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Rose's Fable - Part II
What Happened When the Lone Wolf Met the Domestic Wolf with the Dirty Colored Pale Hair
Several days after his two companions had recovered from being small children, the Doctor was hiding - relaxing, not hiding, it was his ship, dammit - in a quiet corner of his library in the dead of the ship's night. He was reading, slowly to savor it, his copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Loved this story, seriously.
He heard voices from out in the main sitting area of the library and got up quietly from his chair. Rose and Jack should both be in bed right now - they were only human, after all, and had no business being up at this unholy hour. The smell of tea hit his nose, then the sound of Jack's voice incredibly hoarse. He'd had another nightmare, it seemed, and Rose had either been awake when he went searching for tea, or she'd woken up later and found him. There wasn't the smell of Jack's usual hypervodka, so the Doctor would guess the former was more likely than the latter.
He moved toward them, planning to make his presence known to them, when Jack spoke in a tone that was almost humorous. "Did you tell me stories when we were kids? I swear I remember that."
Rose laughed softly, and he loved that sound so much, he froze and just listened. He wondered if she remembered her brilliant fable from before, if she knew how perfectly right and fantastic it was. "Yeah, I think I did. You asked me why the Doctor didn't do domestic if I remember."
"Oh, yeah, that's right," said Jack. "And you told me a story about a wolf instead."
Rose chuckled. "Yeah, I did, Jack. And you told me I had a weird forest."
"I remember," he admitted. "But I mean, c'mon, you had grapes and birds and wolves and monkeys. Pretty mixed up."
"Hey, I don't tell stupid apes where to go. That's someone else's job."
The Doctor could have laughed out loud at that, but he didn't. They were silent though, for several moments, except for the click of spoons on mugs. Tea in the library was good for anyone's soul, really, and he thought again about joining them.
Once again, Jack's voice stopped him. It was soft, and pleading, and so alone. "What happened to the wolf, Rosie?" he asked, and he almost sounded about six again.
He could hear a smile in Rose's voice. "Let's see. OK. He was walking through another part of the forest a while later, and he came upon the strangest thing. It was another grapevine, and this one was in easy reach."
"Oh, good, so he got his grapes," said Jack.
"Just listen," she instructed.
"Go ahead," Jack said.
"Right. Well, this grapevine wasn't nice like the last one. It had hardly any grapes on it at all, just vines, and they weren't nice vines, either. They smelled like buses and boredom and dingy old flats. They made sounds when the wind blew through them, like bossy old ladies and obnoxious men with bad attitudes, and bill collectors demanding their money. They were tangled and tough and endless, these vines, and almost no one who ever got stuck in them would ever, ever get out."
"Oh, so he couldn't go near these ones, either," said Jack. "Huh. Did he know?"
"Yes, he realized that at once. But there was something very bad, a nasty old silkworm, and it was eating up the grape vines. There were many good things that used those vines as shelter and really needed them, even if they weren't the sort of vines the wolf liked at all. He decided that he'd better do something about the silkworm so that all the vines didn't get eaten up."
"Your wolf's nosy, Rose."
"Yeah, well, good thing, trust me." She apparently set her cup down, because he heard it click on the table.
"Well?" said Jack.
"Oh," said Rose. "Right. Well, the silkworm had eaten a path right into the middle of the grape vines, and the wolf followed it, deeper than he really wanted to go into the patch of vines. And he found then that the silkworm had spun a web right across its own path. He decided to tear that web down, and he knew just how, being a very clever wolf. He knew if he flung enough dirt at it, the web would fall and he could get through. But before he started to dig, he heard a strange sound off to the side."
"More monkeys?" asked Jack in a teasing tone.
"Nope," said Rose playfully. "The clever lone wolf looked around and saw, to his surprise, another wolf. Oh, she was a very different sort of wolf, half-tamed, really, and much smaller, and obviously not very clever. She had a sort of dirty colored pale hair, and she'd only just noticed she was trapped."
"Uh oh, damsel-in-distress," said Jack. "Now your wolf's in trouble."
Rose laughed. "Boy, is he ever," she agreed. "He ran back along the path and came back dragging a large limb. With a bit of clever navigation, and the wolf was very clever, he managed to use the limb to rescue the girl wolf and knock down the silkworm's web at the same time. The girl wolf tried to thank him, but he ignored her and continued along the silkworm's path."
"Oh, how noble," Jack put in cheekily.
"Always," Rose agreed. "He wandered along the path some more, and found the girl wolf again. This time she was up to her ears in grape vines. She talked to him a bit, and he helped her get free, but he left her again and continued to follow the path."
"What'd she think of all this?" asked Jack.
Rose snorted. "She thought she was bored to death living in the little den her pack had under the edge of the grapevines. She also thought he was the handsomest and most clever wolf she had ever heard of in her entire life, and she decided to follow him, to find out more about him."
"That it?" Jack asked. The Doctor could tell he was grinning.
"Yeah, all right," Rose admitted softly. "She really needed to know, she thought, if he had a proper mate and, if not, if she could be his mate, because he was obviously a better sort of wolf than the ones she'd been around all her life."
The Doctor very nearly had a double heart attack at that statement, but he convinced himself that she was telling the story for Jack's benefit and certainly not for his, and anyway, wolves and people weren't the same sort of thing.
Rose confirmed the assessment. "But that wasn't yet. It was too soon for that. At first, she just wanted to know why a wolf like that would come to her boring part of the forest and tell her such strange stories about other parts of the forest, and then tell her she didn't even want to know him."
"I hope she didn't take that!" Jack exclaimed.
Rose's voice went conspiratorial. "A bird told her, this ordinary girl wolf, that the lone wolf was a very special sort of wolf, nothing to do with her kind of wolf at all."
"Clever, asking the birds," Jack said. There was a sound very much like a smack and the Doctor was hard-pressed not to chuckle.
Determinedly, Rose continued, "The girl wolf didn't care, she went to find that strange lone wolf. It took her awhile to do it, because she wasn't clever at all, and the path the silkworm made didn't make sense to her at all. Eventually, in fact, he found her again, because she just really didn't know what she was doing."
"Rosie, you shouldn't be so mean to your girl wolf," Jack chided, still with humor in his voice.
"Oh, just trust me, Jack, she was very, very silly that day. But then, she did something that wasn't silly at all. She stayed with the lone wolf, this time, even when they found the silkworm and he told her to run away. The silk worm was trying to build a nest there in the middle of the grape vine so it could breed lots of other silkworms and eat the whole vine up and then the whole forest. It started spinning a web right around the lone wolf, even when he tried to explain that all forest creatures had agreed to leave each other alone."
"Not looking so good for him," Jack said petulantly. "So what'd she do?"
"She'd learned a trick from living in the grape vines all this time, and she found just the right bit of vine and jerked it very, very hard. The silkworm's nest fell down and the lone wolf stepped on it, squishing it into goo and saving the vine and the forest."
"So did he have a mate?" asked Jack playfully.
"No, he didn't," Rose said after a moment. "Lone wolf, remember? But he didn't want one, either. He wanted her to run with him if she wanted to, but she said no, because she could hear her pack calling her across the vines. He walked away. But then he came back and told her they could come back whenever she wanted to. So she looked out over the grape vines that had trapped her all her life, even though she'd never even noticed, and she made her choice. She followed the lone wolf out of them and ran with him out into the forest."
"So, sorta happy ending?" said Jack. He yawned loudly.
"Yeah, well, it was happy enough for her, anyway, though she still wanted to be his mate every day she ran with him. Sometimes she'd get so lonely, because she'd been used to having a really big pack, that she'd pick up friends along the way. Once she picked up another clever young wolf, but he turned out to be a sheep in disguise."
"A sheep?" Jack demanded, laughing merrily.
The Doctor found himself snorting over that one, and was glad Jack was laughing because he wouldn't want to be overheard at this point.
"Yeah, Jack, trust me. That one was completely wooly, and bleated and everything. Then, she found another new friend, and he was a rather clever and attractive fox. But even though she liked the fox very much, she still wanted the lone wolf to be her mate."
"Kinda lonely way to end it," Jack observed after a moment or two.
"Not really. The lone wolf had a new pack of his own, now, even if he didn't notice and even if it was a very small and very strange sort of pack, really. So he wasn't so lonely any more. The girl wolf decided she wanted to run with him for the rest of her life, no matter what he decided in the end, and the fox was fun and nearly as clever as the lone wolf, and got them out of trouble almost as often as he got them into it. So they were happy together, the three friends who made the strangest pack the forest had ever seen."
"All right," Jack conceded, "it's a good story, but I still think it should have a romantic ending."
"That's 'cuz you're hopeless," she said with a gentle tease.
"Yeah," Jack agreed. "And you're exhausted. Go on to bed. I'll be fine now."
"You sure?" she asked.
"Yes, thanks, Rosie. You should tell stories more often. We'll have to shanghai you a kindergarten or something."
"Goodnight Jack," she muttered, and the Doctor waited breathlessly until he heard the sound of the library door open.
Just before it closed again, he heard Jack say one more thing. "That lone wolf, Rose, he's not gonna be easy to convince. I say she should knock him across the nose and demand to have his puppies, but that's just me."
The sound of Rose's soft laughter accompanied the door closing. The Doctor headed back to his quiet corner, but not before he heard Jack mutter, "A TARDIS full of Time Puppies, that's what we need."
The Doctor picked up his book, found his place, and started reading again.
It was several very long moments before his sharp ears caught the sound of Jack's teacup clicking onto the table. The Captain's bare feet made no noise in the thick pile carpet. In fact, the Doctor was sure Jack had gone, until he heard, to his surprise, "I know you're back there."
There was only one thing the Doctor could possibly say to that, so he said it firmly and petulantly. "No I'm not."