Meant For Children
Set in the SwitchVerse.
Despite intending to have a lie-in, the next morning Jackie woke at seven, instinctively getting out of bed to see to Tony. Pete grabbed her hand before she could get very far. "Stay." He tugged her back into bed, wrapping his arms around her middle to let her settle against his chest as he cuddled her. "Tony knows to come to us if he needs us."
"I know, and I wouldn't usually worry but I'm still worried about Alexia. If I was four I wouldn't like waking up in a place I don't know around people I barely know."
"She's fine. She felt safe and happy enough with Tony to fall asleep curled up with him so she'll be happy to wake up with him there too. Just relax; get a couple more hours sleep. If her parents call the phone's right here and I'll answer."
She closed her eyes, knowing he was right. "How did I ever cope without you?"
He kissed her brow to coax her to relax. "I was with you at heart." He pulled the duvet back around her. "Now go back to sleep; you deserve some rest. I love you.
"I love you, Pete."
At the weekends Tony was usually up before his parents, happily playing with his toys until they came to find him or he was hungry enough to wake them himself. That morning, however, Pete walked into the living room to find him sitting patiently on the sofa; Alexia was still leant against him, sleeping peacefully with a beautiful little smile on her face. Pete ruffled the boy's hair. "Morning Little Mite. Hungry?" He nodded eagerly. "Is she alright?"
"Come on then." He gently took the blanket from around them. "Alexia."
When she didn't respond Tony touched her arm. "Alex, wake up."
She looked up at him, green eyes wide. "Hi."
"It's time for breakfast."
The girl took a moment to register what he'd said, evidently still feeling tired. "I am hungry." She looked up at Pete. "Can I have something? Please?"
"Of course." He nodded. "There's plenty for everyone, we're all a bit hungry. My wife's getting it ready now."
"Thanks." She smiled, finally pulling away from Tony and gradually standing up. "Tony can you show me where the bathroom is again?"
He slipped off the sofa and grabbed her hand, leading her out into the hallway. "Yup!"
Pete watched after them. "Make sure you wash your hands, come to the table when you're ready." As he walked into the kitchen to assist Jackie the phone rang. He picked it up. "Hello Mrs Bannerman." He exaggerated her name to make his wife turn to face him as he put the call on speakerphone.
The woman on the other end of the phone spoke hurriedly. "Hello, I got your messages, I am so sorry for leaving Alexia with you, we didn't realise she wasn't with us, she's a quiet one you see, we told her to go to bed and thought that was where she was."
Pete looked at his wife with concern; it was just as she'd suspected, carelessness rather than an emergency. "That's alright, she's perfectly safe, she's still here, we're about to give her some breakfast. How soon can you come and pick her up?"
"Ah that's the thing." Mrs Bannerman hardly faltered. "Something's come up you see; my husband and I are being dragged along on this terrible trip, he hasn't exactly explained to me what it is but we're going to be out of town for the next few days. We were wondering if you could do us a huge favour and look after her, especially since your little boy is at the school she'll be starting at, it's her first day on Monday you see, could you take her for us? I'm sure your boy would like the company."
"You aren't even going to take her for her first day at a new school?" Pete tried to contain his outrage.
"I know, I know, it looks terrible, but we just can't, and surely it's better that we make sure she goes to school rather than taking her with us. We'll have someone drop off a bag of her things if that's okay with you."
Jackie was struggling to keep quiet, wanting to shout at this inconsiderate woman; she clearly couldn't care less about her daughter's wellbeing. She frantically nodded at Pete, mouthing at him to agree. "Alright then." He gritted his teeth. "I can see Alexia needs us." He deliberately added an undertone of spite. "Get her things dropped off and we will happily look after her properly. My son will love spending time with her and cheering her up. He really adores her and at least he knows how to make her feel loved." He felt like shouting at her or just hanging up but his calmer side knew that he needed to remain civil with this woman for Alexia's sake because that poor little girl needed them to look after her when her own parents weren't.
"Thank you ever so much, I know we're new in town and we don't know you all that well yet but I hope we can be friends, I think the little ones would like that."
He muttered angrily under his breath. "As if you're thinking about her." He rolled his eyes at Jackie, speaking up. "You're welcome. See you in a few days then when you come to get her." He hung up, dropping the phone onto the kitchen counter.
Seeing his anger Jackie stepped towards him, pulling him into a hug to calm them both. "Thanks for agreeing. I know it seems like a ridiculous thing to agree to."
"No." He shook his head. "Of course it doesn't, you want to look after a child that needs it, so doI.I'd much rather she was here being cared for and appreciated and happy than being dragged off with her inconsiderate parents."
Jackie leant her head on Pete's shoulder, smiling at Tony as he walked into the kitchen. "Daddy was that Alex's parents?"
He let go of his wife to face their son. "It was her mum, yes."
"Are they coming to pick her up soon?"
"No. She's staying with us for a few days, coming to school with us too; she's going to be in your class."
The child grinned. "That's brilliant! I really like her; I like playing with her and talking to her, she's really fun, and beautiful." He quietened for a second, looking serious. "Are her mummy and daddy not looking after her properly? She was really sad before and she doesn't think anyone loves her. She doesn't think she's beautiful either and that's just silly; she doesn't know how amazing she is."
"Well…" Jackie tried to think of the best way of putting it without completely slating the Bannermans. "They maybe aren't caring for her as much as we care about you; they don't always put her first or treat her like she's the most important thing to them like you and Rose are to us."
"Yeah." She nodded. "But I tell you what, sweetheart, she's got you and I know you'll do a brilliant job of cheering her up and showing her all those things you think of her. She's lucky to have a friend like you." She smiled to help him stop worrying. "She could probably do with a hug, go on, we'll bring the food through." She watched him leave then turned back to Pete.
He could tell exactly what she was thinking. "We can talk later when they're playing." He softly kissed her cheek. "If you can take that through I'll go and call Rose and the Doctor."
She did as he suggested, taking the boxes of cereal and the milk through. Tony and Alexia were sitting side by side at the table, twisted round on their chairs so they were facing each other, legs tucked up underneath them. As she walked in they were both laughing, Tony stopping before Alex and watching his new friend's giggling fade, profusely grinning at her. As he leant forward and hugged her Jackie put the last of the cereal on the table where they could reach. "Go on you two, choose what you want." She sat down opposite Tony, watching him pass the little girl the one she wanted and helping her when she nearly spilt it, trying to steady her hand so she wouldn't shake so much.
"Told you you could do it. See it's alright." He smiled at her until she smiled back, nudging his shoulder against hers. He twisted round as he heard the rest of his family coming, smile fixed on his face. "Hey!"
"Hey you." Rose smiled, taking a seat next to her mother as the two men sat at either end of the table, nearest to their respective women. "Did you two have fun yesterday?"
He eagerly nodded, Alexia piping up before he had the chance. "Yeah!" She grinned at him. "Loved it."
"Me too. We played lots of games and talked a lot; she makes me laugh."
"You were definitely very giggly, both of you. It looked like you were having fun." She smiled as the little girl leant into Tony and he instinctively looked at her.
"Alex, are you still tired?" She nodded against his shoulder. "That's okay, you can go back to sleep soon if you want. After breakfast though."
"Here." The Doctor poured some milk into the girl's bowl as Tony chose his own cereal. As he passed Rose the milk he couldn't help noticing her grinning at him. He curled a finger under her chin to draw her that bit closer and kiss her. "Beautiful. Now stop staring and eat your breakfast."
Pete watched his son's smile as he coaxed Alexia to sit up properly. "Tony, Alexia, what do you want to do today?"
"Call me Alex."
"Okay, Alex, what do you want to do later?"
"Erm, I don't know."
"What about you, Tony?" He hoped he would suggest something Alexia liked so she would gradually feel more confident around them all instead of just Tony.
"Can we go out somewhere?"
The Doctor smiled. "Now that sounds like a good idea to me. I'd love a go on the swings."
Tony smiled back. "Alex, you want to come, yeah?" She nodded. "Yay!
Rose finished her mouthful. "I tell you what, how about the two of us take you two down this morning and then Mum and Dad can bring a picnic down for lunch and we can spend the afternoon together? It looks nice and sunny out there."
"What are you doing up there?" Rose laughed as the Doctor stood up at the top of the climbing frame, leaning on the edge and peering down at her. "You do realise that's meant for children right? You know like Tony's age." She pointed at her brother who was stood beside to him.
"He asked me if I wanted to play and I do, besides it's fun! Isn't it Tony?"
"So come and join us."
She watched Alexia as the little girl walked round to her and looked up at the others. "Funnily enough I'm alright down here. I doubt I'd fit really, especially with you already up there."
"There's plenty of room! Look we can squish up." He pulled Tony closer. "There see? Or how about you, Alex?" He nudged Tony to make him speak up.
"Yeah come on." He beamed at his friend as Rose nudged her forward. "Climb up!" As Alexia hesitantly climbed up the steps he crouched down to help her make it up the last bit.
"Come on, Doctor." Rose smiled as Tony hugged the girl. "Get out of their way, let them play. Come here."
"Alright." He gripped the bar above the slide, swinging himself underneath it. He grinned for a split second until he lost all momentum, wedged between the sides of the slide. "Oh." He looked down. "Rose, I think I'm stuck." He tried to edge forward but couldn't manage it.
She laughed, stepping onto the edge of the slide and holding her hands out to him. "You're such a big kid sometimes. Come here." She leant closer to grab his hands then pulled him up, unable to resist a chuckle when he fell into her, nearly knocking her to the ground. She leant into him, taking a brief moment to relish in the feeling of his arms around her until he broke away, grabbing her hand and leading her across the play area.
"It's been ages since I've been on a swing. Bet I can swing higher than you." Launching himself onto one of the swings he beamed at her, waiting for her to join him.
"Oh yeah? How much?"
"Done." She grinned, kicking her legs out to set off the motion, eyes fixed on him as they swung higher and higher until they were practically horizontal at the peaks of their swings.
"Okay you win." The Doctor stilled, letting his swinging slow, glad to see her do the same only a second later. He flicked his gaze past her to check on the two children; they were sitting either end of the seesaw, giggling as they played.
Rose smiled. "One day you're gonna learn not to make a bet with me."
The happiness in her eyes made him mirror her expression; he slightly shook his head. "Never."
She casually swung her legs. "You know when I was little I loved these swings. Well in the other universe they replaced them, so they probably did here too, but they're in the same place. I used to beg Mum to bring me down here and I always ran straight over to the swings. At first I was too small to climb up myself, Mum would run after me and lift me up, I remember she always had a huge grin on her face. And I especially loved spinning round on them, even when I was tiny, my feet couldn't quite reach the ground but she always happily helped me, patiently twisting the rope up to let it unravel again and again 'til I'd had enough."
He reached across to tuck her hair behind her ear. "Anyone can see your mum loves you."
She smiled. "I had the best childhood, I mean Dad wasn't there but apart from that I loved it. And Mum, Mum did a great job of making me feel like Dad was with us at heart, if that makes sense?"
"Makes perfect sense." He stood, pushing the swing behind him as he walked to stand in front of her. "He was. Now come here." He placed his hands either side of the swing and gently twisted her round until it became difficult to push against the strain on the chains. He let her go and stepped back, smiling as she grinned, closing her eyes as she began to turn the other way. He leant in to kiss her forehead as she slowed. "Again?" She nodded, sticking her tongue between her teeth. He happily began to turn her again.
"Hmm?" He continued to twist the swing round until it felt far enough.
"Doctor." She tilted her head slightly to make him turn around.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and immediately span on his heels; he'd been so enthralled by Rose that he'd completely forgotten there was anyone else there. "Hey, do you and your girlfriend mind? These swings are for kids and my girls want a go."
"Well, actually, I think you'll find…"
"Don't!" Rose jumped up off the swing once it had unravelled enough, grabbing his hand and pulling him away from the man before he started a fight. Once they were a safe distance away she stopped, looking up into his eyes. "Thank you." She let go of him, walking across to her brother as he reached the bottom of the slide, making sure he and Alexia were still alright. She grinned as the Doctor took her hand and coaxed her to join him on the bench at the edge of the tarmac that the play area stood on.
He tugged her hand, making her fall into his arms, deliberately squeezing her tighter as she settled into a more comfortable position. "I've really missed that."
"Strangers instantly seeing we're a couple." He grinned as she lifted her head to meet his gaze. "He called you my girlfriend."
"Well isn't that what I am?"
"That's one way of putting it, yeah." He ran his fingers through her fringe. "You're more than that though and you deserve something better to match."
"Oh yeah?" Her lips curled upwards slightly. "Like what?"
"For example, perhaps, if you want…" He let his gaze drop to her lips for a fleeting moment. "Well Dame Rose of the Powell Estate is a pretty impressive title, isn't it?"
"I suppose." He noticed the flicker in her expression, narrowing her eyes for a split second before she beamed at him. "That makes you my Sir Doctor of TARDIS."
"It most certainly does." He cupped her cheek, drawing her into a lingering kiss. Smiling he coaxed her to lean against him, watching as she brushed her hair off her shoulder making the strands glisten in the sunlight. He pressed a kiss to the bridge of her nose as she turned her face towards him, grinning as she closed her eyes and rested her head against him.
When she looked back up at him his eyes were fixed on her, a slight smile developing on his lips. "What?"
"No, nothing, it sounds stupid."
"No, go on."
"You just look more like you, which is stupid because you are you, so therefore you always look like you. I can't quite put my finger on it either and don't take this the wrong way, you're always beautiful, you're just more yourself."
"No it's okay, I see it too." She smiled to help him relax. "I feel more like myself and it's not that much different, just, I've got you. It might have only been a few days but I feel better in myself, I'm completely happy, not stressed or upset, I'm not working all the time. I'm eating better, proper meals all the time instead of eating as I work or on the go. And I'm sleeping, a proper night's sleep, well more than that right now, I fall asleep easily with you there, I feel peaceful and rested, no more nightmares." She held his gaze, feeling a tear forming in her eye. "Thank you."
He tightened his arms around her as she leant her forehead against him. "You're welcome. It's the least you deserve for everything you've done for me." He felt her shift so her head was rested in the crook of his neck. "I love you."
She smiled. "You know you don't owe me anything. We're even. I did it for both of us."
Tony laughed as he grabbed Alexia's hand, tugging her closer to cover her eyes. As she wrinkled her nose he leant closer, kissing her cheek and holding a tiny daisy out to her. She looked at the flower, hesitantly closing her hands over his for a moment and looking up at him, her eyes wide with awe until he reached to tuck the flower into her hair. With a smile she kissed his cheek, averting her gaze as he stood back and grinned at her. "Beautiful. Come on." He grabbed her hand, running off with her back towards the Doctor and Rose, pulling her down to sit with him on the grass just a couple of feet away from them.
Rose ran her fingers over the Doctor's hair, grinning as he shifted his head in her lap and looked up at her. After a moment he lifted his hands to his head, ruffling his hair to leave it sticking up at all angles. She laughed, copying his motion until he covered her hands with his, curling his fingers between hers and pulling them away from his head. "You really love my hair, don't you?"
"You have great hair, some really great hair."
Grinning, he tilted his head slightly. "So do you." He sat up slightly as Rose shifted her legs, waiting for her to lie down on her side and coax him to lean back against her. "You know." He gently held his fingers to her temple to stop her hair falling across her face, pushing it over her shoulder. "I think I can do this domestic thing."
"Lounging around in the sun is tough I know. Are you sure you can cope?"
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Stop it. You know what I mean, I think I'm getting the hang of it."
"Apart from the whole suit thing." She looked him up and down. "That's still a bit weird."
"Oh you love the suit and you know it. Besides I've got two different ones and it's not like I don't wash them. You wound me, Rose Tyler."
She smiled. "Say that again."
"You love the suit?"
"No." She shook her head. "My name."
"Rose Tyler." Her smile grew. "Rose Tyler."
"Come here." She gestured him closer, raising her hand to his cheek to bring him near enough for her lips to reach his. "I'm never gonna get tired of hearing you say that." She slipped her arm around his neck, leaning into him more so she could kiss him properly.
They looked up as a shadow fell across them, sheltering their eyes from the sun and squinting to try and make out the figure. "Hi, sorry, I wouldn't usually just walk up to someone like this, but, well…" The woman looked down to the slight swell of her belly, letting her fingers linger there. "I just wanted to tell you that you have beautiful children."
Rose looked across at Tony and Alexia, and then to the Doctor, smiling as he raised an eyebrow. "They're not ours."
"Oh sorry, I just assumed; he looks like you."
"He's my little brother. The girl's his friend."
She smiled. "Well then you have a beautiful little brother."
"Thanks; I'll tell my parents you said so, it'll make their day."
"Well, see you." She adjusted her bag on her shoulder. "I better get going; supposed to be meeting this one's dad." She slightly nodded her head.
The Doctor casually pointed between her face and her stomach. "You're gonna be a great mum, you know."
"Thank you." The woman smiled, slowly turning and walking away from them across the grass.