As I am a professional writer and have work to do to get paid, I have decided to deal with these thudding plot bunnies in the traditional manner - I will inflict them on others. Please see my Profile for the Challenges of the Month. July Challenges are now available, and what a twist for one of them. If you'd rather do June's, instead, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks to all those who have participated thus far - we had an exceptional turn out for June II for example. The new challenges will run through the end of July. Please let me know when you respond to a Challenge so I can read and review.

Lady Clark Weasley asked me to do this one and, although I normally hesitate to rewrite episodes, I agreed because of the challenge of it. Let me just state, very clearly: ASTRID IS NOT HERE. Her entire story line has been erased from this history. She decides to try it once, months later, meets a rich man who acquired some manners from some where, gets married and lives happily ever after. There will be no dead or even sort of dead pretty waitresses, except the ones who would have died anyway. Thank you.

This one will be two or three parts, and all the action isn't going to be shown because I've narrowed the point of view down to what you don't know.

The Voyage of Alternatives

Part 1: The Singer and the Stowaway

The Doctor sighed and straightened the Tuxedo of Doom, watching the party as it circulated around him. There were worse places, he supposed, for an accidental arrival after all he had been through, so he resolved to enjoy himself. There was the concern, of course, the strange and jangling time lines around him, but so far the only thing he could find wrong was the name of the ship.

"'...wound up clinging to an iceberg and let me tell you, it wasn't half cold...'" He remembered saying that once, and this ship had been named after the one that had met the iceberg personally. He hesitated to guess what they were thinking.

A small brunette waitress wandered by, followed by a blonde girl in a short, sequin bedecked dress. The Doctor didn't get a look at her face but there was something...

He shrugged it off as an hallucination, the results of months of captivity, temporal distortions, being around Jack and... him... and losing his last companion, the one he never could quite deal with correctly. Instead, he walked up to a couple who were being laughed at by a group of wealthy people with nothing else to do with their time.

A quick flick of the sonic screwdriver, and the annoying crowd were having a champagne bath, and he was glad he could deliver a little bit of harmless justice where it needed to be sent.

"...And the last words I heard him say were 'I shall return for you, my love, on Christmas Day.'"

The Doctor stopped breathing, a buffalo wing half-way to his mouth, his eyes nearly bolting from his head. That voice. The singer. That voice... "Foon, Morvin," he said softly to the couple he was sitting with, "that singer. Is she blonde, small, fantastic?" He didn't dare turn around.

Martin cleared his throat. "I suppose," he said, glancing at his wife nervously. "If you like the type, yes."

"She's a lovely one, all right," agreed Foon. "Looks a bit lost, though, I'd say."

The Doctor sighed and, closing his eyes, turned his head.

"...The night will come, but I don't sleep, as I watch the stars that lead him..."

The Doctor forced his eyes open and, without even being aware of leaving his chair, found himself at the foot of the stage.

"...I cannot place just where he is, but still my heart goes with him..."

How he managed to listen to the rest of the song, he didn't know. He couldn't even imagine how he managed to stay still at all, when she was there, when her soft, beautiful, distant eyes were looking everywhere where but at him. The instant she closed her mouth, though, and the crowd applauded politely, the very second she stepped from the stage, he ran up to her and, unable to help himself, snatched her into a hug. "Rose," he whispered, fully intent to never let her go ever again. "My Rose."

She drew back from him and hit him full on the face. "Who are you?" she demanded.

He clutched at his jaw. She was definitely Jackie Tyler's daughter, no mistaking that. "Rose, it's me, it's the Doctor. What are you talking about?"

"What are you talking about?" she snapped back at him. "I've never seen you before in my life. What do you mean you're the Doctor? What sort of doctor? Which doctor?"

"Not this again!" he whinged. Taking a deep breath, he stared hard into her eyes. "I'm the Doctor." He cleared his throat and swallowed hard. "I'm your Doctor," he added, softly, a terrible confession that he wouldn't have made before... before.

She blushed. "I... I don't need a doctor anymore," she whispered. "I'm fine. Go away before you get me in trouble."

"But Rose," he pleaded, reaching for her hand. She was gone before he managed to catch it.

Dejected, lost, hopeless, he wandered back to the table with the Von Hoff's and settled into the seat he had borrowed earlier. He helped himself to a buffalo wing, but he really didn't want it now.

"Didn't work out?" said Foon sympathetically. "You ought to be more subtle, really."

"She... she doesn't even recognize me." Something washed over him, anger, frustration, fury. "That's not right. She knows me... better than anyone. Something's happened, something's wrong."

He stood up, fully intent to tear the Universe apart if necessary to find out who was responsible for this and why. Rose Tyler might have been a shop girl in a former life, but she was the last person who should ever - ever - be a second string lounge singer on a Max Capricorn cruise ship.

There was an announcement, calling for certain red tickets. Foon and Morvin announced gleefully that they were going to Earth and asked if he was coming along.

The Doctor caught a glimpse of glittering blue sequins. Oh, but that was perfect. "Yep," he agreed. "Think that'll do to be getting started."

He walked over to where Rose was being insulted by a man in a tuxedo, which he was claiming was an Earth antique. This only served to convince the Doctor that something was completely and thoroughly wrong, because the Rose he knew would never have just stood there to take it. He glowered the man into silence and caught Rose's hand. "Run," he said.

She looked up at him and, just for a split second, her eyes lit up with something like recognition. It was all it took, and he ran with her to join the party heading to Earth. "The Doctor plus one," he announced, holding up his psychic paper. She looked at it in silent suspicion, but didn't question him, even when he fastened her teleport bracelet on without once releasing her hand.

It was only when the small, red cyborg arrived to join the party that he paid any attention to anything other than Rose, not even the man leading the group, who seemed to have cut and pasted his Earth history from a series of newspaper articles and an old song book.

"What are you doing?" Rose whispered as he tried to object to the presence of Balacappalata.

"Obviously not human," the Doctor said, "and we're going to London."

"London..." she mused. "I've never been there. What's it like?"

The teleport effect took them and they were, abruptly, in a shopping area of what looked like Chiswick. "You were born here," he said. "Lived the first nineteen years of your life here. What do you think?"

She frowned, that familiar look of concentration coming to her face. Oh, it hurt. "Are you sure?" she asked. "'Cuz, gotta tell you, it don't half stink, here."

The Doctor laughed. It echoed off the surrounding buildings. He realized, suddenly, that that was also very, very wrong. "Where is everyone?"

"Well," she observed. "It's Christmas. Maybe they all went home to do that turkey thing Mr. Copper is on about."

"No, trust me, these streets should be teeming with people." The Doctor sighed and noticed a news agent. Keeping Rose's hand tight in his, he meandered over and asked.

"Fled the city," said the old man who turned out to be pretty much the only person left in all of London, except for the Queen and her staff. He then proceeded to recite a list of the Doctor's Christmas misadventures and the Doctor risked a sheepish, apologetic smile at Rose.

"It should be fine this year," he assured the man. "Mystery's up there, not down here."

"It's them aliens," the old man assured him.

The teleport took them again. The Doctor wanted to curse. Rose wriggled away from him while Mr. Copper apologized. "Sorry, I'm on now," she said. "Thanks for the adventure. I always wanted..." She smiled, that wistful, distant smile that made his hearts ache and throb in his chest.

"You wanted to travel," he said. "Travel forever, see every star and planet in existence. I could take you, if you still want to go."

"I... I can't." She turned and disappeared into the crowd again, and the Doctor was left with nothing else to do but try to figure out the mystery of this one.

The first thing he did, therefore, was walk over to the nearest electronic portrait of Max Capricorn and, with a quick twitch of the sonic screwdriver, he was connected to the bridge computer.

What he saw nearly stopped his hearts. There were three meteoroids and they were heading directly for the ship. The shields were down, no chance that the ship could sustain an impact from even one of them. He got on the com to the bridge and realized pretty quickly that the Captain was not going to listen. The ship was going to be hit, everyone was going to die, and Rose, Rose who didn't seem to know him, Rose who was casually singing 'Winter Wonderland', Rose who was supposed to be safe, Rose was here.

Two officers came up to him, fully intent on dragging him away. He broke free, shouted that the ship was in danger, and ran to the stage. Rose stared at him, but got out of his way as he seized her microphone. "Everyone get to the lifeboats," he ordered.

The officers caught him again. He reached out to clutch at Rose's hand, but couldn't quite catch hold of her. "Look outside," he ordered to the staring crowds. The Von Hoffs and several others trailed after him, and he felt an enormous relief to realize that Rose was there.

"Leave 'im alone," she protested. "He just skipped his meds today, s'all," she insisted. "He's harmless."

"I most certainly am not, Rose Tyler," he protested.

She laughed, that fairy bell twinkle that set his hearts to glowing. "Good to know, Doctor."

"That's the spirit," he agreed. "Listen to me, the shields are down, you have got to get them up, because if you don't, those meteors will go through this ship like bullets through a tin can.

A man in a suit behind the party, which seemed to be the Doctor, Rose, the Von Hoffs, Balacappalata, and the two officers holding him shouted, "Oi, Steward, I am telling you, the shields are down!"

The meteors struck.