Once upon there were two boys named Anthony. Well, not once upon a time actually- the first Anthony was born in New York in 1946. The second Anthony was born in London in 2007, in a different universe.
The first Anthony lived in a small house in Queens with Mummy and Daddy. Other children called their mothers "Mom" but Anthony's mother insisted on Mummy or Mum. Anthony's parents said funny words like that, and they had different accents to everybody else Ant knew.
The second Anthony lived in a huge house in Richmond with his Mum and his Dad and his nanny Jessica, and the housekeeper Bertie and the cook Amanda. Other staff came and went too. Anthony's friends said he was dead lucky, and they liked playing hide-and-seek in the big house.
Another thing about the Anthonys was that the first one was called Anthony or Ant, and the second one was always called Tony.
Tony was small for his age. He had blond hair, grey eyes and a wide mouth. He was scruffy, always tearing his jeans and spilling juice on his t-shirt. His favourite lesson was PE- he didn't enjoy Maths or writing. Tony liked dinosaurs and he loved football. Ant's hair was straight, short and black and his skin was light brown. His hands and feet were large, and he was taller than other boys in his class. He was a good runner and an even better singer. Mummy and Daddy weren't musical at all, but Ant had a knack for picking up tunes, and when he was eight he started learning guitar. Ant liked telling stories and playing make-believe, and he hated having his hair washed.
Ant's Daddy was a nurse. He helped people who were sick. Ant thought that was a nice thing to do. It also meant that Daddy had a stethoscope he let Ant use sometimes. It was fun listening to heartbeats, but strange to think of there being something inside him pumping his blood round to keep him alive. It didn't feel real. Daddy loved playing records and going to the movies, but the movies he liked were from twenty years ago or even longer, some didn't even have sound. Ant liked modern movies, ones with Elvis and John Wayne in. The cinema nearest Ant's house was a small one, although sometimes for a treat Daddy would take Ant and his friends to the Roxy in Manhattan. Daddy also liked making models with Ant and playing catch. When Ant was in elementary school he got into baseball and tried to play with Daddy, but Daddy was terrible at it (he also called it "rounders"). Mummy was scary when she was angry, but Daddy was funny. Daddy made Ant laugh a lot. Once he explained to Ant how sarcasm worked he was even funnier, and so was Mummy. Ant's friends liked his Mummy and Daddy, but Ant knew that people also thought they were weird. When he was nine, Ant mentioned this to Daddy. Daddy laughed. "They're probably right. I used to think weird was bad, but trust me, Anthony- weird is good."
Tony's dad was a businessman, which was boring. Mum said he used to invent stuff, but it seemed to Tony that now all Dad did was sit in his office, talk on phones and type stuff on the computer. Sometimes he let Tony play games on the computer at home. They also played football together in the garden, usually penalties. Dad said Tony could play for Millwall one day. Dad liked taking Tony to watch Millwall. When Tony was younger all those shouting, swearing men drinking beer were scary, and he could hardly see what was going on anyway unless he was sat on Dad's shoulders. But as he got older it became less intimidating, and because Daddy's business made him sort of famous, he could get Tony into the exec seats or the changing rooms after the match. For his tenth birthday, Dad arranged for Tony and all his friends to come to Millwall to meet the team. Tony's house was near Chelsea so lots of his friends were Chelsea fans, but even they thought it was cool.
Anthony's mummy worked in publishing, which was something to do with books. "Moms can't work in offices," Ant's friend Stevie sneered when Ant mentioned it to him, "Moms cook and take care of the house".
"My Mommy works," Jean shrugged, "She looks after our neighbour's baby and does people's cleaning,"
"Yeah, girl jobs," said Stevie, "Mom's don't work in pubble-ing,"
"Publishing," Ant corrected, "And mine does,"
"Stevie, it's your bowl," Mimi chirped. They were playing bowls with milk bottles in the street. Mimi tossed the ball to Stevie, who bowled, and the conversation moved on. Bu it played on Ant's mind, and later that evening he mentioned it to Mummy. She laughed and said, "Well I'm a special Mummy aren't I?". That wasn't a proper answer, but it was true.
She was tall and pale with orange hair. Ant had never seen anybody else with such orange hair. Mummy was so tall that sometimes when they walked past her they did a double-take. Ant's Mummy had a sing-song voice when she was happy and a snappy voice when she was cross. Mummy liked writing and she loved drawing. She drew pictures of Ant and Daddy and herself and of Manhattan and all sorts of things. Mummy had to wear glasses when she wrote and drew. When he has a toddler, Ant liked taking Mummy's glasses on and off her face. She'd put him on her feet and dance with him, too. Ant loved that.
Mummy said that the most important thing was to be brave. Mummy said that mischief was okay as long as you didn't get caught. Daddy said that that sort of talk would only cause problems. Daddy also said that Mummy didn't suffer fools. "Then why does she put up with you?" Ant asked.
Tony's Mum was older than his friends' mums. Actually his Dad was too, but Dad didn't mention it and Mum did. She'd moan about how she was older, but if Tony brought it up she got cross. If Mum was cross with you, you knew about it. But she also didn't mind Tony going up to the top of the climbing frame in the park, even though it was supposed to be for bigger kids. And even though Amanda was at home to do the cooking, Mum sometimes said, "You go have a rest, Mandy, we'll order a takeaway". Fish and chips was her favourite. Mum said daft things and played marble-run with Tony and, when he was older, bought him cards with silly or rude things on. Mum liked to hold Tony really tight and stroke his hair. She said, "Never thought I'd ever have you, sweetheart". Tony didn't learn why she said that until he was older. Mum also said things like "Stop your moaning and get on with it," and "Well, alright, but don't tell your Dad," and, "Don't do anything I'd do". Mum also sometimes said rude words and pretended she hadn't. That made Tony giggle and Mum rolls her eyes. "No, darling, I said she was a witch".
Tony and Ant didn't have much in common at all. They had different personalities, different interests, lived in different countries and different decades- oh, and they were from different universes. But the one thing the Anthonys did have in common was the Doctor.
From the time when they were both babies, both Anthonys had heard their families constantly mention the Doctor. Both their families would do so in a sad, wistful way, although in Tony's family there was also an urgency and frustration in the way people talked about him. Both Anthonys were four years old when they found out who the Doctor really was. Anthony's Mummy and Daddy sat him down on the stairs one Saturday after tea, and told him a story.
"Is it the gingerbread house story?" Ant asked excitedly. That was his favourite.
"No," said Mummy.
"Well," said Daddy, "A little bit,"
"This is a true story," Mummy explained, "This really happened to us,"
"Cool," said Ant.
"It's complicated," began Daddy, "But we think we should tell you now. Y'see, Ant-"
"Daddy and I are from a different time," Mummy interrupted.
"We aren't from this time, or from-"
"Is that why you talk funny?" Ant asked, "You talk different to everyone else,"
"Well, yeah," said Daddy, "We're from a different time and place- but we're not going back home, not ever. We're going to stay here with you,"
"Are you from lunchtime?" Ant wondered, "Or bedtime, or bathtime? Are you from snacktime?"
Mummy kissed his forehead. "No, sweetheart, we're not from bathtime,"
"We're here with you in this time because our friend the Doctor brought us here. Remember how a different man and lady made you but we're your Mummy and Daddy? Well, that's because our friend the Doctor heard that there was a special little boy who needed a family, and he brought us here so we could meet you and look after you forever". Daddy's voice was odd but Ant wasn't sure how.
"The Doctor has a spaceship. It's called the TARDIS and it flies through space and it can take you anywhere in time-"
"How can it take you anywhere in time?" Ant asked. That didn't make sense.
Mummy and Daddy looked at each other. "It's magic," whispered Mummy.
"The Doctor is our best friend, but we can't see him anymore," Daddy continued, "But-"
"Is that the man in the pictures?!" Ant gasped, suddenly realising, "The colour photos!?"
Mummy and Daddy had photographs in colour. Ant had never seen photos like that in anybody else's house- his friends' houses, if they had photos, were all in black and white. There were pictures on the walls in the house of Mummy and Daddy, and some of Mummy and Daddy and another man, a man taller than Daddy with dark hair. One of the photos was opposite them, on the wall of the living room.
"That man!" Tony yelped.
"Yeah, that's him," Daddy said, "That's the Doctor".
Mummy pointed to the picture from the wall. Ant had never paid much attention to it before, but now he looked closer he saw Mummy and Daddy and the dark-haired man in the middle of them. The other man had a silly smile and a peculiar thing round his neck and hair that looked like a too-big wig.
"He loves biscuits just like you," grinned Daddy. Biscuits were Mummy and Daddy's word for cookies.
"He's very funny," said Mummy, "And very silly clever, and he loves stories and adventures and saying silly things. You'd like him a lot,"
"He was our best friend," added Daddy.
"Where is he?" Ant asked, looking up at them excitedly, "Can I go in the magic box?"
"No," answered Mummy, "He had to go away. He didn't want to and he was very sad to leave us, and we were very sad to leave him,"
"But we've got you now. We're here and we've got you, and that's all we need," Daddy said firmly.
"He'd have loved you," smiled Mummy, and even though she was right here stroking Ant's hair, it sounded like she was a long way away, "He'd have thought you were...".
Daddy put one arm around Mummy and one arm around Ant. "He'd have thought you were cool".
For Tony, finding about the Doctor was more dramatic. One day his Mum and his sister Rose disappeared to do something important. They both gave Tony huge hugs before they went away. Mum gave him a big kiss (yuk) and told him she loved him and told him to look after his Dad. Dad cried when they had gone, but when he thought Tony couldn't hear. When Jessica, the nanny, found Tony listening she whisked him outside to play and didn't answer his questions. That wasn't like Jessica at all. She tried to play football with him the garden, but Tony threw a strop and Jessica got cross and put Tony to bed early. The next few days were long, cross days at home. Tony was much happier at nursery than home for that week. A few days after Mum and Rose had left, Dad ran into Tony's bedroom in the middle of the night shouting. Tony was frightened, but Dad scooped him up out of bed and yelled, "They did it! They did it, Tony! They're coming home!". What Dad didn't say what that Mum and Rose would be bringing someone else home with them.
Dad went to pick Mum and Rose up from the airport, while Tony stayed at home with Jessica. He was still in a mood with her and didn't want to play, so they watched movies instead. When the rest of the family got home, Mum rushed through the front door, grabbed Tony, lifted him up like Dad had the night before, and kissed him all over his face.
"Eurgh! Gerroff, Mum!" Tony protested. Kisses were yukky. Mum grabbed Dad and Rose, and smushed them all together in a hug. Tony squirmed.
"All back together again," Mum crowed happily. She kissed Dad which was even yukkier, and Tony wriggled out of her arms into Rose's.
"'Ello," said Rose, "We're back,"
Tony hugged her around her neck, and as he did so he noticed somebody else behind her. A very tall man with spikey hair and wearing blue. He was standing awkwardly behind Rose.
"Whose he?" Tony asked, pointing. He felt Rose's arms stiffen around him, and gently she put him down on the floor. She went over to the stranger and held his hand. Tony had only seen her do that with Mum before.
"This is my friend," she said slowly, "This is the Doctor". She took a deep breath, "Doctor, this is Tony,"
The spikey-haired man squatted on the floor in front of Tony so they were the same height.
"Ello," he said, like Rose did, then added, "I'm the Doctor,"
"I'm Tony," Tony mumbled, suddenly shy. He didn't like strangers much, although he had to admit that this one seemed... he didn't know what the word was. Interesting. The Doctor was an interesting name. Maybe he was like The Hulk.
"How're you doing, Tony?" he said.
"Okay," Tony shrugged.
"Okay's okay. I'm okay. You're okay, aren't you Rose?"
"Shall we be friends?" the man asked.
Tony looked up at the grown-ups, puzzled. Dad had his arm around Mum's shoulder and they were talking quietly to each other. Rose was chewing her lip, looking down at Tony nervously. Tony didn't know what to say.
"See look, I can do this," said the stranger. He held his fingers up in a V, two fingers on each side. Tony could do that with his fingers too. He held up his fingers the same and smiled.
The Doctor smiled back.
Both Anthonys learnt more about the Doctor over the next few weeks. Ant's Mummy and Daddy told him all their stories, which Daddy swore were true so they must be because Daddy never lied. They told him about vampires and cowboys and kings. They told him how they'd met a president who wasn't even the president yet! They told him about new planets and different times. They even told him about Martians and men from outer space and monsters! Ant begged Mummy and Daddy to tell him the stories again and again. He always asked questions. "Did the King chop your head off, Daddy?". "How many eyes do aliens have?". "What did the whale sick smell of?".
In a lot of Mummy and Daddy's stories something bad happened and Mummy, Daddy and the Doctor had to save the day. The Doctor sounded brilliant. Anthony liked hearing about how clever he was and how he fell over a lot. It was weird how the Doctor was really old but in the pictures he looked the same as Mummy and Daddy. That was confusing. Lots of things about the stories were confusing, but that made them more exciting.
Daddy liked to tell Anthony about things they'd learnt from the Doctor. Sometimes this was facts about history or science, but often it was stuff about being nice or brave: "I wasn't like you and your Mummy, Ant. I was scared of a lot of things. And that's okay, because I faced them." "Even though those Daleks were really naughty and mean, we had to let them go because they still deserved to live, see?". "The Doctor always stands up for people who are in trouble". "We tried really hard not to hurt anybody". Sometimes Daddy would sigh and mumble, "I s'pose it's different for you, growing up now instead of...well, you've got to do your best, Ant. Do your best to be brave and kind, even if that isn't what everybody else is doing".
One evening, near the end of first grade, Ant and Mummy were lying in the garden looking up at the stars. "Are you sure the Doctor can't come back to meet me, Mummy?" Ant asked.
Mummy let out a long breath. "No. He can't. He'd love to, I promise you he would be so happy if he knew about you, he'd show you so many cool things and get you in all sorts of trouble, but he can't come to find us. He isn't allowed,"
"Can't he break the rules?"
"The Doctor loves breaking rules...but he can't break that one,"
Ant glanced over at Mummy. Her face was shining.
"Are you crying?"
She didn't say anything for a moment, then whispered, "So I am,"
"I'll cheer you up!" Ant crowed, and tickled her neck. Mummy squealed and wiggled and tickled Ant back, and rolled over to him to give him a cuddle, but when she let go she was still crying.
A very important thing about the Doctor stories is that they were Top Secret. A special thing only Mummy, Daddy and Ant were allowed to know about. At the end of every story, Mummy or Daddy would always remind Anthony, "But the Doctor is a secret, yeah? Our family secret. No telling anybody at school, okay?". Ant wasn't the best at keeping secrets, but he always kept that one.
In Tony's house, life was strange after Mum, Rose and the Doctor came back. There was lots of talking about things Tony didn't understand, and some visitors Tony didn't know. "Is Mickey coming?" Tony asked. Mickey was Rose and Mum's friend, who came over sometimes. He wore cool clothes and was strong and let Tony listen to his music, which was better music than Mum and Dad's.
"No darling," said Mummy, "Mickey's gone away,"
"A long way away,"
"But where to? And why? Mu-"
But then Jessica came downstairs and said, "Come on Tony, shoes on, time for nursery".
"Yeah, you'd best get yourself ready," said Mum, sounding relived. Jessica tried to keep Tony busy over the next few days. She took him to the park or the woods after nursery, they went to the cinema to see a good film about books coming to life. Tony felt like he was being kept away from everybody on purpose. He felt like Jessica was trying to make him tired, and annoyingly it was working because in the evening he only had time for a cuddle with Mum and Dad before bedtime. He didn't see much of the Doctor or all the other people who kept coming and going from the house. But he heard things. Everybody talking loudly. Grunts and crashes. Clever-sounding words like "Meta-crisis" and "Biological anomaly". The visitors saying, "…need to undertake further tests on-" and Rose interrupting loudly, "No. No way. You don't touch him". Dad making mumbled statements about making the best of things. Rose crying. Mum crying. Once, Tony heard a man crying, and it didn't sound like Dad so perhaps it was the Doctor. Tony had heard Rose and the Doctor shouting at each other earlier, and Rose was scary when she shouted so he didn't blame the Doctor for crying. It was a peculiar few days.
On Saturday Tony woke up early. He reckoned that he'd been dreaming, but he couldn't remember what about. Usually when Tony woke up early he went into Mum and Dad's bed for a cuddle, but everything was so unusual at the moment that he decided to watch telly instead. Tony trotted downstairs into the living room, but when he got there the telly was on the floor with its back taken off, with the Doctor lying on his front beside it, wearing the grey and red pyjamas Tony had seen in one of the shopping bags Mum had brought home on Wednesday. The radio and the toaster were on the floor too, and both were missing bits like the telly was. The Doctor was holding a screwdriver and examining the bits of electric-y stuff in front of him. This, Tony decided, was very strange, even for a week when everything was strange. He held on to the doorframe and watched silently while the Doctor worked. Occasionally the Doctor would mutter something under his breath, and run a hand through his hair. He was wearing glasses with thick brown sides. He was, Tony observed, very very thin. Perhaps he didn't eat his greens. Tony was just considering if the Doctor had come to do fixing on the house, when the Doctor looked up and saw him.
"Oh. Hello," he said. He sounded surprised.
"Hello," said Tony, but his voice came out very quiet.
The Doctor look off his glasses and sat up. Tony swallowed and said in a louder voice, "What are you doing?"
"Ah," said the Doctor, glancing round at the bits of electric on the carpet around him, "I was, err...tinkering. Couldn't sleep, thought I'd try to connect the...well, never mind. What are you doing?"
"Wanted to watch telly," said Tony.
"Oh," said the Doctor again (why did he keeping saying that?), "Sorry. I can fix it, I promise,"
"Is that what you do? Fix things?" Tony asked. Bravely, he let go of the doorframe and took a few more steps into the room so that he was close to the Doctor and the bits of metal and wire on the floor.
The Doctor paused for a few moments, cocked his head and answered, "Yeah. Yeah I s'pose,"
"But doctors fix people not TVs," Tony pointed out.
"I, ah, I fix a lot of things," the Doctor said, "Hey look, Tony, we've got the same hair". He pointed to their reflections in the window.
"No we don't," Tony corrected, confused, "Yours is brown,"
"Yeah but look," said the Doctor, pointing at both their heads, "They stick up the same".
"You make yours stick up," said Tony.
"Yeah. You..." Tony ran a hand through his hair to demonstrate.
The Doctor laughed loudly. Then he said, "Hey, Tony, seeing as it's my fault you can't watch TV, how about I tell you a story,"
"Don't like stories," Tony replied. Mum bought him picture books with stories about beach or dogs and cats or witches and wizards or kids going to the beach. Tony didn't much like them, he preferred books about numbers or colours or different kinds of diggers. Facts, he remembered they were called.
"I've got a lot of stories," the Doctor said, "I bet you'll like some of them. Although," he said, leaving a pause, "Some of my stories are a little bit scary. I don't know if you're ready,"
"I don't mind scary," Tony protested, "I won't be scared,"
The Doctor huffed. "Well, okay then," he said slowly. He pushed himself off the floor, stood up and sat down on the sofa beside the toolbox. He patted the empty space beside him, and Tony climbed onto the sofa and sat there.
When Pete came downstairs half an hour later, Tony was sitting rapt with attention as the Doctor regaled him with stories of Vermoids.
Both boys called Anthony had big sisters who were much older. Tony's big sister was called Rose. She lived in a flat nearby. Tony liked her because she let him stay up late and play with slime, and he loved her because she was his sister. But Rose was difficult to understand. She was so grown-up and busy, sometimes it was like she was on another planet. He didn't recognise half the thing she said. He'd met her friends a few times, and some of them seemed to be young and fun, and they talked and dressed like her, but some were different. Those friends all had different accents and had unusual names because they were from different countries. Tony had seen a photo of them standing in a big room in front of a machine, all wearing white coats. It was perplexing. Often when Tony was out with Rose people would think she was his mum. That made Tony giggle, and Rose say, "Well, it's not unusual. I had friends back on the estate...". When they told Mum about it she'd laugh but also look cross and mutter, "As if I'm his grandmother!".
Ant's big sister was complicated. First, because her name was River, which wasn't a proper name. Second, because she wasn't allowed to visit, so Ant had never met her. Like most of the complicated things in Ant's life, it was to do with the Doctor and how Mummy and Daddy were from the future. Although River wasn't allowed to visit, she could send letters and photos so Mummy and Daddy knew what she was up to. Usually she was up to no good. Her stories were of adventures like the ones Mummy and Daddy had had, although Daddy usually scoffed that trouble had found him and Mummy, while River went looking for trouble. Her stories were like Mummy and Daddy's Doctor stories but some were even madder. Ant practised reading with them, but some bits Daddy wouldn't let him read because he said they were rude. Daddy said River was funny like Mummy, and Mummy said River was smart like Daddy. She sounded cool and crazy, which Ant reckoned made her the best big sister in the world. Sometimes Ant imagined himself talking to River- she would come up with ideas for games or pranks, she'd roll her eyes with him when their parents were boring, she'd pat him on the back when he felt down. Ant liked to think of himself as fearless but if he ever did feel scared, he'd imagine River smirking at him and saying, "Well I'd do it". So really, if you thought about it, the time Ant put pepper in Miss Gooding's tea, the time he snuck into the baseball court after dark and got chased by Al Brazier's Rottweiler, the time he got caught stealing candy from the corner store…they were all River's fault.
As they grew older, both Anthonys grew to learn the same thing about their sisters. Both sisters were in love with the Doctor.
Tony found this out two months after the Doctor first appeared. For the first fortnight or so, the Doctor and Rose had stayed at Tony's house, but by now they'd gone back to living in Rose's flat. They came round for dinner a couple of times a week, and the Doctor taught Tony long words which could never pronounce, played catch with him in the garden, and once did something special to the kettle so that when Tony put his hands on it his hair went straight up like he'd had an electric shock (although he made Tony promise that he wouldn't tell Mum). The Doctor wasn't as cool or strong as Mickey, and he didn't bring round CDs with fast talking in deep voices like Mickey had, but Tony liked him very much all the same. The busyness and crying of the first few weeks had gone and it no longer seemed like everybody was busy with a mysterious thing they weren't telling Tony about. Everything was back to normal.
It was Sunday afternoon. Jessica had gone away for the weekend to visit her brother, Mum was having a day out with her friend Sandy, and Dad was watching snooker on the telly. Tony had been kicking his football around in the garden, but he'd got peckish so popped into the kitchen for a biscuit. They were kept in a tin on a shelf Tony couldn't reach (he suspected this was deliberate), but he'd worked out that he could climb onto the top of the pan cupboard to reach the shelf. Tony clambered on top of the cupboard, retrieved the tin, opened it, pulled out a couple of bourbons, shoved them into his mouth and twisted round so he was sitting on the cupboard. It was then that he saw that the Doctor and Rose were in the kitchen too. The Doctor was sitting on the kitchen island- legs dangling, hands in pockets (he'd bought a brown suit to go with the blue one, plus a few shirts and pairs of jeans. Right now he was wearing black jeans with a light blue shirt, and the same white shoes he always wore) and talking quickly and happily to Rose. The Doctor always spoke quickly. Rose was pouring the kettle, back to him, and the Doctor's eyes were glued to her like she was a Batman cartoon.
"So what's your point?" Rose was saying, as she put the kettle back down.
"My point?! My point, Rose? My point is that-". The Doctor let out a breath and cocked his head like he was trying to work out what to say. Tony understood that. Sometimes it was difficult to make the thoughts in his head into words in his mouth.
Rose handed the Doctor his cup of tea and he took it, grinning. Grown-ups were always drinking tea. The Doctor blew on the top of his and took a sip, but even though Rose was holding a mug herself, she didn't drink any. Instead, she was smiling at the Doctor, that odd smile she sometimes did where she caught her tongue in her teeth. When the Doctor looked up he smiled back. Rose shuffled towards him so she was between his knees, took his mug of tea and set it down on the counter, put her own mug down beside it, leaned in and kissed him on the lips. Tony was so surprised that he dropped the biscuit tin, and it landed on the floor with a crash, Digestives and Custard Creams spilling out. The Doctor and Rose jumped away from each other abruptly.
"Oh," said the Doctor in a voice Tony hadn't heard him use before, "Hi, Tony. Didn't see you there,"
Rose rolled her eyes. "Clumsy monkey," she said, "Come on, help me get these biscuits back in here. Five second rule,"
Tony jumped off the cupboard and helped Rose pick the biscuits off the floor and put them back in the tin (although a couple accidentally went in their mouths). Then Rose suggested that she and the Doctor took Tony to the playground. So they went there and raced each other on the assault course, the Doctor pushed Tony on the swings until he got bored, Rose tried yet again to show Tony how to do monkey bars, they went to the café and Tony had a blueberry muffin and an orange juice. Nobody mentioned the kissing. Tony wanted to, but he wasn't sure what to say. So he said nothing, and kept the memory in his head. And he knew.
Ant found out about his sister and the Doctor in a similar way, though the kiss he wasn't supposed to see was in a photograph, not real life. He was eight years old and Daddy was showing him a packet of photos of River, Daddy, Mummy and the Doctor. Mummy and Daddy had so many colour photos that lots of them were kept in packets in their bedroom drawer, because too many on the walls would raise suspicion, Daddy said. Anthony was sure that Daddy had shown him this packet of photos before, but he never got bored of looking at them. Some of the photos were of Mummy, Daddy and the Doctor back in time, in Russia Daddy said. Mummy looked beautiful in a long dress, and Daddy and the Doctor were both wearing very high black trousers with red jackets. They both looked very silly. Some of the photos were of Mummy and Daddy and River with the Doctor in front of the sky, except the sky was orange and the stars were pink. That was a crazy photo to look at, it made Ant's eyes and head feel funny. There was a photo Ant loved of River in between Mummy and Daddy, all three of them waving happily at the camera in front of the orange sky. There were some photos of the four of them in a big orangey room with see-through floors. That, Ant knew, was the inside of the TARDIS, the magic ship. River and the Doctor were always arguing about how to fly it, Ant knew. There were a couple of photos of the Doctor with Ant's grandad, who was another person Anthony couldn't meet, because he was from the future. Grandad looked like Daddy but pudgier and with less hair.
It was a Sunday morning, Mummy was in bed and Daddy and Anthony's were looking through the packet of photos, spreading them out over Ant's bed. As he was taking the last couple of photos out of the packet, Ant dislodged a couple of pictures he hadn't noticed before. He pulled them out, excited to find new photos. Both were strips of five photos attached to each other. The first photostrip was of Mummy and Daddy, looking much younger than Ant had ever seen them. In the first photo they were just smiling, in the second they had their tongues out. In the third Daddy was kissing Mummy on the cheek, his nose smushed against her face. In the next photo they'd both got their backs to the camera, and in the last one they've got their mouths wide open, teeth bared. Ant grinned. They were funny photos. He turned to the second photostrip. All five were photos of the Doctor and River. Like Mummy and Daddy's photo strip there was a smiley photo of River and the Doctor, and a tongues out photo. There was a photo of just the top of the Doctor and River's heads, like they were kneeling on the floor in front of the camera. The forth photo was the one which made Anthony do a double-take. It was the Doctor and River kissing, on the mouth. The Doctor's arm was draped around River's shoulders, and she was learning close into him. Their lips are pressed against one another's. "Snogging", one of Mummy and Daddy's British words, is what they're doing. What? Thought Anthony, boggling, Woah. What? His eyes flicked down to the last photo on the strip. She had her arm around him this time, and at first it just looked like another smiley photo, but when Ant looked closer he saw it was more than that. The Doctor and River were looking at each other, their mouths somewhere between a smile and a giggle. But it was their eyes which were most striking. They were gazing at each other like they'd never look away. Their eyes were smiling and warm and some other things which Ant couldn't name. The looks they were giving each other made him feel weird inside, all liquidy and warm and nice, but also like he was peeping at something he shouldn't be. He momentarily considered putting the photo back in the packet and pretending he hadn't seen it, but curiosity got the better of him and he blurted, "Daddy, are the Doctor and River… um, are they...together?"
Daddy looked around. "Why d'you ask that?" he asked quickly. Ant held up the photostrip.
"Oh," said Daddy, "Err, yes. They're, uh, married actually,"
"Why didn't you tell me?!"
"It's complicated, Ant…seriously complicated,"
"More complicated than everything els-"
"More complicated than everything else. I promise you, son, River and the Doctor makes everything else about our lives look ordinary,"
"They're married," Anthony boggled, "Married-married? With…" he glanced at the photo again, "Kissing and everything?"
"Trust me, it's weird for us to understand too. It was weird for them to understand, and they were in the middle of it,"
"So the Doctor's my…what's the word? What Peter Lascelles is to Billy since Billy's sister got married?"
"Brother-in-law. Yeah, I s'pose he is," Daddy nodded, "The Doctor's your brother in law- now that is weird,"
"You said that River and the Doctor argue? Why do they do that if they're married?"
"Married people argue, don't they, Ant? Mummy and I argue sometimes but we love each other a lot. And everything with the Doctor and River is so confusing that they sometimes can't help but argue". Daddy paused. "Oh, and she thinks she flies the TARDIS better than him- that winds him up,"
"Errr…I don't know," Daddy answered, "She certainly talks like she does,"
"But Mummy talks like she knows more about cooking than you, but you make the best breakfasts!" Anthony pointed out.
Daddy laughed, "Like mother like daughter, see? River's a lot like your mum, and like you,"
"Yeah, you say that a lot," Ant muttered. He wanted to get back to the Doctor and River. "So they're in love with each other….wow". The Doctor hadn't seemed like the sort of person to fall in love. "Are there any photos of the wedding?"
Daddy laughed, "No, sorry mate. Their wedding was a bit of a bonkers one,"
"Your wedding was a bit of a bonkers one and there's loads of pictures of that," Ant pointed out. He loved those photos- Mummy and Daddy looking dressed really posh (Ant especially liked Daddy's top hat, although he couldn't figure out why he was wearing gloves) and really young ("We were young," Mummy once sighed, "Barely out of school"), the Doctor messing around, the rest of Ant's family-from-the-future who he could never see. He loved the story that went with it too; the Doctor had to go away and Mummy brought him back for the wedding.
"Oh, our one's nothing compared to their wedding," Daddy insisted.
Daddy looked at him for a long time. "Ah well, I suppose I'd better tell you now. You know bits of it already, we just never got round to explaining the whole thing. Remember when the Doctor was supposed to die but he faked it?"
"Hiding in the Teselector," Ant nodded. That was another one of his favourites.
"Well, that's the short version," said Daddy, letting out a long breath, "The long version is even more dramatic…."
The older the Anthonys, the more fun the Doctor became. Tony's Doctor was funny- not in a jokey way like Dad, but because he'd say silly things and use daft voices, and it was always funny when he was bickering with Rose. The Doctor was always happy to chat to Tony about anything Tony was interested in- football, superheroes, dinosaurs, pirates, Star Wars, cars, Rubik's cubes. Any music Tony liked, the Doctor would listen to and give his opinion. He tried to get Tony into music that he liked; guitars, drums and thumping bass, but Tony wasn't having it. He preferred rap music like Mickey had played him. And the Doctor and Rose were both wicked at getting Tony into trouble…and, when Mum and Dad found out, out of it. When they weren't busy with work (…and sometimes when they were) the Doctor and Rose loved to get into scrapes, explore new things, sneak into places they shouldn't. Sometimes they'd take Tony with them- "You're cute, you can get us out of anything!" the Doctor chirped one day when the three of them were poking around a disused warehouse in Wapping. "I reckon you could fit through that window mate, don't you?" the Doctor mumbled, gazing up at a tiny second-floor window in a mysterious house in Highgate he'd been staking out for a couple of days. Rose hit him lightly on the chest.
"You are not using my little brother to break into a house,"
"Ooh you sound just like your mother," the Doctor grumbled.
Rose rolled her eyes, and the Doctor continued to himself, "You wouldn't have to do anything Tony, just climb through that window, pop downstairs and open the front doo-"
"He's not a Victorian urchin," Rose protested. Though to be honest most of the time she was as bad as the Doctor was when it came to trouble. She'd do that tongue-between-teeth grin and wink slowly, then run off into danger. Mum said they were both barking mad.
On the other hand, when Tony was in trouble himself, Rose and the Doctor could always be counted on to cover for him. When he smashed a mug or lost the dog's leash the Doctor would take the rap- Mum was always a little bit cross at the Doctor anyway, so it didn't make much difference. And Rose was more than happy to lie through her teeth to Mum and Dad if Tony was late home or got into a scrape. When he was seven Tony and his friends accidentally kicked a football through a van window, and Rose paid for the damage. When he was thirteen Tony got into a scrap at school- he was too scared to tell his parents, so he brought the letter from the Head of Year to Rose instead. She scanned it, frowning.
"They want a meeting this afternoon," Tony explained, "It wasn't even a fight, just a bit of a-
"Right, well I'll have to pretend to be your Mum," Rose answered in a rush.
"God, this is embarrassing," she groaned, then added waspishly, "Get your blazer back on before I change my mind".
Tony got a right dressing-down from the Head of Year, but he could barely keep a straight face and when he and Rose left the office they both collapsed into giggles.
Mum and Dad drank all the time and didn't mind when Tony did, but during the era of teenage house parties it was useful to have someone to pick him up and a place to crash at three in the morning, even if Rose always laughed at him when he was hungover.
Another useful thing about the Doctor was that he knew almost everything, which was helpful when Tony was stuck on homework. That happened a lot to be honest- school wasn't his thing. He liked seeing his friends and playing football in the playground, but lessons were boring, especially the ones with writing and numbers. By the time Tony was twelve he'd decided that he was going to do what Mum, Dad, Rose and Jessica had all done, and leave school as soon as he could.
"But I'm not gonna work for Torchwood," he announced to them all. It was Sunday evening. The Doctor and Rose had been round for Sunday lunch, and now everyone was relaxing in front of the telly. Well, the Doctor wasn't relaxing, he was intently scribbling down what looked like a very long poem on the back of the newspaper, but that was normal.
"You're gonna play for Millwall, right son?" said Dad.
"Yeah. Or be an electrician. Or test X-Box games, Olivia say that that's a real job,"
The Doctor grunted disapprovingly. He used to play X-Box with Tony a lot, back when Tony liked MarioKart and Sonic Heroes. In the last few months though, Tony had got into war games; shoot-'em-ups and heists. The Doctor hated those sorts of games, and wasn't shy about making his objection known.
"Beth's sister's new fella's got an electrician business. Just opened down in Battersea," said Mum, steering the subject away from an argument.
"Give them a ring, could you?" asked Rose, "Someone decided to take apart our washing machine and now can't get it-"
"I'll fix it," the Doctor insisted, "I'll get it done,"
"Said that three weeks ago, I'm still goin' to the laundrette," Rose muttered. Tony laughed.
Ant's Doctor couldn't do any of the things that Tony's did. Well, not in person, but the cool thing about getting older was that Mummy and Daddy's stories got more exciting and dangerous. At first this didn't make sense- "I thought you said that Daddy turned into a Roman when he fell through the crack?"
"Ah," said Mummy, looking shifty, "It's a longer story than that actually. He, err, he died and-"
"Yeah. We skipped some details the first time around, Ant-"
"You're telling me my Daddy died?! That's a massive thing to keep!"
"I know, I'm sorry. We didn't want to upset you,"
"Promise you'll tell me properly?" this time, he begged. He was ten years old after all, old enough to understand stuff like this.
As Ant got older he began to wonder about the science more. With the increasing news about the NACA sending up rockets, and Einstein's works being republished, physics was becoming more of a cultural interest. Ant wanted to know how the TARDIS was bigger on the inside, how time travel worked, what kind of mechanics were used in the sonic screwdriver.
"Sorry mate. We never really knew that stuff," Dad shrugged.
"Didn't you ask?" Ant asked, exasperated.
"Yeah, at first. But he never explained anything properly and in the end we got used to it,"
How anybody could get used to a box that was bigger on the inside was beyond Ant.
The character of the Doctor became more interesting as Anthony got older. He liked to hear about the Doctor's mannerisms and intensity, and he persuaded Mum to do impressions of the way the Doctor walked, ran, flapped his hands and span mid-sentence. Ant was interested in the times the Doctor made mistakes or chose a wrong decision. He probed Dad to talk more about the Doctor's manipulative side. He liked the idea of the Doctor as someone susceptible to anger and aloofness. That was a better kind of superhero, Ant reckoned.
He tried to get information out of Mum and Dad about the future, but they were very firm about it.
"It's better for you not to know," Mum explained firmly.
"Because people aren't supposed to know the future,"
"The Doctor does. You do,"
"Yeah and it's bloody difficult!" Mum snapped, "It's a bloody weight to have on your shoulders, and we're not doing that to you,"
This flawed Ant for a moment. Then he realised, "Oh come on Mum, just tell me what the next Little Richard single is…?".
By the end of middle school, Ant had a different idea.
"Bets! You could place bets. We'd be rich, Dad, we could go to Disneyland,"
"Not loads, maybe once a month or something. Or you could bet on whose going to win the Superbowl but not say the score. We could get away with it,"
"Ant, we don't know who won every single Superbowl. We barely knew who won them back in our time,"
"What about elections? You know who's going to win the one next year, right?"
Mum and Dad looked at each other.
"Ha! Toldya. You'll thank me when we're millionaires,"
Ant folded his arms smugly, and sauntered out of the room. Mum and Dad never placed bets of course, but Ant still felt vindicated.
The older Ant got, the more detailed and exciting his parents' Doctor stories became. When he was little Mummy would skip over the bit where the Weeping Angel came out of the TV screen, but the older he got the more Mum explained how fast it moved and what she'd felt like watching it. Mum told him more about what it was like to see and forget the silence and how creepy it had been when Madam Kovarian spoke to her out of walls. That part especially made Anthony shiver.
One day when he was fifteen, Ant came home in an unusually quiet mood.
"What's up with you?" Mum asked.
Ant sighed, "Remember I told you Stevie's big sister was pregnant?"
"She lost the baby. It happened last night, Stevie had to call the ambulance. He wasn't in school today but Joan head it off Mrs Davis,"
"Oh," said Mum, paling, "I'm sorry, Ant,"
She leaned over the couch to kiss his forehead.
"And I've, uh, been thinking about some things," said Ant uncomfortably.
"In the future. Your future, your 2000s future, I know you don't like to tell me specific stuff, but…do babies die?"
Ant studied his shoes to avoid looking at her. He loved talking about the Doctor and River and his parents' adventures with them, but asking about Mum and Dad's real, normal life which they'd lived sixty years from now always made him feel dizzy. He tried not think about it too much.
"Sometimes," said Mum quietly, "Not as much. Nowhere near as much. But sometimes,"
"And you can get rid of them easier, right? Dad mentioned it once. It's legal, you don't have to have that special lady round like Josh Weinberg's girlfriend did?"
"Yes," said Mum in the same soft tone.
Ant steeled himself to ask the next question. It was a difficult and awkward one but it had been playing on his mind since Joan had told him about Stevie's sister that morning. "What was it like, Mum, when…when your baby got taken?"
Even with his eyes on his shoelaces, Ant could hear his mother's head whip round.
"I'm sorry, I just…," he mumbles, considering backpedalling.
"No, it's fine," said Mum, "You were going to ask one day,"
"I guess you and Dad have told me about it loads of times but I never thought about how it must feel," Anthony admitted, feeling childish and callous. He'd heard the story many times but never considered the emotional implications. He wanted to kick himself.
Mum exhaled a long breath. "That's not your fault, kid. Let's go for a walk,"
They wandered to the park together, arm in arm. Mum told Ant the story of her months held by the Silence, the Battle of Demons Run, the long Summer spent waiting in vain for the Doctor to find Melody. She told him about what I was like feel her baby turn to liquid in her arms. "It was like she'd died, but worse because I knew that she'd been taken and she'd be…hurt, and brainwashed…and she wouldn't have her Mum!". Mum burrowed her face into her hands. "And then we found out that she was River, so we knew she'd be okay, but she wouldn't have been, she'd be that frightened little girl in the orphanage. She had photos of me, she knew she had Mummy and her Mummy wasn't there". She told him about how after Demon's Run she and Dad could barely walk and had collapsed onto their bed in sobs. How Dad had muttered, "I'm gonna kill him, Amy. I know you love him but our baby's gone and it's his fault. I'm gonna tear him limb from limb and then I'm going to kick his face in". She told him how River seemed to think that growing up alongside Mum and Dad as Mels was as good as them having raised her, but to Mum and Dad it would never be enough.
The Doctor stories get more exciting as I get older, Ant thought as he and Mum walked home, but they also get much darker.
It wasn't just a darkness, both Anthonys would discover. It was a sadness. For all their high-jinks, quirks and catchphrases, both Doctors were haunted men. By the time he was eleven, Tony understood- through a combination of conversations with Mum, Rose and the Doctor, and the occasional accidental eavesdrop- that the Doctor had an alien version of himself in another universe. Rose had met the Doctor in the other universe and they'd had adventures in that Doctor's time-space machine, they fell in love and the Doctor got his hand chopped off in a sword fight on Christmas Day. Then Rose had got trapped in this universe but came back to the other one, the real Doctor grew out of the hand, and the alien Doctor gave the real one to Rose because the alien one was immortal so he couldn't have spent his whole life with Rose. This was all insanely complicated and raised more questions than it answered.
"You know our family is crazy when you growing out your own hand is one of the least crazy parts of the story," Tony sighed to the Doctor one day when the two of them were on a trip out to Bristol. The Doctor laughed, but Tony knew in the back of his mind and in his heart that it was sad. Rose had had her heart broken at least twice, and her and Mum weren't in the universe they'd grown up in (that part made Tony's head hurt if he thought about it too much. It was difficult to imagine another whole universe. Where was it?). The Doctor had had his time-space machine for a very long time and Rose had travelled in it too, but now they didn't have it anymore. Tony wondered if they ever felt trapped here. He wondered what it was like for the real Doctor to be human, when the other one had been alien. Sometimes the Doctor made quips about sunburn, sleep and only having one heartbeat. He joked about them like they were a mildly irritating novelty, but Tony wondered how he really felt. Tony wondered too about how Dad and Rose's dad were the same person but in different universes. Was Dad Rose's real dad? How weird must it be for Mum to have her husband die but then meet a same-but-not-really-but-actually version? That must have been the craziest thing. And what does this all mean for Tony? Mum from one universe, Dad from another.
"It means you're special," the Doctor said firmly when Tony brought it up. But Tony didn't want to be special. He wanted to be ordinary. He didn't think that any of his family understood that.
Perhaps the saddest thing, though, was that the alien Doctor was still out there in his universe, with his time machine but without Rose. When he was seven Tony had asked the real Doctor, "Can you feel the alien you? Like twins can read each other's minds?". Usually he didn't ask that sort of thing out loud, but it was a Summer evening and they had some neighbours round, including Tony's friend Kyle from number eighteen. Everybody was relaxing in Tony's garden, the grown-ups were drinking cider and the kids were drinking Coke. The combination of Summer heat and fizzy drinks made Tony uncharacteristically upfront.
"No," came the Doctor's blunt reply.
"Are you sure? Becau-"
"Yes, I'm sure,"
"Okay, maybe not read his mind, but can you feel when he's happy or s-"
"I can't. Alright, Tony? I can't," the Doctor snapped. His voice was hard, and that unnerved Tony. The Doctor didn't often talk to him in that way. Dad must have heard though, because he came over to them, lifted Tony up by his armpits, slung him over his back and said, "How 'bout a wrestle with your old man then?".
Tony didn't have a clue how Rose felt about everything. It was the alien Doctor she'd fallen in love with, but here she was in this universe with the human one. What was that like? He was the man she was in love with but he wasn't, but he was. That was a bit like Mum and Dad, Tony reckoned. Why had the alien Doctor left Rose here? Was Rose angry at him for it? These thoughts ate away at Tony for months until one night, not long before his twelfth birthday, he was staying over at Rose and the Doctor's flat. The Doctor had got a call after tea (takeaway pizza) saying he was needed urgently at work. He'd rolled his eyes and asked exasperatedly, "Can't you do it yourself?", but agreed to come in anyway.
"Well, I am brilliant," he'd sighed.
Rose rolled her eyes. "Go on then, get out of here,"
The Doctor promised he'd try to be back by eleven, pecked her on the lips, ruffled Tony's hair and called, "See ya Tony!", and then the door shut behind him.
It was now half past ten. Tony probably should have been in bed by now, but it was a weekend and Rose always let him stay up late. They were on the sofa watching Buccaneers of the Bahamas, but Tony wasn't paying attention. Partly because he'd seen the film three times before, but mostly because his mind was pre-occupied with the Doctor and Rose. Two Doctors and two universes and one Rose and it was sad but it was happy and it didn't. Make. Any. Sense.
"You alright?" Rose asked.
"What?" said Tony, with a jump, "Oh, right, sorry,"
"What you thinking about?"
"Nothing," he answered hurriedly. She must have caught him looking puzzled.
"I dunno if you'll wanna answer," Tony mumbled.
"Well….you know the Doctor?"
"Tall skinny bloke, great hair, good at music bad at cooking? Yeah, I think so," she smirked.
"There's an alien version. The first one, the one you travelled with,"
Tony closed his eyes, "The one you fell in love with,"
"And he isn't here but the real one is. What's…what's that like?"
"I love him," Rose said quickly, "I love him and I'd do anything for him. You know that,"
"I do, but- don't you love the other one as well?"
Rose closed her eyes, then opened them and looked straight at Tony. "Yes,"
"But isn't it like..." Tony struggled to articulate his thoughts, "Our Doctor's a...a copy of the one you...your real one. Our Doctor isn't the real one!" he realised excitedly, "Our one's the copy,"
"No he isn't. They're the same," said Rose firmly.
"You got the wrong one,"
"No, I didn't". Rose's voice came out like a bark, "They're both the Doctor, and the Doctor's meant to be with me,"
"But the other one isn't-" Tony pointed out in a small voice.
Rose either didn't hear or ignored him because she continued, "They're the same man, Tony, same thoughts, same memories, same everything. He's the Doctor as much as the other one is. They're both the real Doctor,"
"I was only asking," Tony mumbled, feeling slightly humiliated. Had he said the wrong thing?
Rose must have noticed his downtrodden tone because she sighed and said, "Sorry, didn't meant to snap. It's just...you're saying exactly what I was when he first arrived. I didn't think he was the same Doctor, maybe I didn't want him to be. And yeah, I thought I don't want you, I want my Doctor. You were only little, you probably don't remember. We tried to keep you away from it," Rose explained, "It was hard. We cried a lot- me, Mum, the Doctor". Tony wasn't sure that he's ever seen Rose cry before. "I was pissed at the Doctor, the Time Lord one. I'd spent years trying to find him again and it felt like he'd dumped me back here with a human copy, a mistake, and said go fix him like you fixed me. Go ahead you two, kiss and make babies, I'll run off in my TARDIS. All that time getting back to him, working out how to travel between universes and bam, he dropped me straight back here,"
Tony felt very grown-up that she was telling him this, but in an uncomfortable way. It was like in Sex Ed classes at school where getting tall and having a deep voice and muscles sounded cool at first, but everything else that came with it seemed a bit intimidating.
"I wanted this Doctor but I didn't. I was angry. I wasn't fair to him, I messed him around. And, well, he wasn't much better, he'd just become human, had no idea what he was doing. He'd get tired but he wouldn't sleep, he couldn't run like he used to. He'd been travelling in the TARDIS for hundreds of years and suddenly here he was stuck on Earth. Didn't know what to do with himself. I felt like I had him trapped like a pet. And we were both angry, God there was so much shouting, all of us,"
"So how did you end up like...this?" Tony asks incredulously, glancing around the flat. Photos, trinkets, post-it notes to each other. They're happy together, Tony knows that. Aren't they?
"Time," Rose shrugged, "He took time to adjust, to calm down. You know what he's like- he gets restless and he forgets that he's human. He misses the travelling. But he's accepted it. And I took time to learn that he's the same as the Time Lord version. The longer he was here the more I thought you're not a copy, you're him. The real thing. I thought he was a mistake but God, how could he be a mistake, Tony? He's the Doctor. My Doctor, brilliant and stupid and...well, you know. He's my Doctor and he was here and why wouldn't I want that?". She paused, then added, "It helped that we were in love with each other, too,"
"Were and are, you pillock, still are," she scoffed, amused, cuffing him round the head, "Always are, even when he forgets to take the bins out,"
"So are you still angry at the alien Doctor?"
"No," she answered softly, "I'm sad. I know that he thought he was doing right by me. He gave me our Doctor and went off alone. It's..."
"He must really love you," murmured Tony.
"Yeah. Yeah, he does,"
"Where is he now?"
"Dunno. That's the worst part. Wish I knew. Wish I knew if he's alright, if he's happy. Wish I could protect him and make sure he isn't lonely. He can be really lonely, Tony, he needs someone to- he needs me."
Ant's Doctor was lonely too. Mummy and Daddy couldn't see him again but they had each other. Who did the Doctor have? River, Ant supposed, but they weren't together all the time and when they were they were the wrong way round. It still counted, but they weren't together like Mummy and Daddy were. The Doctor was alone a lot.
"He's had a lot of friends like us," Daddy explained one day, playing catch with Ant in the park, "But they've all gone. Or they will go, in the future,"
"I think….I think, Ant, the same things happen to them as happened to us. He loses them or they have an accident,"
"Do some die?" Ant asks, "Properly die, not come back like you did,"
It was a few months after the initial revelation that Daddy had died or sort-of died. Daddy had made it very clear to Ant that he came back because of complicated Doctor-y time-and-space science, and it didn't mean that Daddy was invincible now- or Ant, for that matter (Daddy had explained this very firmly he'd found Ant trying to make a flying machine like the one in Project M7).
Daddy caught the ball and paused for a moment. "Yes," he said quietly, "I imagine so,"
"Sometimes you make him sound fun but sometimes you make him sound dangerous," Ant mused.
"He's both," Daddy nodded, "He's fun because he's dangerous, and because he's lonely. He pretends he isn't. He's so old, too. It was easy to forget that because he looked the same age as us,"
"He's a thousand," Ant remembered. He could barely imagine being fifteen, let alone Dad's age, let alone a hundred, let alone a thousand.
"Thereabouts," Dad confirmed, "It's hard, being old. He sees everybody around him fade. We don't know how old River is but she hasn't got another regeneration. She'll...die too. And the Doctor'll live on,"
"Is he your Doctor if he's got a different face?" Ant asked. The Doctor changing faces was one of the most baffling parts of everything, especially as Mummy and Daddy had only met their Doctor, so they didn't understand it either.
Mummy and Daddy looked at each other, "I think so," said Daddy.
"Are they ever going to get a house?" Ant asked his parents one day when he was nine, "And a dog or something?"
"The Doctor's got a dog," Daddy answered, "A robotic one I think. We never met it but he talked about it a couple of times,"
"Brill," Ant smirked. A robot dog sounded awesome.
"But they wouldn't settle down," Daddy continued.
"The Doctor doesn't settle down," replied Mummy.
"He's got his TARDIS. And he's like a hyperactive toddler,"
"He's probably got a house out on Mezabularia or somewhere," Daddy shrugged, "But he wouldn't live there,"
"He tried to, once," Mummy added, "But it was like trapping a dog in a hot car. He lasted- what, Rory- ten minutes of sitting down before going bananas,"
"Claimed he did five billion keepy-uppies," said Daddy, "I think it was more like twenty,"
Ant liked the stories where the Doctor played soccer. The Doctor was really clumsy and always knocking stuff over and tripping up on his feet, so it was amusing that he was really good at soccer. Ant didn't play much soccer- baseball was his main sport. He played left fielder for his school team and collected the cards.
"Sometimes," said Mummy quietly, absently stroking Ant's dark hair, "I think he wishes he could have a life like a normal person. Sometimes I think that's what he wants most of all-"
"But you said-" Ant protested.
"I know. I think he doesn't want it but at the same time he really wants it,"
"That doesn't make sense, Mummy,"
"Feelings don't make sense," she replied, "Once he told me that normal life was a bigger and scarier adventure than anything he could show us". She glanced down at Ant and looked at him with a sad smile, "And you're proof of that, aren't you, darling".
By the time Ant was a teenager Ant was convinced that there must be some sort of record about the Doctor somewhere. If he was a time-traveller he must have appeared in loads of places and met loads of people- somebody, somewhere must have a record.
"Why haven't you done gone looking for this before?" he demanded, "You could have helped with loads of stuff, space stuff and science,"
"We've been through this, Ant- we can't tell anybody about the future. It's too dangerous," said Dad.
"You wouldn't need to tell them, but you could help. You've got the best experience!"
"What is we changed something, eh? What if we changed the future so everything was different. We have a huge responsibility. We owe it to the future,"
"-we owe it to the Doctor-" Mum interrupted.
"- not to interfere,"
"Don't you owe it to help?"
"Look, I know this is hard. I know you're a teenager and you want to change the world. You're just like him, you're just like River-"
"God, will you stop patronising me,"
"Anthony. We can't," said Dad seriously.
Ant opened his mouth to argue, but then a better idea occurred to him.
"Fine," he snapped, holding his hands up, "You two chicken out- I'll do it myself,"
Ant was sixteen then, so it took another two years until he was actually able to go. So for those two years he tried to research as much as possible about the Doctor from New York libraries. He looked at newspapers from the three presidential assassinations, the sinking of the Titanic, Pearl Harbour, VJ Day, blizzards, inaugurations. It took eight months of weekly visits before Ant found anything, and when he did he almost fell of his chair with excitement. "Edison was seen accompanied by a mysterious English doctor, surname unknown". That had to be him! Didn't it? Surely. Ant tried to go back to the Civil War, but NYPL didn't have newspapers from then. Then, a few months later, the assassination happened. That threw everybody for a loop, and Ant abandoned his project for a few weeks. Everything was suddenly dark and bewildering, and he was angry at Mum and Dad for knowing and not doing anything to help. Perhaps he could have looked for the Doctor in news reports, but that didn't seem right at all. These things were different when they happened in real life.
After Christmas Ant felt up to getting back to his research, and by the time he turned eighteen in March he'd found a total of six mentions of the Doctor. That Summer, between finishing high school and starting college, he visited the government archives in Washington. Ant told his parents that he was going camping upstate with Stevie, bought train tickets down to DC and found a cheap motel to stay in. The train arrived in Washington at half past ten in the morning, and Ant went straight to the Washington Archives. And that was the beginning….
Anthony Peter Tyler and Anthony Brian Williams had different personalities and different interests. They lived in different countries and different decades. Oh, and they were from different universes. But the one thing the Anthonys did have in common, was the Doctor.