Doctor Who

This story, originally posted online on September 11th, 2005, is dedicated to the victims of 9/11.

Rose and Jackie stayed at Susan’s home for several days. The traumatic events had thrown up several reasons why they should. Susan needed to spend time with her grandfather. They needed to talk between themselves about the reasons why he hadn’t come back to see her for so long.

The Doctor spent a lot of time in talk with David, too. There had been issues between them ever since The Doctor began training the boys in the Time Lord traditions. David had felt increasingly that his own sons didn’t belong to him any more but to The Doctor. After missing the first eight years of their lives he now just came along and turned their heads with promises that they could do magic tricks. It was a grievance that might have festered for a long time if they didn’t have a chance to clear the air. Of course, the fact that David now had partial Time Lord DNA was a very good basis for reconciliation.

Jackie found those days useful, too. When Susan wasn’t with The Doctor she spent a lot of time with Jackie. Motherhood and shopping, with The Doctor’s blessing and one of his credit cards was a start of their friendship. For whole hours at a time Jackie forgot that Susan was an alien with two hearts, born on a planet that was light years from Earth and thought of her as a friend. She still harboured suspicions about The Doctor, but they were increasingly marginalised ones. Mostly, as she watched him teaching the boys, or more often than not, playing with them and making the most of every moment of their company in a very HUMAN way, she had to concede the universe contained much that was worse than him.

Rose found herself a spectator in these bonding sessions between both ‘sides’ of her family. She spent the time thinking, not unhappily, about the life she had chosen and the man she had chosen to share that life with. When he was with Susan and the children the huge age gap, the huge gap in their experiences, seemed like a yawning gulf with him on one side and she on the other. She wondered how it was possible that they could be ‘an item’ as everyone, even the DALEK, had recognised them to be. But then he would glance her way and his eyes would soften and his smile would be a special, different smile he only had for her, and she knew there was no gulf, never had been. Whatever he had been in his past, now he was HER Doctor, her…. well, she still wasn’t sure. They weren’t lovers, because although they did love each other they didn’t make love. He wasn’t her boyfriend in any sense she had ever defined the word. Well, he was certainly not a BOY for one thing.

She knew she ought to feel frustrated at the inability to define their relationship in concrete terms, but she didn’t. She knew that above all he was HERS. When he was finished taking care of the immediate needs of his blood family, when he had dropped her mum back at the flat, she would be with him in the TARDIS. He wouldn’t even need to ask if she wanted to be there. He knew she did. If Mickey had taken her for granted in such a way she would have given him hell for it. But The Doctor taking her for granted was the greatest compliment she could wish for.

At last, they knew they would have to leave. It was an emotional parting on so many levels. Susan and Jackie were easiest to sever. The Doctor worked his ‘jiggerypokery’ on their two mobile phones so that they would be able to talk to each other over the two hundred years and a few miles of London that separated them. David laughed and asked The Doctor if he knew what he was doing giving two women unlimited gossip time.

The boys were sorry to see him go, but they knew they could talk to him any time even without a supercharged mobile phone. David shook hands with him man to man, with a better understanding between them than there used to be.

And then there was no excuse not to go.

“Ok,” The Doctor said as he put the TARDIS into temporal orbit. “Next stop, Jackie’s kitchen.” She gave him a ‘don’t you dare’ look but even she knew he was kidding and cracked a smile afterwards. Rose wondered for a moment what it would be like if her mum stayed with them. But no - too much of Jackie in a confined space like the TARDIS and murder would be done. It was a nice change having her with them, but not as a permanent fixture.

But the next stop was NOT Jackie’s kitchen. The Doctor frowned as he looked at the viewscreen. If it was, then Jackie must have forgotten to switch off the oven before they left. But the fires raging in the darkness outside were not a London Council Estate. The dark silhouettes of buildings not yet ablaze were oriental.

“Kyoto burning – sometime in the fourteenth century,” The Doctor said in answer to the questions that were on the lips of both his companions. “Hard to say exactly when. This happened a lot. I remember being here once….”

“Yes,” Jackie said. “Very interesting. But maybe we ought to think about NOT being here now.”

“Good point.” He hit the dematerialisation switch. Moments later they were in the time vortex again and he punched in the co-ordinates for London, in Spring, 2008 again.

“That isn’t right either,” Jackie said as they materialised in the middle of a corridor of what looked like a spaceship to anyone who watched enough science fiction television to recognise the general lines of space craft design. The Doctor, though, was looking, not puzzled or worried this time, but rather excited.

“Well, I wondered when we’d land here.” As they watched the screen, a young man ran down the corridor and stopped, puzzled, when he saw the TARDIS. The Doctor laughed and punched several buttons on the console. Rose and Jackie watched in astonishment as a slightly see through holographic representation of The Doctor himself appeared in front of the youngster.

“Nice looking boy,” Jackie said out of the blue. Rose had to admit she was right. He was tall, at least six foot, with jet black hair and expressive brown eyes in a rather pale but good looking face. He was dressed all in black with black denim jeans and an open-necked cotton shirt and a calf-length leather jacket like the Doctor’s, but much newer and shinier. He didn’t look worried by the appearance of the hologram. When The Doctor spoke, Rose understood why. For one thing, he began by addressing him by his name – Chrístõ. Rose looked closely at the “nice looking boy” and then at The Doctor as he explained, through his hologram, what the boy had to do to defeat the space vampyres that stalked the ship they were on!

“Vampyres?” Rose questioned, but The Doctor just raised a hand as if to indicate he was not able to talk to her while he was controlling the hologram. They couldn’t hear the boy’s side of the conversation, but Rose was sure he had just asked The Doctor “Who are you?” He laughed as if he was enjoying this strange reunion – because it WAS a reunion, of course.

“You know who I am,” the Doctor said through the hologram. “You worked it out five seconds ago…. That’s why I can’t come out, and why I can’t help you. The paradox would be cataclysmic. We’re breaking enough rules just by having this conversation. But the way I see it, you landed here by accident, so did I. We neither of us planned this meeting. So let the rules go to hell for once. But enough chin-wagging. If you’ve got your breath back, now, you’d best be getting on with the job…. Good luck, Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow. Though I think you know by now luck isn’t really a factor. Have a good life. But I know you will.”

He flicked off the hologram and hit the dematerialisation button again. He put the TARDIS into temporal orbit to give himself a little thinking time.

“What was that all about?” Jackie asked.

“That was you, wasn’t it?” Rose said. “Younger than you are now.”

“Yes.” The Doctor smiled enigmatically. “Me as an innocent hundred and ninety something year old teenager exploring the universe on my first unsupervised field trip.”

“And you ran into vampyres… the sort we met up with in Ireland?” Rose asked. She ignored her mother’s exclamation about vampyres.

“Yep. That’s how I knew what we were dealing with there. And how to kill them.”

“THAT was you?” Jackie gasped, a little behind the conversation.

“You did say “nice looking boy” didn’t you, Jackie?” The Doctor said. “You can’t go back on it.”

“I wasn’t. I was just thinking it would have been less confusing if Rose had met you THEN and not now.”

“Wouldn’t have worked out. I only had eyes for my Julia back then.” He smiled again. “That WAS strange, but I was expecting it sooner or later. I remember that conversation the first time around. I thought my older self had good taste in clothes although I was a bit snotty about the state of my jacket. I remember thinking that the older me had my mother’s eyes.”

Rose looked at the soft slate-grey eyes that she loved so much and thought his mother must have been beautiful.

“Funny, I never realised it’s the SAME jacket.”

Rose turned her attention to his battered leather jacket, frayed at the cuffs, scuffed at the shoulders and elbows, one button hanging by a single thread, and mentally compared it with the neat, shiny, new one the younger version of himself had worn.

“I don’t know,” he said before she asked the next question. “I’d forgotten myself until I saw it just now. When I regenerated, I wasn’t exactly firing on all thrusters. I put the clothes on that I found. The TARDIS is a sentimental old girl. She looks after me in ways even I don’t realise sometimes.”

Rose considered the logic of that remark. She knew he had been a bit of a basket case when he regenerated. He had never told her much about it, but she had pieced it together from unguarded remarks when he was emotionally charged. She knew that it was the TARDIS that had pulled him together again and let him see that he had to go on because SOMEBODY had to be the last Time Lord and remember that Gallifrey once WAS a real place. Somehow this curiously alive ship had left for him one relic of his past that he could relate to.

“Anyway, you’re a fibber.” Rose said after a while. “You told me you were a gormless teenager. You didn’t mention you were drop dead gorgeous.”

The Doctor smiled grimly. “I thought you loved me for my brains not my looks.” He reached and touched her on the cheek gently. She smiled and put her hand over his, holding it there. “I wonder if ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ would have believed me if I told him that at nine hundred and fifty he’d still be able to turn a girl’s head.” Then he shook his head and sighed. “That was not my favourite day of my life. Nine vampyres and two of them had a piece of me before they were done.”

“Can’t you help him?” Jackie asked, her mother instinct feeling for the boy, even if he WAS the Doctor in a younger life. The idea of vampyres having ‘a piece of him’ did not sound good to her.

“I told him as much as I dare,” he said. “The fact that we had the conversation at all tells him that he has to succeed. That gives him the courage to do the job. It’s as much as I could do. If I had stepped out of the protection of the TARDIS the two of us together would have been a VERY dangerous paradox. Anyway, let’s try AGAIN. Third time lucky maybe.”

“IS something wrong with the TARDIS?” Rose asked. “Kyoto in the fourteenth century – somewhere in space – that’s nowhere near home.”

“I don’t know,” he said, and he did, in fact, look a little worried. He looked at the console closely and frowned. “The temporal circuit seems to be playing up.”

“Are you saying you can’t get us home?” Jackie asked and she REALLY looked worried.

“No, I’m not saying that,” he said. “I’m saying we have a small temporary problem which will be fixed as soon as I work out what’s causing it. But sods law dictates that it WOULD happen the first time you come on board and I REALLY need things to go right and for you to be confident in my ability to fly this old heap of junk.” The TARDIS reacted to that remark with a slight change of tone. “Sorry, old girl,” he said, patting the console like a dog. “You know I don’t mean it.”

Jackie still looked worried and Rose recognised the early signs of her mother about to get ANGRY. That was the last thing she wanted on board the TARDIS. The Doctor had always refused to have Jackie around for that precise reason – her habit of bringing too much of the wrong sort of domesticity into his life.

On the other hand, it must have been sods law. Nine times out of ten the TARDIS could target a postage stamp in space and materialise on it. But it had to go wrong when Jackie was on board to criticise and accuse The Doctor of not being able to guarantee their safety.

They were saved from a row by the next apparently random destination the TARDIS landed them in. When The Doctor turned on the viewscreen they all recognised the scene.

“New York,” Jackie exclaimed excitedly. “Well, its not home, but it’ll do for a while. I always wanted to see New York. Do you think there’s still enough credit on those cards of yours for some shopping, Doctor?”

“Oh, that’s typical of you,” Rose said. “You’re nice to him when you want to go shopping.”

“Those credit cards are paid off via a very complicated banking system originating in the Minos Galaxy and routed through the Isle of Man,” the Doctor said. “They’ve always got credit on them.” He smiled indulgently. “If you two want to go spend some money, that’s ok with me. Have fun. I’ll try to find out what’s wrong with the TARDIS.” He stood at the door and waved to them with a smile as mother and daughter set off into a cool Manhattan morning, walking down Broadway.

They were about a hundred yards away when he saw them stop and look up into the sky. The Doctor, watching them, instinctively looked up as well. The sky was a pale blue of an early autumn morning and all seemed well, but a sudden foreboding came over him as it must have come over them. As he ran towards them they had already turned back towards him.

“Doctor!” Jackie yelled at him when he reached them. “You have to DO something.”

“Please!” Rose begged.

“The only thing I can do is get you two out of here, now. Come on.”

“But we know… you COULD….”

“No, Jackie, I can’t,” The Doctor insisted. “Apart from anything else, it’s already too late. The planes are in the sky. Please… come back to the TARDIS now.” The Doctor looked about him. For the moment, at least, normal life was going on in New York. His struggle with two nearly hysterical women was the most interesting thing to the morning commuters and shoppers. For that reason among others he REALLY wanted to get them back safely behind the safe closed doors of the TARDIS.

“Sirm, is there a problem here?” To his dismay, an NYPD car drew up beside them and a police officer addressed them.

“Its ok,” he said. “Just a domestic.” The officer did not look convinced. The Doctor turned his usual forceful look on the officer for a moment before something lurched within his soul. He reached out and touched the officer’s hand. Sudden and imminent death looked him in his mind’s eye. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly to the officer. “I really wish I COULD do something.”

The Doctor looked at the police officer again, with a rather less hard stare but no less hypnotic. The officer nodded and told him to “have a nice day” before driving away. He turned to the women and quietly told them to come with him. His gentle calm worked on them and without another word they obeyed. Only when they were back on board the TARDIS did they let loose on him again, screaming at him to DO SOMETHING.

“I’m telling you,” he said. “I can’t. Believe me, on my list of one hundred things in your world’s history I wish I COULD change, this is in the top ten with a bullet. But I can’t. The main reason I know is because I HAVE tried.” He put the TARDIS into orbit again and turned to Jackie and Rose.

“Drop Dead Gorgeous broke the rules big time and spent the day before it happened at FBI Headquarters telling them everything – dates, times, names. The idiots ignored him. I suppose they put him down as a crackpot. They were nice and polite and everything. Thank you for your patriotism in coming forward with your information, sir… I think I still have the souvenir pen they give to visitors somewhere. The next day.…” He held his hands in front of him, palms up and Rose was startled to see that they trembled. “I went there… with so many other people who tried their best…. My hands bled with the effort. We found some alive… at first. Later we just found the dead. I tried, Jackie, Rose… for the sake of humanity I tried….” He was crying - a sight so rare that it startled them both. It was actually Jackie who reached him first and took one of his hands in hers - the hands that had bled for humanity’s sake. Rose took the other and she held him in a close embrace for a long time. He felt grateful to them both for understanding just one of the burdens of his long life.

“God,” Jackie said after a while, quite out of the blue. “That means the authorities DID know in advance and they COULD have….”

“No,” The Doctor said. “One junior FBI man who didn’t follow the chain of command knew. And… anyway, truth be told, if it had worked it would have been reaper time. You know what I mean, Rose.” She nodded. “But I was young and stupid then and thought I COULD make a difference.”

“Hang on!” Rose was shaken from her melancholy by a sudden and surprising thought. “Doctor, the last places we’ve landed; New York, the spaceship, Kyoto….”

The Doctor patiently waited for her to get to the point.

“You’ve been to all of them in the past – when you were younger – when you were… you know... HIM.”

“Yes,” he confirmed, not sure what she was getting at.

“Well, isn’t that a bit of a coincidence. I mean, we’ve been all sorts of places and never got mixed up with younger versions of you before.”

“Come to think of it, YES.” He slapped the console in the excitement of sudden realisation. “The time vortex must have versions of me all over the place in the TARDIS, to say nothing of all the other Time Lords who used it. We’ve never clashed before. But that’s not to say we couldn’t. In certain freak circumstances, like me needing to impress my sweetheart’s mother that I can control my TARDIS! Oh, that was asking for trouble. That was giving fate a good excuse to mess me about.”

“Doctor, you’re not making any sense,” Jackie said.

“I know I’m not. But neither is the TARDIS. This sort of thing shouldn’t happen. Jackie, I know you think the TARDIS is unreliable and I’m completely reckless and I’m going to get you and Rose killed.”

“Well you could,” she pointed out.

“Yes, and I could leave you home and you could both be killed by a number 59 bus. You’re in no more danger with me than at home. And I WILL get you home, I promise. Rose knows I never go back on my promises.”

“You’ve never let me down.”

“I’ll go make some coffee,” Jackie said. “Maybe it’ll help you think.”

“The way you make coffee, Jackie,” The Doctor said with a smile. “You can count on it.” Jackie had no way to be sure if that was an insult or a compliment. She wisely said nothing. Rose went with her to the kitchen leaving The Doctor to his own devices.

When they returned he was knee deep in wiring from a panel under the console. Even Rose looked at the viewscreen showing them moving through the time vortex with alarm. What if he killed the TARDIS stone dead with his tinkering?

“Ah!” Her emerged from the panel triumphantly. “I know what the problem is.” He brought out a small component, so small it fitted easily into his palm. “The logic circuit is damaged. The TARDIS has taken a few bumps lately. Something had to give. Somehow the old girl has fastened on the most likely way of replacing it. The OTHER TARDIS out there, the one that is still brand new, could help us.”

“HIS TARDIS… is the same TARDIS?” Rose asked. “THIS TARDIS?”

“Yes. I was given it to use for field research when I was a student, and I kept it. I could have upgraded. There are flashier models, with better upholstery on the furniture and all the latest gismos, but I got to know this TARDIS and it got to know me. We understand each other. But all these years have taken the toll. There used to be TWO console rooms, but I’ve gradually gutted the backup room for parts to keep this one going. HE still has the back up. He could let us have this part. He can get the spare replaced when he goes back home to Gallifrey.”

“Okay… so… we just materialise again and go find him and tell him,” Jackie said.

“Essentially, yes.” The Doctor set the co-ordinate for Jackie’s flat, 2008 in the vain hope it might work this time. It didn’t. They materialised in Rome, next to the famous Trevi fountain. The date on the console said June eighteenth, 1990.

“Ah!” The Doctor smiled. “Yes, I came here for the World Cup!” He watched the viewscreen for a while. “Now, there’s something about this…. I remember the conversation I had with myself on the spaceship, but I don’t remember anything strange happening here. That means we’re actually going to alter my personal history just a little bit. Not enough to cause problems, but I CAN’T have any part in it. Rose, neither can you. I’m not just saying that because you think my younger self is Drop Dead Gorgeous.” He winked at her and smiled. “ANYONE who has travelled in a TARDIS becomes a part of it in a small way, and it becomes part of them. That’s why psychic paper doesn’t work on them. Rose, you’ve been with me nearly two years now, give or take. You’re a part of the matrix. You going near him or the other TARDIS could be dangerous.”

“Then what are we meant to do?” Rose asked.

Jackie, I need YOU to do this. You’ve spent the least time in the TARDIS. You’re the least paradoxical of us all.”

“I’ll try,” Jackie said. “What do I have to do?” He told her. She nodded. It didn’t seem too hard. Walk across the Trevi Piazza to an outdoor cafe where his younger self was sitting talking about football with a bunch of England fans. “Oh, but it ought to be Rose who does this.” Her courage failed her momentarily as she stood at the door ready to go. “What’s he going to think if I walk up to him… a middle aged, saggy bint old enough to be his mum.”

“Jackie,” The Doctor said kindly to her. “That’s ME out there. And I have NEVER cared about what people look like. It’s what’s inside that counts. And inside, you’ve always been nineteen.”

To her surprise, and a little of his, he kissed her on the cheek. She blushed and smiled at him, a miracle in itself, then she stepped outside.

It was not a particularly big piazza, but it was crowded. Jackie thought her legs would never carry her across it. Several times she looked back at the incongruous blue box that stuck out like a sore thumb next to the antique fountain. She looked ahead to the café with tables outside at which a group of football fans were lounging, drinking, talking.

It was not the sort of social group Jackie would have chosen to walk among. The next one to call her Sen-whorea was going to get the back of her hand. And if HE was one of them he definitely would, no matter what The Doctor said. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d slapped him, come to think of it.

He was easy to spot. Although he had an England scarf around his neck, it looked as totally out of place as he did among this crowd of beer swillers. He was drinking a glass of wine, leisurely sprawled in the seat, his long legs stretched out in front of him. He looked up at Jackie as she stood in front of him.

“I have a message for Theta Sigma,” she said as The Doctor had coached her. He at once sat up and listened, putting his drink down. “We need a... um….” Her words failed her. “Um… one of these.…” She handed him the broken TARDIS component. “Apparently you have two.”

“Well, yes, I do. But.…” He stood up and looked at her. He reached and touched her hand and looked puzzled. “You’ve time travelled,” he said. “I can’t read your timeline. That only happens when somebody has travelled in the vortex. It scrambles the line, makes it uncertain.”

“Yes. I’ve travelled by TARDIS, though not very much. I’m new to all this. Mostly I’d like to go home. I can’t do that without this thing, because if I get off here, I should be eighteen years younger and my teenage daughter should only be four, and I’m in Rome and I don’t have a passport….” There was panic in her voice as the enormity of her situation hit her.

“Ok. No problem. Come on.” He stood up and took her by the hand. He led her to a side alley by the pub. For a moment she felt a little worried about going down an alleyway with a strange man. Then she thought, this ISN’T a strange man, it is The Doctor. He WAS strange, she thought next, but his strangeness wasn’t the sort she needed to be afraid of in that way. The young Doctor, as she tried to think of him, to differentiate from the OTHER Doctor, stopped by a rusty looking door that looked like it led to a boiler room. He took a key from his pocket and put it into a keyhole with a symbol on it - TS. If Jackie had known anything about Greek symbols she would have recognised it as Theta Sigma.

She didn’t, but when she stepped inside the door she recognised the room beyond as a TARDIS. It looked a lot different to the one she knew. It looked NEW, it looked clean. It looked like the cutting edge of technology - everything the one she was used to wasn’t. She remembered this WAS, in fact, the same TARDIS and wondered how it had changed so much.

He quickly worked, opening up a panel in the side of the TARDIS console to find the component. He stood up and gave it to her. It was so simple. He walked with her to the piazza again. He looked at the OTHER TARDIS by the fountain.

“I’ve seen that before,” he said.

“Yes,” Jackie replied. “On the spaceship with the vampyres. We saw you. I don’t think you’re supposed to go near it. Something to do with paradoxes….”

“Yes. It would be.”

She thanked him and walked away. Again, it seemed a long way across the piazza. When she was only part way there she really did not need the drunken idiot who tried to grab her handbag. She screamed and held onto it. The ‘component’ was in there and she wasn’t going to lose that for anything. The next moment, though, she didn’t have to. She felt a movement beside her, and the would-be mugger was on the floor and the young Doctor was straightening his leather jacket nonchalantly.

“Are you all right?” he asked her.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, I’m fine, thank you. Thank you VERY much.”

He looked around. The Doctor was only a few feet away. He, too, had folded time to reach her, but the younger one had got there a fraction before him.

“She’ll be fine,” The Doctor said reaching out his hand to her. He grinned. “The jacket DID look better when it was new. But I guess old and battered suits me somehow.”

His younger version looked at him and grinned. Jackie had a feeling that they BOTH wanted to hug each other, but to do so would have been the paradox they both talked about.

“Anyway, you’d best go now,” he added. “This is more dangerous by the moment. Thank you, for everything.”

“Thank YOU,” the younger one answered. “I owed you one, anyway.” Then he turned around and hurried away. Jackie took The Doctor’s hand when he offered it to her and walked back to THEIR TARDIS safely. She had some food for thought there. BOTH the younger and older man had risked the ‘paradox’, whatever that was, to come to her rescue. Neither had hesitated. Whatever else he was, he had never been a coward.

The Doctor made Jackie lie down when she got back into the TARDIS. She’d had an ordinary human shock of being nearly mugged on top of the space-time traumas of the past few hours. She didn’t deserve either. She was asleep when he got the TARDIS ready to move again with the new component safely installed. Rose, too, was sleeping, beside her mum on the pull out bed. He put in the co-ordinates for the flats and a few minutes later the TARDIS materialised on the usual spot by the bins. He smiled and patted the console. Then, glancing at the two sleeping women he programmed another co-ordinate. When they woke, he was standing smugly by the open TARDIS door.

“Are we home?” Jackie asked.

“I can take you home any time now,” The Doctor said. “It’ll be as if you were only gone a few hours. But you did say you wanted to go shopping in New York. It’s July twenty-first, 2000. The sun is shining. The bad stuff is in the future. And my credit cards are all yours.”

The bright smiles of the two women were worth it.