The Boy Beyond Time
a Doctor Who / Back to the Future Crossover
by The Original Marisa
"History. Just what the heck is history, anyway?"
He leaned heavily on the desk at the front of the lecture hall, drumming his fingers on the flat surface as he spoke. His head hung down a moment in thought, then looked back up, a sly grin on his face. His eyes scanned students packing the stadium seating, and his expression fell as he locked eyes with someone - "Oh, put your hand down, it was rhetorical." He shook his head. "Honestly, you try to open a speech, and there's always that one person - have you ever noticed that? You try to be big and dramatic, and..."
He stopped suddenly, and a thick silence fell over the room. The professor coughed. "Right. History. Just a record? We go through our day-to-day life, watching things happen, write 'em down in a book or a journal or in your little e-mail to your buddy - hold on, wait, is that a thing right now?" He reached into his tweed jacket and pulled out a pocket watch, looked at the face, and listened to it tick for a moment before slipping it back in the pocket. "Right, and then you tell it to your little friend in... A mail. A letter, you know, the kind that takes a pen and paper, and you just..." he awkwardly mimed a scribble in the air. "You know, it's always nice to get a letter in the mail. There's something about the calligraphy, the effort, the sweet taste of adhesive when you seal... no, that's sending. Sorry."
Marty McFly stared at his professor, bewildered. He'd been psyched to take this section of American History. The professor was - according to the freshman rumor mill - supposed a southern, elderly gentleman with a sense of humor and enough sense to get to the point when he spoke. Yet this man at the front talking was young - very young - and was clearly a sucker for tangents. He was British - that much could be gathered from his accent - and had a long, square jaw atop a tall, lanky figure, and a strange swept hairstyle that looked left over from a decade ago. Still, Marty guessed he couldn't be much older than one of the seniors here. Yet despite his age and his hair, he was dressed like he belonged in the thirties - Marty could tell, he had been there, after all. Tweed jacket and a bow tie? Who was this guy?
Marty half-expected the real professor to storm in and tell this kid to sit down and be quiet so the lesson could start, but it wasn't to be. As the man continued to rant and babble on about the philosophy and etymology and what history really meant, Marty hesitantly raised his hand.
"Now, see, I didn't even ask a question this time!" The man called, dramatically waving his hand in Marty's direction. "Martin McFly. How can I help you?"
Marty blinked, surprised. "How'd you know my name?"
The professor looked genuinely shocked, then narrowed his eyes in suspicion, stepping into the aisle between desks toward Marty, inspecting him close. "You raised your hand to ask me how I knew your name? Now that doesn't make sense, not at all." His voice grew soft and contemplative. "How did you know that I knew?"
"I- what? No!" Marty shook his head. "I just... are you Professor Bradley?"
"Professor Bradley?" The professor leaned back. "No! Sorry. He's gone. Vacation. Won the lottery. Lucky town, this!" He grinned. "No. I'm Doctor."
Marty quirked an eyebrow. "Doctor what?"
The Doctor pressed his lips in a frown. "Not quite the pronoun I expected. Smith!" He nodded. "That's right, Doctor Smith. Just Doctor is fine." He clicked his tongue, then looked around the room idly. "So where was I going with this, again? Ah! Right!" He bounded back down the aisle, caught himself on the desk and spun to face his students. "History! We study what's recorded!" He slammed his palms on the desk and grinned. "But what about the stuff that isn't recorded? Behind the wars and the kings and the riots and the plagues there are people. Living, breathing people living their day to day lives."
Doctor Smith had this wide, giddy grin on his face. "And let me tell you, class - they are the ones who change history. Not the kings or the presidents or the generals - just the every day people who make one choice that affects the course of history. One person in the right place at the right time changes everything. It could be as grand as an Archduke stopping for a sandwich that triggers a war..."
He paused then, and turned his head to look Marty straight in the eyes.
"...or as simple as a couple falling in love at a school dance in 1955, leading to the eventual birth of a special little boy."
Marty's heart stopped, and he felt his blood turn to ice. Doctor Smith was still staring right at him, a knowing smile on his face. Marty swallowed the lump in his throat and tried to act cool.
"Now, then!" Doctor Smith turned away, breaking the tension and reaching for the chalk. "This is American History, right? Well, then, let's start with Thomas Jefferson. Brilliant writer, bit of an awkward old bloke in public, though..."
"And he looked right at me when he mentioned it."
Marty McFly's first day at Hill Valley University had been particularly uneventful - in fact, despite the hype that had been building up for years, he found it to be remarkably similar to a first day in High School: A droning day of syllabi and classroom etiquette speeches. Yet that moment in his eleven o'clock American History class still stuck out in his mind. When he got back to his dorm, he sat down at his desk and immediately dialed Doc Brown, a close friend he'd known since childhood - a local scientist responsible for building the world's first Time Machine, an invention Marty had gotten to experience more times than he'd ever planned.
One of his first time-travel adventures had been a trip to 1955 that had accidentally prevented his parents' first meeting, and their subsequent first kiss at the high school dance – and Marty had to personally engineer and micromanage their romance to prevent himself from fading out of existence.
When the good Doctor Smith described that moment in class, it had been... unsettling, to say the least.
On the other end of the line, Doc Brown was quiet for a moment before he finally answered. "Marty, speaking as a scientist, I don't believe in coincidence. There is a logical, scientific explanation for every event, though it may never be immediately apparent." Doc spoke slowly, obviously choosing his words carefully. "That said, it's simply not possible for him to be referring to our time-traveling exploits. There's simply no way he could ascertain knowledge of those events."
"But he did! He looked at me and mentioned the school dance - !"
"The story of sweethearts falling in love at a school function is a common romantic fantasy, Marty," Doc assured him, though he sounded unsure himself. "It's hardly unique to your own parents' lifetime."
Marty drummed his fingers on his desk, then combed his fingers through his short brown hair in exasperation. "But he specifically said 1955. Why would he say that?"
"It's not so strange, when you think about it." Doc said thoughtfully. "The late fifties would be the time most of your generation's parents would be falling in love. As for the year itself, the very foundation of our society is built on a base-ten numbering system. Think of tally marks, or counting on your hand. Though you may be consciously unaware of it, rounding things off by fives and tens is remarkably common."
Inspecting his hand, Marty couldn't help but silently agree, that did make sense. "So why did he look at me?"
"Did you draw any attention to yourself earlier in the class?"
Marty opened his mouth to answer, then closed it, the realization setting in. "Yeah, I did. I asked him a question, and... hey, you know, Doc, he knew my name before I ever told him. How do you explain that?"
"He knew your name?"
"Yeah. What teacher goes around memorizing his students' faces before the first day?"
"The ones that care," Doc answered without a thought, "though I agree that does appear a little overzealous. Still, perhaps the explanation is far simpler than I first imagined. Is it possible this Doctor Smith knows your parents?"
Marty hadn't considered that. "I guess that would explain him knowing my name..."
"...and how your parents met," Doc answered, and Marty could practically hear his smile. "Occam's Razor, Marty, my boy. While I'm never one to discard the merit of deep thought, sometimes it's best not to try and over-think a solution when a much simpler explanation is staring you in the face."
With a grin, Marty chuckled. "You, over-think things?" His tone was dry. "Nah, can't see that happening!"
There was a click somewhere behind him and Marty turned his head, watching his dorm room door open slowly. "Listen, Doc," Marty said, "my roommate's back, don't want to hog the phone. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"Sure thing. Always a pleasure speaking with you!"
"Thanks, Doc. You, too." Marty grinned. "Bye!" He hung up and turned, greeting his roommate with that same grin. "Hey, Rory. How'd it go?"
His roommate, Rory Williams, was an average-looking guy. He was a transfer student from somewhere in England, with wide eyes and a prominent nose, and short, dirty-blond hair. His hair and clothes always seemed a bit disheveled, like he'd tried to keep clean and neat but simply had the bad luck to have it ruined by the struggles of everyday life. Constantly. It'd certainly explain how on-edge Rory could be at times.
"Oh, you know," Rory said with a shrug. "First day, classes, stress, all that." He dropped his books on his own desk and sorting through them. "How about you? Anything... unusual happen today?"
Marty shrugged, grabbing his guitar from its stand next to his desk and strumming idly, not bothering to plug it into the amp. "It was a day," he laughed, plucking out a tune. "Though... you're from England, right? Do you know any of the British professors?"
Rory paused. "Which one?"
"Doctor Smith. Tweed jacket, bow tie, that weird hairstyle..."
"Yeah, I know him," Rory said, sitting down, then pausing again. "I mean, I know of him. I've seen him, I mean, heard him talk."
Marty laughed. "All right, all right, I get it." He plucked out a scale, then - playing the guitar was a great way to keep his hands busy. It helped him think when he was stressed or confused, or just when he needed to clear his head. "It's just... I don't know, I had him for class today and he seemed kind of... weird to me."
Rory snickered. "A bit, yeah." He turned his neck to look at Marty. "Say, who was that on the phone? You called him 'Doc', was it a professor?"
Marty shook his head. "Just an old friend of mine," he said, pick still strumming along the guitar strings.
"Was it Old Man Brown?"
The guitar fell silent suddenly, and Marty looked at Rory, surprised. "You've already heard of him, huh?"
"Well..." Rory grinned awkwardly and shrugged, "you know, people talk. And, uh, I've... heard you two were friends, so I thought, maybe, you know, you might have... talked to him, since you called him Doc-"
"Yeah," Marty said with a chuckle. It was kind of funny how reserved and tightly-wound Rory was, the way he kept stumbling over his words and phrases. "Forget what you might have heard about him, because he's not a lunatic. A little crazy, sure, but it's the good kind of crazy."
"He sounds brilliant, actually." Rory turned back to his books. "Like someone else I know."
"He is, trust me. The guy's devoted his life to science, and it's been time well spent." Marty only noticed the double meaning behind his choice of words after he'd spoken, but he managed to suppress the chuckle. Even if he could tell Rory all about the time machine Doc had built, and the adventures they had... it's not like he'd ever believe them.
The TARDIS shook and rumbled as it approached its destination, and Rory Williams had grown quite used to the ship's often erratic behavior as it reached a destination. He gripped the console railings tightly, trying to ignore the terrible grinding and screeching noises it made as it struggled to land.
"Sorry, sorry," the Doctor cried out over the noise, pulling levers and pushing buttons and twirling little twirly things upon the console, "she's still getting used to having her old form back, aren't you, Sexy?" He grinned, batting a wire playfully. There was no answer from the TARDIS, of course - at least not verbally, though the ship did rattle a bit harder for a moment, and Rory struggled to keep his arms in their sockets as he tried to keep steady.
"Doctor," Amy cried from Rory's left, "you can have your special moment later, can we get on with the landing?"
"Working on it," the Doctor called back, jimmying a gear shift.
The TARDIS is hardly what the average person might think of when it came to a time machine or a spaceship - a big, round, open control room with no indication of a front or back end, only an exit door on a far wall. Raised in the center of the control room was a console wrapped round a column. There were no windows to speak of, no indication that this object was flying through the vortex of time or the vacuum of space except for the fact that when you came out its little wooden doors, you were never in the same place you were when you entered.
There was a snap, a loud boom, and a hiss, and the TARDIS stopped moving, though there was enough leftover inertia to send Rory crashing to the ground. He stood up, supporting himself on the rail, and shook his head - ooh, he could already feel the whiplash coming on. He'd never get used to those landings.
"Now, that wasn't so bad, was it, Old Girl?" The Doctor said softly, his fingers running across the console. He looked up and grinned at his two companions. "Now, here we are! Hollywood, California, 1937, during Hollywood's Golden Age! Great place to stroll and just take in the atmosphere, maybe catch a premiere, provided we steer clear of Marilyn Monroe." He bounded off the console, opening the TARDIS doors and taking in the scenery, Amy and Rory following close behind. He stepped onto the grass near a street, and took in a deep breath. "Ah, the smell of... wait a second." He paused, sniffing again. "That's odd..."
"Welcome to Hill Valley," Amy called, and Rory and the Doctor both turned to look at her. "A nice place to live." She was staring at a sign near a brick wall, reading off its words. "Please drive carefully." She turned, raising an eyebrow at the Doctor. "Hollywood, yeah?"
The Doctor frowned, looking around. "Time's a little... off here," he mumbled, looking around. "Can't quite place it, but..." he paused, walking around, until he saw a young businessman holding a newspaper. "Excuse me, sir, could I see that a moment?" The Doctor already had it in his hands before he finished the question.
"Just a moment... ah, thank you, here it is." The Doctor handed it back and turned to his companions while the man shook his head in bewilderment. The Doctor smiled and nodded. "We're about forty years too late."
"In the wrong place," Rory added.
"Yes. Wrong place, wrong time. But... the TARDIS was quite sure of our location." He stepped back into the Police Box - the form his ship always took, a tiny blue box, but much bigger on the inside. He moved back to the console, bringing up some indecipherable chart on a screen. "Huh, that's funny."
"What?" Amy stepped behind him looking at the screen and cocking her head. "What is?"
"Everything," the Doctor muttered, cocking his head. He moved along the console, flipping buttons seemingly at random. "Time here is... warped. Stretched." He frowned, looking around, Rory and Amy flanking him, watching his movements. "Something about this place doesn't... match up with the rest of time, creating little... speed bumps and ditches." He looked back at Amy with a smile. "That's why we landed here and now, instead of where we were aiming. We're stuck in a proverbial Time Ditch."
"A time ditch?" Amy scoffed.
"So we're stuck here?" Rory looked around, unsure how the TARDIS could be stuck in a ditch. The ground had seemed perfectly solid outside, but then, this whole time-travel thing still messed with him a bit. "Should we, like, get a time shovel or something and dig ourselves out?"
Amy stared at him. "A time shovel?"
"Better than a Time Head," the Doctor said with a shrug and a wry grin. "No, no, we're not stuck, not at all. We can leave any time we want to."
Rory sighed with relief. "So let's just-"
"But why would we want to?" the Doctor said with a giddy smile, heading back toward the door. "There's something wrong here, something I've never seen quite like this. Time is a bit... wibbly-wobblier than usual, don't you want to find out why?" He held up his Sonic Screwdriver and twirled it in his fingers as he strolled back into Hill Valley.
Rory glanced at Amy. "Don't suppose we get a choice?" he asked, exasperated.
Amy responded with a shrug, and followed the Doctor out.