Bedtime Story

By Natalie Williams
Copyright 1999

Author's Note:
This fanfic may exceed your daily recommended dose of sap. Please consult your physician (and/or dentist) before reading.

Archiving: My site, and if you're Jill, Dani, Laura, Cristin or April you can take it if you want.

Don't get me wrong. I love the life I have, and I would not give it up for anything. Yes, parts of it have been extremely difficult. Being a mother is hard. Leaving Moya was hard. Going back there at the constant insistence of my husband and daughter while trying not to arouse suspicion for them or us is hard, and it's hard to say goodbye to everyone all over again. It's hard to leave there each time and come back to this colony and pretend we're a normal, non-fugitive family.

The really disturbing thing is, I'm starting to live out the extremely difficult part every single night at bedtime.

"I'm not tired!"

I resist a sigh and look her straight in the eye. "It's past your bedtime. *Long* past your bedtime," I tell her.

"But I'm *not* tired."

She gets this from her father, I swear. He blames her stubbornness on me, but I know better. "Rose," I say slowly, "you may not be tired, but I am."

"You can go to sleep if you want," Rose says simply. I have the sneaking suspicion that she's not a child. She's an adult trapped in the body of a six-cycle-old little girl.

I'm fighting the urge to bang my head against the wall. If this were someone else- say, John- I could easily *force* them to sleep. Pantac jabs and such are good for that. But I have to put on a different face with my daughter. Especially since I know that she'll take any sign of weakness as a win. It's like playing strategy games with her half the time... John always tells me she's keeping me on my toes. I don't know what that means exactly, but I get the feeling he's right.

"Having trouble?"

I'm already wishing him not to start. The last thing I need is for both of them to gang up on me. They love to do that. John says I'm too strict. Right. If it were up to him she'd be running wild. Actually, this whole thing is actually his fault, with his "Come on, Aeryn, five more minutes won't hurt."

"I'm not tired," Rose states. I hate those three words.

"Are you sure about that?" John says as he sits next to me on the edge of Rose's bed.

She nods. She's not impressed.

He looks at me, shrugging. "It worked every time my parents tried it on me," he says. "I'm out of ideas."

I glare at him. "You've been a great help."

"Sorry, babe. I tried." John leans toward me, planting a kiss on my shoulder.

I look back to Rose, who is now at least laying down. That's a step in the right direction. "I don't want to go to sleep yet," she says, folding her arms across her chest. Oh, look at her. She looks just like him when she does that. And he says she gets this from me? (Though to be honest, I have to admit that she's absolutely adorable when she does that. Just like her father.)

"What if I bore you to sleep?" he offers.

"That shouldn't be too hard," I mutter, but both of them hear me.

Rose smiles. She's used to us. She knows we act like this toward each other, and that we love each other. Of course, I think seeing that is why she's getting so good at being sarcastic.

"I'm serious," says John. "Bedtime story?"

I know where this is headed. He tried this with her once before, back when we were all still aboard Moya. It hadn't worked. He had tried to tell her stories from his planet, but Rose wanted details about everything he mentioned, and so he ended up explaining it for arns. He should know better. She wants to know everything about where her father came from, just like she wants to know everything about where her mother was before Moya. And we're honest. She knows better than to repeat the things she hears. She knows the situation we're in.

"You can try..." Rose teases, smiling.

I move off the bed, sitting in the chair at her small table. It's half my size, but I can deal with that. I want a good view of this.

"You listening, Aeryn?" John says. "You can learn something about me from this."

"I learned something the last time you tried this," I say.

He blows me a kiss.

"Is this part of the story?" Rose asks.

"Nope," John says, and clears his throat loudly. Obviously signaling that he's telling the story now. "Once upon a time, in a land far, far... far, far, far, *far* away, there were these three bears. You remember what bears are?" When she nods, he goes on. "So there are the three bears. The papa bear, the mama bear, and the baby bear."

Rose grins. "Like us! You, me and Mom."

John slides a glance at me, but continues. "So the three bears, they're hungry and they're having porridge for dinner-"

"What's that?"

"It's food. It's kind of nasty, you don't want to think about it too much."

"Then why are they eating it?"

"When you're hungry, you'll eat anything. The next step down from this would be food cubes. But anyway, they sit down to dinner, and they all take a bite. And the papa bear says, 'Mine is too hot.' And the mama bear says, 'Mine is too cold.' And the baby bear says, 'Mine is just right.'"

I admit, it's cute how he does different voices for each bear. But I've already got questions about this story. (Like what? Well, for example, how could food cooked at the same time all be such different temperatures?) But I keep them to myself. I do *not* want to put any more thoughts into that little girl's head tonight.

"So the bears decide to take a walk and let the food get temperature-controlled. And while they're out, there's this girl that comes skipping down the road toward the house. Her name was Goldilocks-"

"What kind of name is Goldilocks?" Rose asks.

"A made up one. Shhh, get tired."

I smile at them. He really does have a way with her. And if it hadn't been for his support, I never would have been able to do this. I knew less than nothing about children. But he assured me we could do this. And we did. I think we've done a good job with her so far. We're proud of her. (She's a little on the spoiled side, I know, but that's all right. John says it's because she's an only child.

"Goldilocks sees the house, and goes inside because she's a really nosy girl. I don't think her parents raised her right," John says. "And she sees the bowls of porridge on the table."

"And she eats it, right?" says Rose. "That was dumb."

"I totally agree. You're getting ahead of me, sweetie. Goldilocks sits at the table, and tries the papa bear's porridge. And she says, 'oh, this is too hot-'"

"Then she shouldn't be eating it."

"You're smarter than she is. Okay, so skip ahead a little. Goldilocks eats up all the porridge and decides she wants to sit down. So she goes into the living room and sits in the papa bear's chair. And she says, 'This chair is too hard.' And she sits in the mama bear's chair and says, 'This chair is too soft.' And she sits in the baby bear's chair and says, 'This one is just right.'"

I can already see Rose trying to yawn with her mouth closed. Maybe John's learned something since the last time he tried this.

"So Goldilocks gets tired of sitting there, and she goes upstairs. And she finds the bedroom," John continues. "So she lays on the papa bear's bed, and..."

"I get it," Rose said quietly, her big blue eyes slowly closing.

"Well, so she goes to the mama bear's bed and the baby bear's bed and she falls asleep." He stops, waiting for her to ask him another question. "And I think she's out," he tells me.

"Thank you," I tell him. I'd probably still be up with her.

We both kiss her good night, and I pull the covers up a little higher over her. John and I stare at her a moment longer before leaving together.

"So how does the story end?" I ask John. (I'm actually curious. I have a lot of the same questions Rose did. Not to mention my idea of the ending includes an arrest for trespassing.)

He is quiet for a minute, frowning. "I don't know," he said, and laughs. "I haven't heard it in years. Thank God I didn't have to ad lib the ending."

I smile at that. I would have liked to see that. "And where were you when I went through this last night?" I say.

"Please. When you get in one of your I-don't-need-your-help moods, I make sure to be not in the same room," he says.

"I'm not *that* bad," I say.

"Yeah, you are. But I love you anyway," he says, and kisses me to prove his point.

I really do love him. It took me a while to figure that out. But I do. And by now, I know he believes me when I say that. He *better* believe me. I've made a lot of sacrifices for him. I don't mind, though. He's made just as many sacrifices as I have.

"I love you, too," I say.

He sends me that smile of his. You know which one. "Glad to hear it. Same time tomorrow?"

"I'm not doing this again tomorrow," I tell him, shaking my head. "It's your turn."

"Fine with me. I think I'll need to start thinking of stories ahead of time," John says, taking my hand in his.

"Not to mention the endings."

"Tonight was a fluke, I swear. And I could have made up my own ending. It's not like anyone out here knows the story," he reminds me.

John opens the door to the small yard in back. It's beautiful there at night. You can get a completely unobstructed view of the stars, and there's complete silence... It's not the terrace, but it's as close as you can get down here.

We do this often, after we've put Rose to bed. And we sit out under the stars, just staring upward. I never thought I would ever be able to get used to absolute silence, but after all those times on Moya when we would come off of some escape or situation and then have nothing but peace and quiet till the next disaster... I found myself missing that for a long time, till we started coming out here.

We settled in one of the Sebacean colonies in the Uncharted Territories about two cycles ago. No one even suspected that John or Rose were anything but Sebacean. Or that their neighbors were technically criminals, for that matter. But it was much harder to leave than I thought it would be. We had made Moya our home. But that was no life for our daughter. She deserved better.

John doesn't say it, but I know he misses them. If *I* miss them, I know he does. Even Rose will ask when we can see them again. And we try. Since leaving, we have arranged a couple of meetings with them. It's very hard for me to imagine now what life would be like without D'Argo and Zhaan and Pilot and Chiana and Rygel there somehow. And Rose seems to have really bonded with Chiana- that terrifies me to no end. I don't even want to think about what she's teaching that girl when my back is turned.

It's strange to think of how much things have changed. Think about it. When I first met all those people, I *hated* them. And why wouldn't I? When I first met them, they'd captured me. And now I find myself *missing* them. But things change. Priorities change, people change...

Actually, John hasn't. Not much, anyway. He's a lot less uncomfortable here than he used to be, that's clear. But he's still basically the same person. He still makes references to things I will never understand even if he explains them to me. (That still annoys me. I don't know how that could *not* annoy me.) He still makes those tapes for his father. He's still John. And every day I'm grateful for that. I know that there will always be a part of him that I can't understand. But that's the part he gets to share with Rose.

John puts an arm around me, and I settle closer to him. I wonder what he's thinking.

The door then opens behind us, followed by a small voice: "I can't sleep."


Note: Does anyone know how the Three Bears story actually ends? Cuz I don't. The way my father always told it, Goldilocks got five to ten for breaking and entering.