Doctor Who

The TARDIS materialised against the back wall outside the flats, its accustomed spot when they were ‘home’ in London. The Doctor wondered sometimes what the neighbours actually thought about its coming and going as a feature of their rather dismal concrete landscape. He usually went on the basis that humans block out anything they don’t understand and don’t let it bother them, but the graffiti on this particular wall was starting to look a bit less coincidental. The drawing of a UFO and a rather unlikely space monster seemed like a hint that somebody was on to him.

He didn’t let it worry him too much. As long as the drawings didn’t start to LOOK like him.

He actually felt curiously in agreement with Jackie when she said she was looking forward to a cup of tea in her own living room. Was it possible for even him to feel a bit space weary?

“Hello, love,” Pete Tyler said as she came through the doorway into the hall. “Did you enjoy your trip?”

Jackie stared in astonishment. It WAS Pete. He looked… no, not exactly as she remembered. He looked 20 years older, as he WOULD have looked if he had not died when Rose was a baby.

Rose was equally stunned as she came in behind her mother. The Doctor looked positively shocked. It was Rose who made the first move. She went to her father and hugged him tightly.

“Oh, I missed you,” she told him.

“I forgot, of course,” he said with a smile. “You’ve probably been away more than a few hours with The Doctor in the driving seat. How long has it been, sweetheart? A week, a fortnight?”

“It feels like forever.” She released him from her embrace and went to The Doctor, looking at him in such a way as to ask the question “What’s going on?” To which he could only reply with a hand gesture that implied “I don’t know.”

Jackie, meanwhile, had followed Rose’s example and was hugging Pete. Rose picked up the carrier bags from the New York department store where they had maxed out The Doctor’s credit cards and went to her bedroom. The Doctor headed for the front door, intending to go back to the TARDIS and check the co-ordinates. Rose called him back.

“This is weird,” she said. “Look at this room.” He stood in the bedroom doorway and looked.

“It’s a lot less pink than I remember. And…” The bed was a double one, not the single she had slept in before. Curious.

“And look at this.” Rose opened the wardrobe to reveal - next to Rose’s clothes - two duplicate leather jackets and several men’s t. shirts of a non-descript sort.

“What on Earth?”

“My dad is alive… and WE sleep together in this room. I think…. Oh.…” She had seen the pictures on the dresser. Several of them were of a wedding – THEIR wedding. She looked at the photo of herself and The Doctor outside the same registry office where her mum and dad had been married. In the picture he had his arms around her and she was showing off the wedding ring on her finger. Her mum and dad stood either side of them. “Oh… my….”

“Well how the heck could WE be married?” The Doctor asked. “That’s ridiculous.”

“Its not THAT ridiculous,” Rose protested. “All you’d need is something that LOOKS like a human birth certificate. Psychic paper would probably do it.”

“But I wouldn’t DO that.”

“Well you don’t have to sound so revolted by the idea.”

“I’m not,” he said. “It’s just….”

Rose looked at the pictures again. “We look happy.”

“We ARE happy, aren’t we?” The Doctor replied. “I thought we were.”

Rose put down the pictures and looked at him. He was right. They WERE happy together in that indefinable relationship they had, in which mutual love was all-important, but which had never been ‘domesticated’ in the way this alternate life was.

“What’s happening?” she asked.

“Well, obviously we’ve stumbled into some kind of parallel reality in which all our lives have taken a different turn,” The Doctor told her. “Your dad is alive, and somehow that has made a huge difference to everything else.”

“HOW is Pete alive?” Jackie stood at the bedroom door. “Doctor…WHAT is happening?” She stepped into the room and immediately saw the same differences they had. Rose tried in vain to stop her seeing the pictures that had disturbed them so much. “No!” she exclaimed looking at The Doctor as if it was somehow his fault. “That’s just not on.”

“I don’t know, Jackie,” he said, taking her first question. “I REALLY don’t know. Except that everything that is different centres on Pete being alive.”

“Pete.” Jackie came back to the point in hand. “My Pete. You don’t know how much I have dreamt of this. I even thought of asking you, Doctor… if you could DO this. But I thought you’d say it wasn’t possible.”

“It shouldn’t be possible,” The Doctor told her. “The TARDIS does time and space. It doesn’t do alternate realities. This isn’t my doing. And it’s nothing my TARDIS did. After the crazy time we had trying to get home, I don’t expect you to believe me, Jackie. And I know you’re going to blame me….”

“What’s she blaming you for now, Doctor?” Pete Tyler said, appearing at the same doorway. “Jackie, I know it’s traditional for mothers to hate their son-in-laws, but you never give him an even break. Stop nagging.”

Jackie looked at Pete and suddenly burst into tears and ran from the room, slamming the door of her own bedroom behind her.

“Women!” Pete grinned conspiratorially at The Doctor. “I’d better go see what’s up with her. But, I was going to ask you if you’re still up for tonight - the pool competition down the Lamb and Flag.”

“Yeah, course,” The Doctor said automatically, though he had never played pool in his life. It got Pete away for a minute. He turned and went back to the living room. It was less emotionally charged than the bedroom. He sat down on the sofa and Rose sat beside him. He put his arms around her and held her for a long moment. He needed to feel her nearness in the way they had become used, without strings attached. The moment over she sat up on the other end of the sofa, her legs crossed under her and looked at him.

“I don’t know,” he said presently, even though she had not asked him anything. The questions hung in the air without needing to be asked. “I don’t know what’s happened. I don’t know how it went wrong. I don’t know if I can fix it. And I don’t know if I’m supposed to. Jackie said it was a dream come true for her. And I can see you’re made up about your dad. Maybe it’s for the best. Maybe it SHOULD have happened.” He sighed. “I seem to be the only one who is uncomfortable here.”

“Why are you uncomfortable?” Rose asked.

“Because I can’t quite believe that, even for you, I would give up my life for this… this… SMALL life. Yes, we’re happy. I can see that. And I CAN see it. Rose, I can see it all. It's as if I have a memory of the life we have here as well as the REAL life. In this reality, Jackie still hates my guts, but Pete has overruled her. That’s the fundamental difference as far as I fit into this. Pete made me feel welcome here. He KNEW what I was - a nine-hundred and fifty year old alien - but he treated me as a regular bloke all the same. He recognised that you and I were a couple and always would be no matter what Jackie said or did to break us up. She was miserable all day at our wedding but she couldn’t stop it. The reason we live here - four of us, two couples, in one pokey little flat – is to appease her. She doesn’t want you out there with me, in the TARDIS, going strange places. And… And I’ve accepted that. We use the TARDIS to visit Susan and the boys and for SHOPPING TRIPS. And I help Mickey in the garage and I get stuck into whatever daft scheme Pete has going. You and your mum do what you’ve always done - shopping, make up, clothes, gossip. And yes, we’re happy. But it’s such a small, insignificant life and I just can’t see HOW we can be.”

“You mean you don’t know how YOU are happy with it,” Rose said.

“Yes,” he admitted. “Yes, ok. That IS what I mean. But can you see my point?”

“I know why you’re happy in this reality,” she said. “It’s because you don’t have the responsibility for the whole universe. You’re… you’re retired from saving the universe. It’s somebody else’s problem.”

“That’s another thing that bothers me,” The Doctor said. “There IS nobody else. If I’m not out there doing it, the universe is on its own.”

“Well, for a while at least, let it be on its own. If you didn’t do this, then you can’t change it, can you?”

“I don’t know. Do you want me to?”

“No,” she told him. “Dad… alive... the life me and my mum always wanted. No, we can’t give that up, either of us. You can’t ask us to.”

“I wouldn’t ask you to,” he assured her. “I’d never ask you to do that.”

“Then… I guess you just have to live with this small life.”

“Yes.” Or….

The thought came into his head.

I could leave you here, Rose, with your dad alive, the thing that was WRONG in the other universe. I could leave you with your dad around to look after you, and let you forget I ever existed. You’ll hurt for a while, I know. But then you’ll get over me, meet a man your mum CAN approve of, and be happy.

That was the thought, but he did not say it aloud. The thought cut deep into him. He COULDN’T leave her.

But he couldn’t imagine living this SMALL life without being frustrated by it. He couldn’t work out how the version of himself whose memories he was reading COULD be happy this way.

He did his best down at the Lamb and Flag, where, to his even greater confusion there were a crowd of men of the age group he looked like he belonged in - the forty-plus group – who knew him as a mate. They called him Christy, because that sounded less strange to them than the foreign and exotic Chrístõ that was his name to those who did not know him as The Doctor.

He was startled to discover that these men were relying on HIS skill as a pool player to win some inter-pub competition that apparently meant a lot to them. To his astonishment, he found he COULD actually play pool, and play it well. Granted, mostly it was hand-eye co-ordination and that was child’s play to a Time Lord with superior eyesight and reflexes, but it still surprised him.

The beer drinking side of it was not a problem either. Alcohol had no effect on Time Lords. It was just fizzy water to him. So the admiration he won among his ‘peer group’ for his ability to ‘hold his drink’ was entirely undeserved.

“You’re quiet tonight, Christy,” somebody he seemed to know as “Mike” said to him as he sat watching two other players on the pool table. “How’s that pretty young wife of yours?”

“Still pretty, still young,” he answered, and the crowd laughed, including Pete.

“Beats me how you did it,” one called Gary said. “No girl Rose’s age would look at me twice, let alone go down the aisle with me. You’re a sly dog, Christy.”

“Gary, your WIFE doesn’t look at you twice,” Mike said. “That doesn’t prove anything.”

“Yeah!” The last of the party, Tony, laughed at Gary’s embarrassment. “But he has a point. Pete, how did this lanky northern streak end up marrying your daughter? What did she see in him?”

“Christy has a few other skills than beer drinking and playing pool,” Pete said.

“Oh yes?”

The Doctor sighed as Pete’s comment was taken the only way it could be taken by a bunch of men who had been swilling beer all night.

“Actually,” he said slowly. “I’m an alien from another planet and I showed her the universe in my space craft.”

He had long suspected that in these situations nobody ever listened to anyone else on any subject other than ‘whose round is it’. Even so, that remark did cause them to pause in their drinking for a half second before a ripple of amused laughter went around the table and life resumed as usual.

He had only said it because he was bored. His alternative universe memory told him he LIKED these people and they liked him. But, he argued back, HOW could he? Another side of his own personality accused himself of being an elitist snob and reminded him that Rose came from this world, from among these people, and he loved her. In both realities THAT much was true. It was what made it bearable.

They stopped at the chip shop on the way home and brought supper. Around the table in the living room they ate fish and chips. At least Pete and Jackie did. Rose ate some of the fish but The Doctor didn’t eat any of it. The smell made him feel ill. Pete did all the talking about how The Doctor had won the pool championship hands down for the Lamb and Flag. He didn’t say anything. Rose was equally quiet. Finally, Jackie told Pete she was going to bed. He followed her. Rose and The Doctor were left alone in the living room.

And then came a moment he had dreaded. Rose asked if he was coming to bed.

“No,” he answered her very firmly. “Rose, we’re NOT married. I know I have very strong memories that we ARE. But it wouldn’t be right. You go to bed. Sleep well. But I’m going to stay here. I might talk to the boys. I haven’t had a chance today.”

“I thought you would say that,” she said. “But I hoped… Sort of….”

“Come here.” He reached out and put his arms around her. “I still love you, Rose. Just not the way I am supposed to love you in this reality.” He kissed her softly on the cheek. She responded by snuggling close to him but something made her pull back again.

“Your clothes all smell like the pub.” she said. “Beer and cigarettes. It’s so not you. Usually you smell clean and NICE.”

“We’re neither of us quite how we should be just now,” he told her. “That’s why I don’t want to do anything we might regret later, when things are back to normal. IF they can be put back to normal.”

“Normal would mean my dad is dead.”


“I think… that’s not fair on mum.”

“I know.” He kissed her again and told her to go to bed. She did so. He sighed. These false memories – they had to be false - were too cruel. He had such vivid memories of their married love, and he knew none of them were real. He had never been that intimate with her. It was so unfair to have the memory and yet not have the reality of it.

He shook his head and told himself to stop thinking about it.

He stretched out on the sofa and cleared his head and reached out psychically. That was easier every time he tried, and he was so glad to feel the boys responding to him with their usual enthusiasm. “Hello boys,” he said to them. “How are you?” He listened to their responses and laughed at their anecdotes of school and life generally before moving on to their lessons for today, an introduction to Gallifreyan law.

The complexities of that law gave him a distraction for ten whole minutes from the troubles of his life. Afterwards he talked to the boys, answering many questions they had about the fundamental laws of Time - the immutable laws that they as Time Lords had to adhere to even though those laws were dust now and those who wrote them even less than dust.

“Because if we don’t, we may do irreparable harm to whole worlds,” he told them. “Yes, we can do things to protect the innocent. Sometimes, though, there are things that can’t be changed.”

A few of those things that couldn’t be changed drifted into his mind; the Titanic - he felt the boys shiver as much as he did in remembrance of the icy waters and cold deaths of thousands; the Battle of the Somme, another moment of history he had witnessed helplessly and could do no more than comfort the dying afterwards; that awful day in New York that he had witnessed more than once, though not by his own choice on either occasion. Even the death of Gallifrey. He tried to shut out those memories but they were too strong, too personal. Some things we can’t change. Some things we must not change.

How do we know which we CAN alter? The question was inevitable. He had asked the same himself as a boy learning these things.

“We don’t. That’s the hard part. Sometimes we make mistakes. We’re not gods. We’re neither omnipotent nor omniscient. We do our best like any other race. But we have higher knowledge, higher intellect, and so many other advantages over lesser races. Our best, if we do our best, should be enough.”

After their questions had been answered, he talked to them a little more about school, and friends, and the games they played. Davie mentioned that they were both good at football.

“Of course you are,” he said with a smile. “That runs in the family. But also because you do have superior agility, reflexes, muscles and bone structure. You will always be stronger and faster than your friends. Enjoy playing games with them, but don’t show off. Don’t flaunt your differences. People must not know that you are not human - for your safety and theirs. You know what happened at SangC’lune. There are those in the universe who would be interested to know that the youngest Time Lords live on such an unprotected and vulnerable planet like earth. So you must not draw attention to yourself.”

He was reluctant to let go of the psychic connection. Talking with the boys was always nice, and right now he didn’t want to let go and come back to the reality he had to face here. But with one last loving farewell to them he did.

He sighed and opened his eyes and felt very lonely. Usually when he did this Rose was there making coffee to relieve his dry throat. But she was asleep now. Everyone in the flat was asleep. He went to the kitchen and poured a glass of milk. He couldn’t be bothered with making coffee.

Rose was right, he thought, as he drank. His clothes DID smell of a night in a smoke-filled pub, and even though the alcohol did not affect him, it was still in his system. If he had to live this life, he couldn’t live it that way. It was too much. Maybe he was being elitist, maybe he was being a snob, but drinking pints and playing pool at the Lamb and Flag with people who made crude comments about his relationship with Rose was not his idea of a life. Some things would have to change.

He moved quietly through to the bedroom and found a change of clothes. That was convenient at least. He went to the bathroom. He stood under the shower and let the cool water cleanse him. At the same time, he concentrated deeply, forced out the alcoholic poisons through the pores of his skin and let it all wash away. Then he dressed himself in identical but clean clothes. Even he never wondered how come he owned so many leather jackets with identical scuffing at the shoulders and frayed and cracked cuffs and the third button down badly in need of a needle and thread. It was one of the quirks of the TARDIS, which he suspected had been transferred to the wardrobe in Rose’s room in this peculiar situation.

But at least he felt himself again.

He crept back into the room and put the dirty clothes in the laundry basket. He meant to leave again but he heard Rose sigh in her sleep and he could not resist moving closer to her. She was lying in the middle of the bed, all but one of the pillows bunched up under her. He propped the remaining pillow against the headboard and sat against it, outside of the blankets. Nobody could accuse them of sleeping together if he didn’t sleep, he thought. But he wanted to be near her.

The idea he had considered once already rose again. If he left, she would have her family. She could have the life she was meant to have before he came along. But better, because she would have her father who loved her just as much as he did. He would take care of her.

But could he leave her? He didn’t want to. He looked, with his night vision, at those cheesy looking pictures on the dresser of their ‘wedding’. He wasn’t even sure he could acknowledge such a wedding. Much as he rejected the unbending hierarchical system of his home-world, its peculiarly long-winded rites of passage were important to him. He wasn’t sure he COULD feel married except in the traditional Gallifreyan way. But he had seen the look on Rose’s face. She had liked the idea.

But if he stayed, it would have to be different. He couldn’t live the way they wanted him to live.

He debated the issues in his mind all night, sitting on the edge of the bed, one foot actually on the floor, the other hooked under him as he caressed her hair and touched her face gently and wished those so tempting false memories would stop taunting him.

It was an hour after dawn when he heard the door open softly. Jackie came into the room. She, too, looked as if she had not slept a lot this night. When she saw The Doctor she looked surprised.

“Have you been sitting there like that all night?” she asked.

“Pretty much,” he told her.

“I would have thought… I expected… that you would take advantage… You know….”

“Jackie, don’t you know me by now? Taking advantage is not what I do.” She looked about to say something else but her eyes met his and despite being the woman credited with not being able to programme the VCR by all who knew her, he knew she understood the turmoil in his hearts and head that had kept him awake this night.

“Well, anyway, I want to talk to you.”

“I have never found a way of stopping you doing that other than escaping to the other end of the galaxy.”

“Don’t be funny,” she said. “Not now. This is serious.” She sat down on the edge of the bed. “I thought being with Pete – being with him last night - would be wonderful. And it was. I have never stopped loving him. But it’s not right, is it? Pete has been dead twenty years. This is all wrong.”

“It’s right for THIS reality.”

“But not for OUR reality. None of us belong here. Not me, Rose, especially not you. And I’m asking you… I’m begging you… if you can… to put it right.”

“You would rather Pete was dead?” Jackie flinched at it being put so boldly, but it was, after all, the core of the matter.

“Yes. Because that was REAL. This is a wonderful dream, but it’s not real. I can’t live in a dream. So I’m asking you, can you fix this.”

“I might be able to try. But what about Rose? We should ask her.” He leaned towards her and shook her gently. She woke at once and listened as her mum told her what she wanted. She cried. They both did. The Doctor felt strangely inadequate to deal with two crying women at once. He waited until they were done. It gave him time to think.

“Get dressed,” he said at last. “Both of you. Come down to the TARDIS. If it can be done, it will be done there.” He stood and left them to make their preparations.

By the time they both arrived at the TARDIS he had actually worked out a plan. The answer was relatively simple. Or at least it was to him. He wasn’t sure how he was going to explain it to them.

“Bear in mind,” he said, “that I might rip the heart out of the TARDIS doing this and it might never work again. I could be stuck with beer and pool at the Lamb and Flag forever, with or without Pete. But I WILL try.” He was sitting on the floor with a section of what looked like the central console glowing green and was wiring it to a keypad.

“I think,” he added. “That I have made a wave generator that will return us to the reality WE know. This is completely new stuff. The TARDIS isn’t MEANT to be able to do this. I told you that before. But I think I can do it. If you’re sure?”

Rose and Jackie looked at each other. They held hands and nodded.

“We’re sure,” Jackie said for them both.

“Ok. Well, here’s another point to consider. If this works, everything outside of the TARDIS gets altered back to OUR reality as WE know it, where Pete died in 1986. This reality will still remain, by the way. There IS a Pete, Jackie, Rose, and some guy called Christy who is good at pool there. But everything we brought into this reality is going to be moved back where we belong. If you feel you don’t want to remember the last 24 hours then stay outside. You will be unharmed but you will be unaware of any of this.”

“No, I want to remember,” Jackie said. “It was nice. Just not RIGHT.”

Rose said the same.

“Wait a few minutes though,” she added. “There’s something I want to get from the flat.” And she raced away quickly.

“You’re sure, Jackie?” The Doctor asked her one more time. “He’s your husband. It’s all down to you. It's a dreadful thing to have to decide.”

“I’m sure. I’ve thought about it. But… look… its nothing to do with the fact that I don’t like the idea of you and Rose being married in this ‘reality’. I want you to know that.”

“Jackie, I’M not comfortable with that idea either. That’s not how I want us to be. And I am NOT one of Pete’s drinking buddies down the pub. Not in a million years.”

“No, that didn’t look right to me, either,” Jackie smiled grimly at the thought. “Not for you. But… well… if you’re going to put things back as they were… let’s not talk about it again. That would be best.”

Rose ran into the TARDIS breathlessly and shut the door. The Doctor wondered if there was a world record for racing up a block of council flats and back, because he thought she might have just broken it. He didn’t quite see what she had slipped into her pocket that she absolutely had to keep.

“All right,” he said. “If you’re absolutely sure. Both of you, come here. You have to put your hands on these two panels. It’s going to take a few minutes to read your correct timeline and then the wave will generate and radiate out from the TARDIS. It should take about 30 minutes to complete.”

“Will we feel anything?” Jackie asked. “Will… ANYONE feel anything?”

“Pete died twenty years ago, Jackie,” The Doctor reminded her. “Nothing can hurt him.”

“Then let’s do it.” She put her hands on the panel. Rose did the same. The Doctor looked at them as if about to ask one more time. “Just do it.” Jackie said again. He keyed a sequence of numbers into the keypad and pressed the largest one to initiate the wave.

They didn’t feel anything other than a faint vibration from the ‘generator’. Rose reached for the thing she had gone all the way up to the flat and back for. She put it beside her and kept her eye on it. The Doctor saw what it was now - the ‘wedding photo’ with the two of them as a happy couple and her two parents there with them. He didn’t mind. If she wanted a small memento of what could have been, then let her have it.

They both cried softly as the vibration steadily continued wiping away the world neither of them could live in, even though their sweetest dreams came true in it. Again The Doctor again felt inadequate to comfort them and he carefully watched the figures on the LED screen count up and avoided eye contact with the two women.

“Its over,” he said quietly at the end and told them they could let go.

“Has it worked?” Jackie asked.

“We’ll have to see.” He stood up and reached for Rose’s hand, and for Jackie’s, too. He walked with them both hand in hand, knowing how hard it was for them and hoping that he had at least got it right. Because if he hadn’t asking them to go through that again would be too hard.

The flat was quiet when they returned. Rose went to her own room, Jackie to hers. But something told The Doctor that he HAD got it right. The flat felt like a feminine preserve again. He stood at the door of Rose’s pink bedroom that he knew he had no business being in. The wardrobe had only her clothes now, and the pictures on the dresser were ordinary family ones. He noticed that the New York shopping bags were still on the floor. Jackie came from her room and smiled weakly at him.

“Its all how it used to be,” she said. “How I wanted it. Thank you.” She hugged him quickly and then stepped away quickly as if embarrassed that such an incident could have occurred. She turned and went to the kitchen saying something about making breakfast.

“Are you all right?” he asked Rose. She came to him and put her arms around his neck. He held her around the shoulders, pressing her close to him.

“It wasn’t right, any of it,” she said. “Even you weren’t right. You were more like one of the blokes down the pub, not my Doctor. This IS better.”

He knew she was putting a brave face on it. So was Jackie. He felt a surge of pride in them both. They were neither equipped by their life’s experiences for the kind of emotional turmoil they had been through, yet they had made that courageous decision between them and had given up more than he could have ever asked them to give up. But this was not the time for saying anything.

“I’m going to fix the TARDIS,” he told her. “Let me know when your mum has done breakfast. I think I feel hungry enough for her cooking.”

It didn’t take long to put the console section in the right place and reconnect the wiring. Among the debris he found the picture. He picked it up and looked at it for a long time. Yes, they did look happy. He felt a pang of regret that it couldn’t have been. It wasn’t the REAL wedding he dreamed of, but it was a wedding. She had been his wife, and the idea has its merits. He taped the picture to the side of the navigation console where they could both see it. As he did so he was aware of Rose behind him. He had not heard her come into the TARDIS, but suddenly she was there.

“Breakfast,” she said.

“I was thinking I ought to test the TARDIS,” he told her.

“Not without me,” she answered. “Just in case you mess up and don’t get back. But let’s go get breakfast first. We can’t just leave mum there and swan off.”

“Yes we can.”

“No, we can’t,” she insisted. She saw what he had done with the picture. “It's not just for me and you like THAT,” she told him. “It's because it's a picture of me with MY DAD. I have never had that.”

“I understand.” He truly DID understand. She had never known her father, and this picture was a little miracle in that sense. If that was a small consolation to her, he was happy to do that much.

He came to breakfast. The food was not so bad. And Jackie was being nice to him. Everything was as normal as that for a while, at least. And that was the best they could hope for.