DISCLAIMER – All praise be to the ones who created Doctor Who, and the characters therein. They are not mine, sadly.


SPOILERS – For 3.1 "Smith and Jones"

SUMMARY – The Tardis is notorious for being unreliable, so how long did it take the Doctor get back to the right place and the right time?

23rd Time Lucky.

The idea just popped into the Doctor's head the instant she asked him to prove it. He didn't have to think up a way to be clever, he already knew: She'd already told him.

Simplicity itself! he thought; they had spoken earlier that day, she'd said so.

True, he didn't have all the details, and he wasn't going to waste time finding out, as the urge to get out into the Universe of Space and Time and explore was building ferociously inside him. He had a time machine; he didn't need more details. He could figure it out for himself!

He closed the door of the Tardis and leaped lightly up to the control console.

'Come on, old girl!' he said. 'We just need a short trip back to this morning. How hard can it be?'

He stepped out into the cold winter air. It was early morning, the street lights were so bright against the gloom that his eyes hurt. Glancing around, there were only a couple of people braving the elements, and they were wrapped up against the winds.

'Can't expect to get it right first time,' he murmured, and ducked back inside.

He didn't bother opening the door the next time, it was obvious from the instruments that it wasn't right. The same with the next try, too.

'That's three,' he said. 'It's bound to get easier.'

Four and five were at the right time, but the wrong place, the next two the right place but the wrong time. The Doctor was starting to get a little annoyed. There were times he suspected the Tardis of doing this deliberately, just to make his life more exciting.

But the next stop looked perfect.

The right street. The right time of day.

'This is more like it!' he said, striding out of the Tardis door.

He waited. Passing time like this didn't bother him as it would have done a human. He understood how to wait.

But there was no sign of Martha. More than that, the hospital didn't move either. It was the wrong day. After an hour or so, he walked back to the Tardis, a frown on his face.

He tried again and again, but he got no nearer to his goal; the closest he came was just as the hospital started disappearing. He didn't stay to watch.

Once more, the Doctor stood by the console, leaning back slightly with his arms cross, glaring at the controls in front of him. He reached out to twiddle with one of the settings, and his eye caught a heavy-looking wrench that was lying on the floor. It was tempting, a little brute force with the Time Switches might be just the thing.

If we get over fifty, I'll use the wrench, he thought. But it won't come to that.

'This is getting just a tad boring,' he said with a forced sigh. 'I'd like to get back sometime before I next regenerate.'

The idea amused him. How would this Martha Jones react if he turned up in the alleyway with someone else's face?

Best not find out, he thought. Not this time.

He fiddled with the controls once more, but it didn't help. Next time he opened the door, he stepped out into the sultry heat of high summer, in the park under Edinburgh Castle.

But he wasn't going to give up. Not just yet, anyway.

It occurred to him that he didn't have to go back just then. He could even go back with her, let her watch him. As long as he did sometime, it didn't matter. But then, it was a matter of pride. He hated being wrong. There were times when the Tardis could be wilfully disobedient, especially when it came to his companions. She's not a companion, he reminded himself. She just gets one trip. Just one.

'We'll give it a couple more goes,' he said to the Tardis. 'After that, we're going back anyway.'

The next top wasn't even on Earth. He was outside the hospital all right, but he was back on the moon!

'One more.'

They landed in Sardinia. On Future-Mars.

'That one doesn't count,' he said. 'Wrong planet.'

But the next trip did take him to Earth. London. The right place. The right time.

He stuck his head out of the door. The street was crowded with people, none of them bothered to give him or the big blue box a second glance.

But he didn't see Martha anywhere.

Impatient with his repeated failures, he was about to turn round, and give it up as a bad job when he saw her.

Perhaps "saw" was the wrong word. But she was there, he knew it. He glanced sharply to his left, seeing a flash of dark hair. It was her! He'd found her.

The hospital, still in its original place loomed over them as he trotted up to her. He couldn't let it look like he didn't know what he was doing, so he didn't run.

He walked straight past her, pulling his tie over his head as he did so.

'Like this,' he said with a smile. 'Y'see!'

Her face registered confusion, but not contempt or fear as most other humans would have done. Perhaps this sort of thing happens to her every day, he wondered. I should ask her sometime.

She walked on, ignoring him, but he looked after her. Then, when he was sure she was out of sight, he walked slowly back to the Tardis, swinging his tie by his side as he went.

The Tardis door opened to the slight push, and he went straight to the control panel.

'Thanks,' he murmured, running his hand over the bumpy metal and plastic. 'And well, done. Now we can go back.'

He looked up, into the glow at the heart of the machine that no one else could, and grinned.

'How difficult can it be?'

The End