Falling Leaves of Red and Gold
They are barely through the front door that Tony is jumping onto the Doctor, clinging to one of his legs with his head thrown all the way back, looking up at him through many centimetres of height difference.
“Pleaaaase can we do climb up?”
The Doctor doesn’t even hesitate, already halfway done with taking off his peacoat when he says: “Up you go, then!”
He throws his coat on the ground, before taking position, which involves spreading his legs, lowering himself in a half-crouch, his arms bent and extended outward, his every muscles locked to make his body as stiff and sturdy as possible.
Overall, a rather awkward position.
‘Climb Up’ is not a favourite game amongst grownups. It involves a small child challenging himself or herself to ‘climb’ over the adult’s body as if it were a tree. Understandably enough, most people tend to be rather reluctant to engage in it, as it is all kind of uncomfortable and painful, the over-enthusiastic toddler’s elbows, knees and feet regularly poking into sensitive areas and leaving bruises in their wake.
The Doctor loves it – and Tony adores him for it.
“Who knew I would make such a good tree?” he’d once asked Rose, beaming at her, absolutely delighted with having a three-and-a-half-year old hanging upside down from one of his outstretched arms, an angry red mark already flaring on his cheekbone where Tony’s foot had made contact not-so-gently a couple minutes ago.
Tony doesn’t make it as far today, still trying to ascend the Doctor’s leg when a shrill gasp of disapproval rings through the air.
“Where the hell d’you think you are?!”
The Doctor’s smile immediately freezes at the sound of Jackie’s shout, while Tony slowly slides back down, having caught Rose’s eyes and seen the small shake of her head, wordlessly advising him to stop what he was doing to avoid getting caught up in their mother’s wrath.
“Uhm,” the Doctor says, carefully straightening himself up, glancing at his mother-in-law with obvious caution. “The Tylers' mansion? Planet Earth? The Solar system?”
Rose cannot help but cringe at this poor, poor choice of reply. All these months spent around Jackie Tyler on a fairly regular basis, not to mention their many encounters back in the other universe, and the Doctor has yet to learn to keep his mouth shut around her.
Jackie’s scowl turns into a sweet smile – not a good sign, and he knows it, too, judging by the way he swallows hard – before she looks down at her son. “Why don’t you go find Daddy, sweetheart. Go tell him if he’s not off the phone and ready in the next ten minutes, Mummy’s leaving without him and probably not coming back.”
“Ok!” Tony exclaims, already dashing out of the entrance hall towards Pete’s office.
Jackie slowly extends a hand, then, pointing at the crumpled coat on the floor, her stony stare on the Doctor. “Pick it up.”
The Doctor opens his mouth, until Jackie narrows her eyes, at which point he wisely decides to close it again, bending down to pick up his coat.
Jackie is walking to him, now, head tilted back to look up at him just as her son did earlier, and yet, the Doctor is the one shrinking into himself.
“Now I’ve only agreed to this because Rose’s here, too,” Jackie tells him with an unmistakable warning note in her voice, even though she’s yet to look at her daughter. “But I want you to listen. Are you listening?”
“I am listening.”
“No. Dodgy. Experiment. You’ve got that?”
“Then say it.”
“I – ”
“Nope, not asking for your input, here, just simple parroting. Repeat after me: no dodgy experiment.”
“No dodgy experiment.”
Jackie’s finger actually pokes him sharply in the chest. “No fire either, Doctor, I mean it.”
“Now that was a genuine acci – ”
“Still not asking for your opinion, Lanky Boy,” Jackie efficiently shuts him up. “A day and a half, that’s all. He’s my only son, and I love him quite a lot. Anything suspicious, and I’ll make sure you’ll never be able to give me grandchildren, are we clear?”
“Crystal,” the Doctor chirps. “Lucent. Pellucid. Limpid. Diaphan – ”
“Oh shut it,” Jackie says with a dismissive wave of her hand, finally turning to Rose. “Now come, I’ve got everything ready for your meals.”
“We could’ve cooked,” Rose says, a bit offended.
Jackie snorts in answer, already walking towards the kitchen, clearly expecting them to follow. They do, the Doctor giving Rose a pointed look that clearly means ‘She’s your mother.’
The ordeal doesn’t last for much longer. Jackie does show them everything she prepared for them for this short weekend, going over Tony’s daily routine as well, Rose choosing to remain quiet instead of reminding her mother she’s done this before, even if it’d been pre-Doctor.
After the unavoidable chaos that comes with parents leaving their toddler behind, Jackie and Pete are off for their anniversary trip to Italy, while Rose and the Doctor remain with Tony – who is sniffling a little as he clings to Rose’s neck.
“Hey, you know what Dad told me?” she asks him, going for Distraction #1 – she has four more up her sleeve if this one fails. When she has her brother’s attention, she wiggles her eyebrows (a move she’s definitely picked up from someone). “He told me the gardeners came this morning, and they made a pile.”
Tony gasps in wonder. “A pile?” he repeats in the same conspiratorial tone.
Rose nods with a broadening grin, while behind them, the Doctor repeats it, too, a lot more confused: “A pile?”
She glances back at him with a cryptic smile. “Put that coat back on. You’re gonna love this.”
A few minutes later, all bundled up to face the late October chilly air, they exit the house, entering the back garden – which, realistically, is bigger than most inner city parks Rose has ever been in.
The Pile, although quite a distance away, is impossible to miss.
“That is humongous,” the Doctor states as he takes it in, finally understanding what they’d been talking about.
The three of them begin walking toward the impressive pile of dead leaves, Tony in the middle, holding one of their hands each.
“What’s a human Gus?” Tony asks candidly, which causes Rose to laugh wholeheartedly.
“Humongous, sweetie,” she corrects him. “It means really big.”
“It’s sounds weird,” he notes with a giggle, although he seems delighted to have acquired this new knowledge, already tugging at both their hands, silently requesting to be swung. “Tell me another?”
“Uhm, let’s see,” Rose ponders. “Gigantic.”
“Colossal,” the Doctor offers, while between them, Tony is happily being swayed off the ground.
They’re running out of synonyms for big when they find themselves standing in front of The Pile – which really isn’t a pile at all.
It’s a tower.
“Throw me!” Tony shouts, so excited he’s almost vibrating.
The two adults look at each other.
“It’s a really big pile,” the Doctor notes. “Properly massive.” He observes the tower of crunchy leaves, his nose scrunched up. “What if he disappears, in there? How would we explain that to your mother?”
Rose gives a shrug of her shoulder. “Worst case scenario, we’ve got thirty six hours to dig him out.”
“Throw meeeeeeeeee,” Tony begs, pulling hard on their hands.
The Doctor is still scowling at the imposing pile. “I can’t say I see the appeal of being thrown into a pile of decaying organic matter. Are you sure you don’t want us to go to the swing set instead?”
Tony is now letting out a long, high pitched whine Rose is fairly certain has been invented by toddlers just to drive adults crazy.
“All right, then, allons-y!” the Doctor exclaims, bending down to pick Tony up.
He doesn’t make to throw him at all, though, securely holding the child in his arms instead, turning towards Rose, who frowns at him.
“Your mother scares me too much, I’ll have to go into the unknown with him,” he announces, dramatically. “If I don’t make it back, remember that I love you, always. I won’t tell you not to come after us, either, Rose Tyler. I know better.”
After a wink and a tilt of his head, followed by his trademark grin, he pounces off the ground and nothing short of crashes into the giant pile of leaves, he and her brother disappearing completely for a few seconds.
The pile is so imposing that it doesn’t completely collapse from the sudden disturbance…until the Doctor stands back up, buried all the way up to his shoulders in leaves, holding out a toddler currently shrieking with delighted laughter. “Found this squirmy creature at the bottom of the pile, wouldn’t happen to be yours, by any chance?”
“I’ve been told we share some genes,” Rose admits.
“Again! Do it again!” Tony is requesting, now in his sister’s arms, who doesn’t hesitate much before diving into the pile, too.
They spend a slightly ridiculous amount of time playing in that pile of leaves, long after it’s stopped being big enough for the adults present to dive into it. The Doctor is as efficient as ever when it comes to gathering it all back together for Tony, though, admitting that he’d underestimated the ‘entertainment value’ of this activity.
(Especially after Tony ordered them both to stay there on the ground while he bravely threw tiny handfuls of leaves all over them as he tried covering them up – which obviously led to quite a bit of snogging as decaying organic matter rained over them)
When Tony’s teeth begin to chatter from cold while his lips turn blue, Rose declares their outing over, in spite of the two children’s loud protests.
She makes them hot cocoa, which instantly puts her back in their good grace, especially when she adds tiny marshmallows to it.
Tony makes the mistake of asking what marshmallows are made of, which causes the Doctor to delve into a rapid lecture about the molecular makeup of this particular food – which really cannot be called food, he stresses that repeatedly, given the minimal nutritional value it provides.
He does stop his gabbling, eventually, once he realises Rose has stopped her washing up to stare at him instead, Tony’s eyes properly glazed over as well.
“Can we make some?” Tony asks, then, unfazed.
“Absolutely,” the Doctor answers just as Rose says: “Absolutely not.”
She shuts off the tap, turning fully to lean against the sink. “Which part of ‘no dodgy experiment’ did you not understand?”
He scowls at her. “All we need is water, gelatin and sugar, I wouldn’t call it a dodgy experiment. A wild foray into the oddity that is human nutrition, maybe. ”
“Might be so, but you forget the bit where everything becomes dodgy when you’re in charge of it.”
“I feel slightly insulted.” He sounds and looks it, too.
(She doesn’t have the heart to tell him he’s got more chocolate around his mouth than Tony does)
“Alright, I’ll make it up to you,” she says with a sly smile. “Wanna hear why we’re like hot chocolate and marshmallows?”
He squints at her. “Is this a trick question?”
She shakes her head, before answering all-too-casually: “’cause you’re hot and I’m on top.”
The Doctor actually manages to choke on his own saliva.
“I don’t get it,” Tony announces.
“t’s just a silly grownup joke,” Rose tells him, pushing herself off the sink to go ruffle his hair, before going around the table to do the same to her husband, whose face has become rather red.
She presses a kiss to his temple for good measures, letting her breath wander over the back of his neck before straightening up and going back to her dishes, acutely aware of his gaze on her.
They do not make marshmallows, in the end, nor do they get into anything dodgy. Tony spends a nice amount of time quietly drawing some pictures while Rose and the Doctor argue over how to get the fireplace going – once Rose convinces him that her mother’s warnings about him and fire did not include the making of an actual fire in a real fireplace.
He does manage to get it going eventually, although by then, they’ve already had dinner and Rose had time to give Tony his bath. The siblings come back down to find a lovely, roaring fire burning in the hearth, the Doctor looking simultaneously proud and a tad sheepish.
She chooses not to ask.
While the two boys snuggle up on the couch, the Doctor having just agreed to read Tony his bedtime story in front of the fire, Rose tidies up the table where Tony had been drawing earlier today. Now like any other three-and-a-half-year old, her brother’s drawing skills are not what you would call exceptional, but she’s always managed to decipher them fairly well.
She finds herself frowning at a drawing of six stick figures, all standing near what she assumes is this house. Two pairs of tall stick figures, a much smaller stick figure added between each pair.
“Who’s this a picture of, sweetie?” she asks her brother, interrupting the Doctor’s reading. They both look up from the book to look at the paper Rose is holding up.
“’t’s me and Ma and Daddy and you and the Doctor and the baby.”
There is a significant pause.
“The…baby?” the Doctor asks with a frown, giving Rose a look, obviously wondering if she knows something he doesn’t, to which she answers with a definite, categorical shake of her head.
“Your baby,” Tony does confirm a moment later, blissfully ignorant of the sudden shift in the room.
“We don’t have a baby,” Rose reminds him.
“I know that,” Tony says, rolling his eyes exactly the way Jackie would, his tone quite reminiscent of her as well. “But Ma’s always saying you and the Doctor are gonna be having babies ‘before we know it’.”
“Oh, is she now,” the Doctor says, a smile in his voice, as well as in his eyes. “What else does she say about us?”
But Tony is shrugging, already disinterested in the topic, clearly a bit drowsy, too. “Keep reading please?” he asks the Doctor in a small voice, looking up at him from where he’s snuggled up against his side.
After another pause, the Doctor nods, clearing his throat a little before resuming his reading. Rose joins them, half-sitting, half-lying on the other side of the couch. Tony is asleep before the Doctor finishes the book; he caries on reading anyway, and his low voice feels as warm to her as the thermal waves coming from the fireplace.
When he’s done, none of them speaks for a while, Rose watching the Doctor, while the Doctor watches the small human asleep against his side.
“Maybe we should make one of those,” he says at last, his voice still low and quiet.
Rose startles a little out of her reverie, not sure she’s heard him right.
“Babies,” he says. “Mini version of people. More specifically, mini version of people I hope would inherit most of your genes, although again, I have had worse ears.”
He’s quoted something he once said to her, word for word.
She’s just as dumbfounded as she was on that night, all those months ago.
Rose stares at him, and he stares back. “Is this…us, having The Talk, then?”
He shrugs faintly, mindful of the sleeping child against him. “Even your three-year-old brother is thinking about it. If he’s thinking about it when he’s not even fully cognitive, yet, I think it means we should, too.”
Despite herself, her heart is speeding up in her chest. “Alright,” she says quietly. “Let’s do The Talk.”
Of course, no one actually talks for at least a minute after that.
“I’ll start,” the Doctor offers. “I think…” he begins, before stopping himself. “No. I know I’d like to have children with you, if I can, and…if you want. Obviously.”
Rose finds herself nibbling on the nail of her thumb, feeling her eyes prickling.
“I didn’t think you would,” she admits, her voice not much louder than a whisper.
He frowns. “Why?”
She shrugs, looking away, staring into the fire. “Dunno. Too…domestic. Too complicated. Too…human, maybe.”
“I’ve been a father before.”
She looks back at him, but he’s the one not meeting her eyes, now. “When?”
He breathes in slowly, his next exhale a bit wobbly. “A long time ago. A long, long time ago. It wasn’t…” He clears his throat. “Time Lords didn’t do parenthood the way humans do, from procreation to gestation to, you know, the actual raising of your offspring. Like most of everything in our species, the overall process was quite…impersonal.”
He shakes his head a little, and the distant look in his eyes disappear as he looks back at her. “It’s nothing like how it would be, to do it all with you. Watching you grow a new human. Welcoming him or her into our world. Getting to teach them. Showing them how beautiful this universe can be. Loving them, day after day. Fifty percent Rose Tyler, fifty percent me…” He shakes his head a little. “The thought of it is…overwhelming, to tell you the truth.”
Having him so far from her is suddenly unbearable.
“Come here,” she tells him quietly, having straightened up to sit up better, patting the empty space between them.
“I’m a bit trapped,” he says, indicating Tony with a tilt of his head. “I believe we have a child between us, which is rather ironic, come to think of it, considering the fact that – ”
“Let’s just move then, so I can snuggle up, too” she interrupts him softly, the way she often does, already standing up. “He won’t wake up, trust me. He can sleep through anything.”
When the Doctor looks at her dubiously, she claps her hands a couple times, quite loudly, too. Tony doesn’t even flinch.
Successfully convinced, the Doctor gathers up Tony against him more securely, before moving sideways, just enough to make room on his other side, so that Rose can fill up that void.
She does, quite happily, too, almost sighing at the smell and feel of him, his arm tight around her, their faces only inches apart. She rests her fingertips lightly upon his chin, her nails barely scratching his stubble.
“’m sorry,” she whispers. When he frowns, she adds: “I know you said it was all different and everything, but…they were still your children.”
He doesn’t say anything for another long moment, his lips grazing her forehead.
“It was a long time ago,” he eventually repeats. “This is more…in the now.”
She appreciates that he’s not pushing her, despite the fact that she’s yet to make her opinion clear.
“I didn’t think I’d ever want children,” she tells him quietly, and he moves slightly to look at her. “I grew up with a single mother,” she adds with a sad smile and a shrug. “Mum tried her best not to make me feel like I was a burden, but I could tell it was hard just…having me, you know? Even my friends who had both their parents, most of them ended up getting divorced before we were teenagers anyway. It just felt all so…complicated and…restricting.”
He doesn’t say anything, but she sees that light already dimming in his eyes. Before it completely disappears, she properly cups his face in her palm, looking at him straight on when she says: “Having children with you, though? That wouldn’t be so bad.”
He swallows hard again. “Yeah?”
She nods a little. “Yes.”
And then, aware that he deserves honesty from her, the way he always tries being honest with her, even when it hurts, she decides to fully open up to him.
“You make me feel like I can have it all,” she admits softly. “The adventuring and the full human experience. It’s a bit terrifying, actually, how safe you make me feel, which makes no sense, I know but…t’s the truth. I’m not delusional either. I know once we do have that baby, it’ll change everything, and we’ll be a mess, and we won’t get to do all the things we get to do now. But…we’ll still be together. Together with a small human that’ll be fifty percent you, and fifty percent me.”
‘Overwhelming’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.
When the Doctor kisses her, he does it slowly, almost reverently, as if they were sealing another kind of vow.
Until he pulls away, looking at her with definite alarm. “Not now, though, right?”
“Oh god, no,” she reassures him, and they both sigh in relief. “Let’s just worry about keeping Tony alive this weekend, yeah?”
“Good plan,” he nods emphatically, the two of them shifting to look at the toddler, still sound asleep on the other side of the Doctor.
“Let’s put him to bed,” she whispers in his ear, before lightly nibbling at it. “I’d very much like to try playing Climb Up with my husband.”
The Doctor lets out a sound that is between a laughter and a groan. “Rose Tyler, that is filthy,” he protests in a loud whisper, still managing to sound high pitched. “I’ll never be able to play that game with him again, now.”
Oh, she knows.