounded so wistful and far away. "Then a squirrel came along, and everyone in the forest knew that squirrels could climb trees but weren't very smart about finding their nuts. So the wolf offered to sniff out the nuts for the squirrel and everyone knows that wolves have the very best noses in the world."
"Did the squirrel get the grapes for him, then?"
"No, it didn't. As soon as the wolf found the nuts for it, it stuffed them away and ran off, forgetting the poor wolf entirely."
"Oh, that's so sad. So what did the wolf do?"
"He sat looking longingly at the grapes for a little while longer, and then suddenly some monkeys appeared."
"You've got a weird forest, Rosie."
"Yes, thank you," she agreed with some asperity. "Do you want to hear the story or not?"
Jack giggled and, from the sound of, she gave him a quick kiss, probably on the forehead or the cheek. The Doctor felt his hearts clench in his chest and shook his head. He was no longer worried about losing her to Jack, not really. He was more worried that she would one day want that - a little boy to hug and kiss and tell stories - and that was one thing he would probably never be able to give her. Oh, he could rescue (see kidnap) some homeless child and let her drag it up in the TARDIS if it suited her fancy, but it wouldn't really be hers. And she would want him to play father to it while she played mummy and he was abysmal with children. And then something would happen, to her, or the child, or even him, and it would be a disaster or, at best, domestic hell.
"So what happened to the monkeys?"
"They didn't listen when the wolf tried to talk to them. They just scampered up the tree and started tearing up the tree leaves and the grape vine and crushing the grapes in their grubby little fists. Some of them even threw rocks at the wolf."
Interesting story, Rose, the Doctor thought. Not very happy, though.
"Stupid apes," Jack said, crossly, and the Doctor had to catch himself from laughing. He could picture the tiny Captain's expression and it was darling in his mind. He was starting to think he loved the boy almost as much as the girl, but that Jack was right - he would prefer the little flirt this size.
"Yes, very stupid apes," she agreed. "And the wolf knew that they had just come to tease him, so he ran into the forest and the monkeys followed him. He led them far, far away from the tree and got them completely lost and then he escaped from them. But he didn't go back to the tree and the grapes."
"Oh," said Jack, and it sounded like he was yawning. "Why not?"
"He knew that more monkeys might follow him, and that he wasn't a bird or a squirrel. He thought about it long and hard, and he was very, very clever. After awhile, he decided that it was pretty obvious there was something wrong with those grapes. They had smelled so strange and appealing, after all. They had looked delightful and that might just be odd. Because what could a lone wolf possibly need with grapes, really?"
"True," Jack murmured, and he sounded very nearly asleep, this time.
The Doctor could empathize. Except for his brief nap, earlier, he hadn't slept in nearly two weeks. It just wasn't safe for him to sleep. He always woke, as Jack did, with nightmares of horrors. The only difference, of course, was that he could name his. Jack couldn't, although some of Jack's most childish nightmares sounded a god-awful lot like the Doctor's most recent ones. He'd actually, after the first one, checked Jack over for temporal signatures. The only thing he'd found was that Mark, and the Time Agency's stamp on one of his time lines (they were stupid with a capital idiocy if it didn't occur to them that a person had more than one time line and Jack had almost as many as Rose, which was beyond impressive for even a Time Lord, never mind born-humans.)
He hadn't ever mentioned to anyone how disappointed (or almost surprised) he was to find that Jack didn't appear to own a pocket watch.
"So the lone wolf went back to his wanderings and, after awhile, he decided that he didn't particularly like grapes at all. And those particular grapes were probably very, very sour."
Aesop's fable, the Doctor realized with a smile. With a twist or two.
Jack yawned audibly this time. "And that's why the Doctor doesn't do domestic?" he asked in a drowsy whisper. He might not even manage to stay awake for her reply.
"Yes, Jack," she said, and her voice sounded so sad.
She knew him far too well, his Rose. He'd known that for awhile, but it was only right this instant that he realized how painfully well she knew him.
She was exactly right.
He stepped back and deliberately let the floor board creak. Rose could think he was just now coming up to check on them. He stepped through the door slowly and peered in at them.
Rose was wearing a soft little night dress Doris had lent her. It apparently belonged to one of the woman's nieces. She was propped up on a pillow in the middle of the bed, stroking the tiny Captain's hair absently.
He was out cold, apparently.
"Hi," she whispered.
"What're you doing up?" he replied, projecting his voice carefully so it whispered in her ear.
"Jack was having a nightmare. I put him back to sleep. Are you tired?"
He looked at them, his temporally distorted companions, looking even tinier in his rather large bed. (Funny, he still thought of this room as his and he'd only stayed here for six months about twenty years ago. Maybe he really was a bit of a wolf.) He wouldn't even have considered this if they were full sized. But they were little, so very young, and Jack might have another nightmare, and even Rose might have troubles, since she had all those thirteen-year-old hormones to deal with.
He unbuttoned his tuxedo shirt the rest of the way and turned to hunt through the dresser for his pajamas. He found the trousers to them, anyway, so he slipped into the en suite to change, leaving his undershirt on and tugging on the soft flannel that felt so comfortable against his skin.
He'd not appreciated all the comforts of this house while he'd lived here, considering he'd wanted more than anything to be dead instead. But Rose was here, now, and Jack, and they needed him.
By the time he came out, he found her curled up on the far side of the bed, making room for him between them. He grinned at her. "Don't get used to this," he suggested.
"The scandal," she replied, dryly, a hint of her adult voice and features shining through as she said it. "The TARDIS would leave us all in Ursa Minor or something."
"Ursa Major," he corrected. "There's a planet there with nothing but fruit and potable water."
"There you go with them funny words, again," she said, and stood up, lifting the covers. "C'mon, in you get."
"Yes, mummy," he said and crawled between the sheets.
She rolled her eyes and lay down next to him, curled up at his side.
His last memory of the night was of her soft, even breathing, and the feel of her tiny hand resting on his chest, just between his hearts.
"That's interesting," whispered the Brigadier to his wife. They'd just wandered back in from an early morning constitutional and had stopped by the Doctor's room to see if their guests were awake.
"You don't see that everyday, do you?" she agreed.
The girl slept with the Doctor's arm around her, her head on his shoulder and her hand on his chest. The boy was curled tight against the Doctor's side, his thumb in his mouth, while the Doctor had wrapped an arm around him as well. Doris and her husband exchanged a smile and walked on down the hall, having no intention of disturbing the Time Lord or his pretty babies.
They'd both taken turns at watching this man through fevered nights of hell. To see him lie so still, with that soft smile flickering on his lips was a miracle and a relief at once. They decided to retire to the back garden instead of starting breakfast just yet. Let him sleep. If anyone in the Universe deserved it, it was the Doctor.
As they let themselves out through the french doors in their bedroom, the Brigadier smiled and allowed himself to feel true hope for his friend for the first time in ages. "They may not be his children," the Brigadier observed softly. "But they are definitely his life."