“Vicki, what’s wrong?” Troilus asked as he sat beside me, smiling gently. It was a cold evening and only the fire and a blanket had been my company until he’d arrived. I was pleased to see him. He had not been by my side for several days and being left alone wasn’t something I relished after so many bad memories of solitude.
“I was just thinking, that’s all,” I said, shaking from my thoughts.
Truth be told, ever since my pregnancy I did nothing at all but think- think about the future, think about my new life- about the one I left behind and the people I missed. Oh, I did miss them.
“You worry about the birth of our son?”
“Or daughter.” I reminded him for the hundredth time it could be a girl just as easily as a boy. “Not worry as such, Troilus, just wonder what he or she will be like. I hope we’ll be good parents.”
“Why would you doubt it? Were you not raised well by your own?”
He put his hand upon my stomach and felt for a sign of the baby kicking. Nothing yet, it was much too early and with the lack of medical care and treatments in this time period, I did not want to get my hopes up for an easy and successful pregnancy, not to mention birth. I tried not to think of it too much!
“Actually, my parents were very good to me. Didn’t know my mum long but my dad was there for me all through those early childhood days.” I sighed. “They left me much too soon.”
“Families come to us in other ways too,” he said.
“Of course. The Doctor and Steven were family- a grandfather and brother. And then Ian and Barbara. They were like parents in a way.”
“Who were they? Fellow travellers?”
“Yes, very special ones. I never told you about the time I lived with them in an actual house and everything in the future from here.”
Troilus seemed intrigued. “You know sometimes I don’t believe half the stories you tell me but for some reason I gladly listen to them, for you have the gifts of a storyteller my precious Cressida.”
I’m not sure if my husband ever believed my tales. To him I was some kind of prophet. But I told him anyway and he never judged or questioned it- instead he just enjoyed the mad adventures in time and space.
The Doctor, Ian and Barbara and I, on this occasion had landed in the year of 1952. It was the middle of winter and we’d arrived in the south of England. The sky was grey and the air was frozen.
The Doctor had something up his sleeve, it was obvious as soon as we arrived and he was shuffling and looking around so I asked him what he was up to.
“It’s a matter of importance, my child,” he told me out of the blue and told me he needed to work on a secret mission for a few months and he wanted us to settle down and live…ordinary lives for a bit. We were stunned and no matter how much I begged him to let me stay with him, he told me it was too dangerous and that I’d be much safer with Ian and Barbara. They both protested too of course, not pleased with the Doctor going off on his own without any clue what he was up to. We were a team and we didn’t want to be separated.
Finally, the Doctor revealed his plan. We didn’t truly understand it but we decided he was right, that it wasn’t a job for the whole team so we reluctantly agreed to rent a property and live life as a family until he returned.
The goodbye was the hardest. Like here, Troilus, there were no ways to see each other in those days if you were parted. A quick telephone call or written letter was all you got and so I knew I’d miss him. Luckily Ian and Barbara were the next best thing and we picked a cosy three-bedroom house in London close to where Ian and Barbara would live when they reached the 1960’s. It was even a small walk to their school Coal Hill, though it wasn’t the same kind of school then.
“What if you run into yourselves?” I asked.
Barbara smiled. “I was still living in Bedfordshire after the war.”
Ian grinned. “Young me is around here somewhere, trying to get a date no doubt, either that or I was still away in National Service. Don’t suppose I’ll run into myself.”
I was sort of disappointed, after all, imagine seeing what they were like when they were young!
The first morning in the house was the strangest. I’d never been woken up at the crack of dawn and had to wear three layers because there was no heating system. This was before I really learnt to be fundamental. Living in Ancient times kind of puts a perspective on everything but staying in 1952 I truly realised for the first time what it was like to live a basic life. There was that month near Rome of course, ancient times, very very basic but we idled a lot and then we got caught up in mischief the way we always did. Dangerous adventure was always a distraction from the mundane.
Ian was putting some logs on the fire when Barbara and I arrived downstairs that morning.
“Ready for the first day of school?” Ian said cheerily.
I couldn’t understand how he was so happy at that time of the morning. I rubbed my weary eyes. “You’re not going to hold me to that school idea are you?”
“Absolutely,” Barbara said. “The Doctor enrolled you and we promised him you’d see what it was like to experience a whole new type of education.”
I sighed. “Fine. What time do I have to be there?”
“We’ll get you there for eight-thirty,” Ian said.
“Eight thirty? How long is this day?”
“Nine until three-thirty, Vicki. It’s hardly strenuous.”
“Over six hours a day is practically child torture,” I said. “One hour a week was bad enough and they didn’t force you out of a warm bed at this hour either.”
Ian chuckled and ruffled my hair. “Our Vicki’s a teenager alright.”
“Yes, and our teenager needs some breakfast,” Barbara chipped in. “We’ve not got many supplies until we can go to the shop but there’s a bit of muesli.”
I grimaced as Barbara poured a very small bowl of what looked like rabbit food.
“Just wait for the milk to arrive, should be here any minute,” Ian said.
Barbara laughed. “Of all the things the Doctor remembered, milk delivery was one of them.”
I was surprised. “You mean you have to wait for it?”
We then found ourselves at the front door, watching a primitive vehicle driving at a snail’s pace toward us. It was filled from top to bottom with rows upon rows of glass bottles of milk.
“You mean they used to carry them to people in bottles? This place seems more primitive than Ancient Rome. At least that had the courtesy to be called ‘ancient’.”
“It wasn’t called ancient at the time!” Ian reminded me.
Barbara squeezed my shoulders and turned me back inside like she was my mother. “Be that as it may, you need a good meal to start you off. Go inside and then after that we’ll walk you to the school gates.”
And they were right, we actually walked. We’d done a lot of walking and running during our travels so it wasn’t the distance I minded, after all I was quite fit. It was more the principle of it really, making kids walk just to do something boring rather than hiking or exploring or fixing an engine.
Anyway, we arrived at the school and I felt nervous, how was I going to fit in? I’d spent a lot of time in the past already but not enough to deal with the day to day life routine. When Barbara had taught me about her school, it sounded so babyish, I couldn’t believe I had to go there and learn about the three ‘R’s’ or whatever she called them. But Ian and Barbara waved me goodbye like I was their five year old child and I waved back with a limp wrist, slightly embarrassed that other teenagers were watching this rather odd display of affection.
Ian and Barbara even picked me up after school and although it was rather embarrassing, I suppose it was sweet the way they seemed to be proud of me and it made them happy to be close to their own time.
Back at the house I could smell the dinner cooking and everything felt so homely as soon as we walked inside.
“So, how was school?” Ian asked as he and Barbara sat on the sofa looking at me as I fell back onto the soft comfy armchair.
“Did you get caught out a few times?” he chuckled. I think he almost wanted me to.
“Now its no shame in not understanding the work, Vicki,” Barbara added.
“Oh, I understood the simple maths, and English wasn’t too bad but well the history and geography teachers were a bit confused by my erratic knowledge. How was I supposed to know that the King died this year?”
Ian and Barbara both raised an eyebrow. They’d been in this situation before with a certain unearthly granddaughter of the Doctor.
“You’ll soon get the hang of it,” Barbara told me reassuringly. “And we’ll do our best to teach you.”
But as much fun as the school was from a new experience perspective, I missed the Doctor and I missed doing my own thing. School had so many rules and I liked to break them. And don’t get me started on the uniform!
I looked at the teachers again. They seemed to be grinning, eerily smiling and there was something different. The house was tidy, they were relaxed, and they were no longer running from aliens. More than that though, they seemed cosier. I spied quite a few lingering looks between them and there was even a moment the night before after Ian had walked in after Barbara had emerged from the shower in a towel. They were acting…like a married couple…and they were loving it!
“So, while I’m at school, what do you two get up to all day?” I directed the question at them, trying not to be too cheeky.
“It’s been quite interesting,” Barbara said. “We’ve been shopping. We looked around town to see what it’s all like. A lot of bomb damage still.”
“Barbara’s 1960’s flat is…flattened. Must get re-built at some stage. But at least we’ve just been able to sit and read the paper and listen to the old wireless.”
It was quite marvellous to see them so settled and I was glad to see them looking so calm and relaxed. I on the other hand was growing impatient. And just why was it called a wireless when it wasn’t wire-less? Not only did they not have wi-fi in this era, they didn’t even own a television yet. And the people that did had to suffer watching it in black and white. How gloomy and depressing.
And that’s what it was like, day to day, same old routine. It was quite different to be living in a period other than my own and I was still craving adventure.
The evening was the strangest. Now normally we were travelling in time and space so evening time wasn’t something we experienced. In the TARDIS you become sort of timeless and you forget what it’s like to live life in order. Of course, on the spaceship to Astra we had a structure of sorts but then in space, staring out at the black endlessness it was easy to think every time of day was night-time and that the day never arrived. On my short and awful time on Dido, loneliness meant night-time was a time of confinement, shut away by Koquillion on a planet I thought was empty of life.
So, there I was, opposite Ian and Barbara at the dinner table, eating some sort of stew with a mix of meat and vegetables and something called dumplings. It was primeval but it was delicious and cosy and warm, albeit a small portion.
“You made this, Barbara?” I asked. After witnessing her cooking in Rome, I knew she was a good chef.
“Yes, we got all the stuff at the market.”
“I did the dumplings,” Ian added. “We even managed to make a cake with the strictest of ingredients.”
“We have to economise of course,” Barbara said. “Not enough food to go around.”
That was hardly a chore. We were used to eating where and when we could or mostly out of food parcels so a nice warm cooked meal was a highlight even if it was small and lacking all the things we took for granted.
I was not so fond of what I was told next.
“Washing up?” I said. “You mean no machine to do it for you?”
Barbara smirked. “It won’t do you any harm, Vicki. Look, I’ll wash and you can dry.”
“And what does Ian do?” I moaned.
Ian started to walk toward the door. “I get to commend you on a fantastic job of it.”
Barbara pulled Ian back by his cardigan sleeve. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Their noses were almost touching. “I thought I might check out the news. See what’s going on.”
“We lived through this time once already, you can give it a miss.”
They were staring at each other and smirking. Why didn’t they just kiss already and get it over with?
“Come on, Ian. It’s hardly fair that Vicki and I do all the work. We’re not your landlady now.”
Ian sighed. “Come on then, hand me a cloth, I’ll wash some of the plates.”
And the whole thing was like that. It was a chore- domestic as ever but they made it seem sort of fun, like it was alright to be doing the mundane, and that in the right company it could be rather amusing. Ian and Barbara fought over who would wash and there was water flying everywhere. Ian even started to sing to pass the time. It was a bit embarrassing of course but when Barbara joined in, oh Troilus it was like they were made for each other. My dropping a plate rather ruined the lovely interlude but they were so happy together that I don’t think they cared one bit.
And that was when it happened. This weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. Normally I found racing around, looking for adventure the most amazing thing ever and naturally I was aching to get back to the Doctor and see where we landed next but then a small part of me was wrestling with this other feeling. I knew I’d found a family in the Doctor, Ian and Barbara and now…now…I enjoyed being with them, enjoyed sitting together in the quiet ordinary life and I enjoyed seeing them happy. I wouldn’t tell them that obviously, but for the first time, even though I was itching to be chased by monsters, I was also content to be part of a normal Earth family.
Night-time came and unlike the previous night where I was so tired they left me to it and turned the light off immediately, this time they sat in my room with me for a while as I climbed inside the covers and got comfortable. Ian was standing at the window looking out and Barbara sat by him, perched on the window seat.
“Are you two alright?” I asked them. They were clearly daydreaming.
“Oh, we’re perfectly fine,” Barbara said as she got up and sat on the bed next to me, “you do like it here enough, don’t you, Vicki?”
“It’s alright. Why?”
Barbara glanced at Ian and there was an unspoken language between them. They always seemed to know what each other was thinking but I couldn’t quite read their language and I wanted to know why they were looking like that with sort of pitiful expressions.
Ian joined us and sat down on the other side of the bed. “We’re just being cautious, Vicki. Barbara and I were preparing just in case the Doctor…”
And I didn’t let him finish the sentence, I wouldn’t let him dare. I knew what he was getting at. If the Doctor didn’t make it back, we’d have to settle there like a family. And I know I said I felt a warm feeling in the pit of my stomach living with Ian and Barbara, but I certainly wasn’t ready to lose the Doctor. He wasn’t dead and I would never believe it.
“He’s not going to die,” I found myself blurting out through little sobs.
Ian patted my arm. “I didn’t mean it quite like that.”
“And we didn’t want to upset you,” Barbara added. “We were merely highlighting a worst case scenario that the Doctor accidentally takes off in the TARDIS and we get stuck here.”
I folded my arms. “The Doctor wouldn’t be so stupid and he’d never leave me behind. He promised me that!”
“Of course.” Ian was smiling at me and I felt reassured for the briefest of moments.
“We honestly didn’t mean to suggest anything. We just wondered if the worst came to the worst, whether you’d consider letting us take care of you. We would be devastated if anything became of the Doctor,” Barbara said sincerely.
Ian sighed. “We wouldn’t really want to live in this year. We enjoy being back in this period enough but it’s still not our time. If we stayed here we’d have to avoid running into ourselves and we’d know everything that’s going to happen. But at the same time if the Doctor couldn’t come back…well then we’d have to make the most of it.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I would love to live with you guys if that was the case. But I’m an optimist and I know in my heart of hearts that we’ll be travelling again in no-time…and what’s more, you two will see 1963 once more!”
They smiled warmly at each other and Ian grabbed Barbara’s hand and held it tightly.
It was that same night I got up to fetch a drink that I saw them just sitting in the living room on the sofa, next to each other and they were close, very close, not too close that the Doctor would think anything improper- but they just sat there. I watched for a few moments to see what happened and I saw them look at each other, smile, and then Barbara gently lay her head on Ian’s shoulder and that was it. It was so simple, so sweet and it was easily something I could use to tease Ian in the future. Why couldn’t they do something about the obvious feelings they had for one another? I mean, when I fancied you, Troilus, Steven told me I made it known to everyone, so why couldn’t they?
Anyway, it was like that for the next few weeks and the routine did start to grow tiresome. I went to school, the teachers got annoyed at me for being cheeky, and even more annoyed at the things I really should know about 1952 life. I would go home and Ian and Barbara would be tidying up or bringing in shopping or fixing things and it then we’d go out for fish and chips or to the pictures or to see the Christmas lights go up in town. Apparently switching on a few lights in the town centre drew big crowds and was quite a big deal.
We gathered by the giant tree, frozen stiff under bundles of warm jumpers and coats and my neck was covered by a long woollen scarf and Barbara had placed a large bobbly hat on my head. I swear the only part of my face on show was my eyes! I hadn’t experienced a winter quite like it for a while so it was a strange feeling.
Before they switched on the Christmas lights, everyone gathered to sing carols and as I didn’t know how to sing any of the ancient songs, I had to listen to Ian and take his lead. It felt pleasant singing along with other people, it kept the cold feeling away, but every time I saw an elderly gentleman, my mind drifted to the Doctor, wondering where he was and why he wasn’t sharing Christmas with us. It just wasn’t the same if he wasn’t there. I sung louder, making up the words and hoping no-one would notice and then I heard a man’s voice behind me, husky and lived-in, belting out bar upon bar of the carol like an expert.
He wasn’t entirely tuneful but I appreciated the effort. Suddenly there was a chuckle and my stomach tightened. Had I imagined it? Had I imagined the sound of the Doctor’s magnificent laugh that erupted through his body like Father Christmas shaking his belly.
“Doctor!” Barbara said happily.
“Doctor!” Ian’s turn.
When I spun around, he was indeed standing there, all flushed in the face from the cold, and wearing a smile as wide as a Cheshire cat. His white hair could be seen underneath a black hat and his cape was thrown majestically over his shoulder as he reached his arms out to give me a hug.
“Oh Doctor, we missed you,” I said as I buried myself in his chest.
“And I you, my dear,” he said.
After he let me go, he also hugged Barbara and shook hands vigorously with Ian.
“I see you’ve been taking good care of the child,” he said, looking at the teachers who were side by side as usual, pretending it was the cold that kept them so close to one another.
“She’s been quite a handful,” Ian said, putting his arm around my shoulder.
“So has Ian,” I added.
Barbara smiled. “We’ve enjoyed the time to relax, Doctor and we’ve had some fun but we were worried about you.”
The Doctor grabbed his lapels. “Oh nonsense, nonsense, you had a wonderful time playing families I bet.” He looked intently at Ian and Barbara. “May have helped prepare you two for the future hmmm?” He then looked at me. “And you, my child. Did you learn a lot about living in a different time and being part of an ordinary Earth family?”
“Oh, I can safely say I learnt a lot, Doctor.”
And we stood there, all four of us, arm in arm, bundled up like Eskimos and we sang and laughed and ate mince pies and we had the most wonderful time together. When I first travelled with the Doctor, I assumed anything other than dangerous adventures wasn’t worth my time, that if we weren’t facing an alien or historical threat then it was boring. And it simply wasn’t true. Those things were important to me because I wanted to see and do so much. But I learnt during that stay that there’s also nothing wrong with spending time with people you care about, doing not much at all and settling down to ordinary life. It was your own choice after all.
Troilus looked at me as I drew the story to a close.
“And that’s what you’ve got here, with me,” he said.
“Not quite ordinary but its nice, and now this place is as real a home to me as the spaceship with my father or the TARDIS with the Doctor. But oh I do still miss them all, Troilus. I miss Ian and Barbara trying to teach me things and teasing them about their primitive time period. I miss Steven so much, bickering with him over something silly and getting a piggy-back because my legs were tired. And the Doctor. I wonder what he’s doing now? Who has he invited aboard his ship and is teaching all about the wonderful universe?”
“Maybe our baby will grow up and meet him one day.”
“I hope so.”
“If he’s anything like his mother!”
I slapped him playfully. “Or she, Troilus, it could…”
“…Just as easily be a girl,” he finished. “I know, I know.”
And he hugged me tightly. And It felt just right. It was my choice and I was happy.