Author's Notes:
Originally posted in 2007, titled 'Lessons Learned in the Flow of N-Time', left unfinished; now renamed, updated and complete. The previous fic has been deleted.

Title lyrics from the song '1901'. Can you spot all the cameos and references?

This was meant to be solely introspection about the Doctor and Martha on the slow path in 1969, but I ran out of steam after two, and abandoned it. Then Twelve and Thirteen happened. So it's now more, 1969 is a great convergence point for time travellers, apparently.

I am in love with Thirteen and her New Friends and I will fully admit to having cried as I wrote the last two segments. Spoiler warning: The characterisation of these individuals is based solely on what few scraps of information the SDCC 2018 Doctor Who panels, interviews, and trailers provided us, with some bleed-over of past Doctors, so they may or may not become wildly OOC once Season 11 airs. I hope once this happens, this fic will still be relevant.

: Lesson 1: What was, is, and will be a Bootstrap Paradox-:

“I’m a Time Traveller. Or, I was – I’m stuck, in 1969.”
We’re stuck. All of space and time he promised me, now I’ve got a job in a shop, I’ve got to support him!”
“Martha!”
“Sorry.” 

Martha gripes about the work, but he knows it’s frustration with their situation, not with him. He’s got the more difficult task between them, finding a way home. And apparently the answer rests solely in the little purple file folder sitting on the table between them.

He fishes a portable camera from his pocket and sets up in a little recording studio just down the road from their flat. The tape looks contemporary but a bit of jiggery-pokery ensures it will be transferable from tape to disk to digital, when the time comes. Behind the camera, Martha sits, holding up the transcript they obtained from Sally Sparrow just days before. He gives her a brief, reassuring grin before pressing play, and moving to sit in front of the camera.

Time to begin.

“The Doctor.”
“Who’s the Doctor?”
“He’s the Doctor.”

“Yup, that’s me.”

 

: Lesson 2: One man’s junk is another Time Lord’s Blinovitch moment-:

“This is my “timey-wimey” detector. Goes ding when there’s stuff. Also, it can boil an egg at thirty paces…whether you wanted to or not actually, so I’ve learned to stay away from hens.”

It results that there is a vital component to the “timey-wimey detector” machine that he’s building that doesn’t exist on Earth in this era. Fortunately, he’s lived in this time; he knows where he can find an acceptable equivalent - even if it does involve a bit of personal theft.

Unfortunately, that component lies smack in the centre of I. M. Foreman’s junkyard on Totter’s Lane.

The place will be gone by the 1990’s, but it’s still standing in 1969. He counts his good fortunes that his first and seventh selves were long gone by this year. Still, it’s close enough that the hair on the back of his neck bristles on end when he touches the weathered wood of the junkyard gate.

It’s hard to ignore the tingle crawling up his skin that heralds the minute vibrations of crossed timelines.

He pushes all nostalgia into the back of his mind and locks his fingers together to give Martha a hand up and over the top of the wall.

 

: Lesson 3: Friendship is Clarke’s Law-:

Time travel without a capsule. Nasty. Catch your breath. Don't go swimming for half an hour.

Ian and Barbara live in this time. Temptation pulls at him to visit them, but he resists. He’s seen them from afar in his old bodies. They’ve even met his third self, in the 70’s, by way of Liz’s introduction to her favorite professors at Cambridge. But that’s years away. The Ian and Barbara of now are still settling into a life away from the TARDIS.

They don’t yet know the consequences of using that Dalek timeship.

They don’t know regeneration; they wouldn’t be able to reconcile the old man he was with the younger face he now wears.

They would want to know about Susan.

(How can he face them after the War?)

The choice is removed from his hands, because Time is a fickle mistress. Somehow, he is not surprised to find a couple of former school teachers picnicking near Wester Drumlins the weekend he and Martha set out for a bit of vandalism in the name of predestined paradox.

He was right; they greet him with the same faces he watched vanish into the Vortex, not enough years between then and now to yet notice the effects of their unshielded time travel.

He was right; it takes a bit of explanation, to both Martha and his oldest companions, before they accept his new face as the same old Doctor, and longer still to exact a promise that they will not reveal this information to his future past-self in several years time.

He was right, and Martha watches him speak to them of his granddaughter as if Gallifrey is still in the sky. This body is good at that, convincing others nothing is wrong. She says nothing to the contrary, but her eyes are full of empathy.

Martha and Ian mix plaster for the walls as Barbara helps him copy the message to Sally onto the crumbling concrete. Later, they invite them back for dinner. He is never more thankful when their detector goes off, and they have to track down Billy Shipton’s arrival.

He isn’t sure how much longer he could’ve lied to them.

 

: Lesson 4: Jamais Vu means whatever you think it means-:

“Look, sorry, I've got a bit of a complex life. Things don't always happen to me in quite the right order.”

The guilt of their time in 1913 hangs like a cloud over the Doctor’s conscience. He promised Martha the universe, but all he’s been able to give her is one cage after another.

He’s trying to be better here, to be the protector Martha deserves against the backwards views of her fellow humans. (He senses he may be overdoing it, just a bit, if the irritated looks Martha gives him are any indication.) It can be difficult to find the balance between the sensibilities of the era and the freedom Martha is used to, and he swallows old-fashioned habits picked up in previous lifetimes as best he can.

St. Luke’s university is a large campus, but progressive enough that the Doctor bows out when Martha insists on showing Billy around the era that he will be living out his remaining days. There’s an itch under his skin, something he can’t put a finger on, and it frustrates him that it’s so familiar and unknown, all at once.

So he takes a stroll instead, wandering beneath the branches of oaks and aspens in the rare summer sunshine, dappled through the leaves to cast mosaics of light and shadow on the pavement.

A bald fellow in a maroon jacket, nose buried in an armful of workbooks, nearly collides with him if the Doctor hadn’t dodged; as it is, the fellow stumbles, mumbling an apology, and then does a startled double-take. Before the Doctor can utter a word the fellow squeaks and bolts, almost dropping his books in his haste to escape.

The Doctor almost goes after him. But Martha returns, looking tense and apprehensive, and that’s more of a concern. She refuses to speak about whatever happened while out of his sight, but he keeps catching sidelong glances, as if she’s studying him without being overt about it.

She hugs him when they return to their temporary housing, but never explains why.

It’s a mystery that will stick with him for centuries.

 

: Lesson 5: If you can’t trust yourself, trust your Future Self-:

“Yeah, listen, listen, got to dash. Things happening. Well, four things. Well, four things and a lizard.”

The lion-sized Reskeplins look a bit like dragons, if dragons looked like salamanders; orange and yellow, long and squat, with tentacle-y tendrils bearding their wide mouths and stubby fans of flesh sprouting from their sides which unfurl and flap in awe-striking displays of aggression.

It’s also the only time they rear up to expose their vunerable underbellies. The Doctor’s supply of tranquilliser-laden arrows can’t pierce the thick hide otherwise, and Martha is a dab shot with that bow and arrow, but not good enough to hit that mark amidst the flailing and screeching of an angry mother reptile.

The affair is going poorly until someone barrels a dairy lorry laden with canisters of milk into the middle of the Reskeplin nesting site, sending everything into chaos.

Three people leap from the truck back: a middle-aged man with a resigned expression, a young Indian woman with a highly amused grin, and a young man with dark skin who looks appropriately awed by the swarming Reskeplins as he passes down containers of some kind to his companions and the driver, a woman with short blonde hair.

“Sorry!” the driver shouts with a northern accent and a bright, excited grin, tugging her pale coat free from the mouth of one of the nestlings. A ring on her left hand catches the light as she uses a gardener’s weed-sprayer to liberally mist the horde with farm-fresh cream. “Figured you could use a hand!”

The Doctor is too busy to greet her, as the Reskeplin brood-mother has recovered from the shock and has made him the focus of her ire.

It turns out, the milk truck was just what they needed. Who knew that the Reskeplin’s unique biology meant inhaling vaporized bovine lactate could induce a state of calming lethargy akin to honeybees and wood-smoke?

Migrating brood safely tranquillised and in stasis aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor looks for the ones who rescued them.

They’re gone, as strangely as they appeared, and the air tastes of something he's not sensed in 900 years.

He means to investigate, but the Reskeplins need to be relocated, and there have been some odd temporal readings in the vicinity of Wester Drumlins that he’s been meaning to look into. And then-

The strange woman and her friends are quickly forgotten, as he works out how to get himself and Martha home from 1969.

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: Lesson 0: Sometimes the best place to begin is with Spoilers-:

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect. but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey...stuff.”

“My clothes are going to smell like spoiled milk for days,” Graham complained, flapping his damp shirt. “You had to spray me with that muck?”

“Well you were kinda being swarmed there,” Yasmin defended, enjoying herself immensely at the expense of her fellow TARDIS companion. “Aw, suck it up Graham, the TARDIS has fantastic showers.”

“Yes, and the sooner we’re back there, the better,” the Doctor said, urging them all along, her coat swishing a bit less dramatically than usual laden down with lizard-slobber and bovine lactate. "In about 10 minutes UNIT is going to show up to clean this up, and I'm already bending the continuum a bit too much by being here twice; no need to bring Kate into this six years before she's even met me."

“What’s the rush?” Ryan wondered. “And who was that fellow in the twiggy brown suit?”

“I’m afraid that was me,” the Doctor admitted, unlocking the TARDIS doors. “And if we don’t get out of here before I realise it, we’ll have to answer a few more questions than I remember answering, and probably blow a hole in the universe the size of New Zealand. No, Birmingham? Well, Manchester, at the very least.”

“That was you?” Graham repeated, baffled, while Yas snapped her fingers and exclaimed, “That’s what that bio-ring thing was for, yeah? Camouflage!”

“Well, yes,” the Doctor said, working to pull the band off her middle finger with a mild grimace as it was a bit too snug. “I couldn’t have myself realising I existed, not in this time period. A bio-damper only works from a distance for a Time Lord, though; I couldn’t get too close or I’d sense me anyway.”

“...Nope, too many personal pronouns. My head hurts,” Graham muttered, rubbing his temples. “I’m going to take a shower. No, a bath. A very, very long bath.”

“Drop your clothes in the laundry room,” the Doctor called after him, “the TARDIS will take care of the smell!”

“That’s a bit of confusion cleared up,” Ryan remarked, as the ring finally came loose with a cry of success from the Doctor. “I thought maybe you’d suddenly gotten married to one of us on that last planet or something and forgot to tell us.”

“Well I am married,” the Doctor said glibly, pocketing the ring and moving around the console.

“What?” “Really?”

“Of course I am. A wonderful, impossible woman, River Song is.” she beamed at her companions, and then paused. “Or, I was. Will be? Honestly, it’s a thing that needs flip-charts.” She flicked a few switches and set the TARDIS into flight. “She’s dead, been dead for a long time, but she still pops in for tea now and then.”

“Somehow, I’m not surprised,” Yas said, as though the whole mystery had been solved, and tugged Ryan’s arm. The man was still blinking his way around ‘dead, but visits often.’ “Come on Ryan, let’s see if Graham left us any hot water.”

The Doctor grinned to herself as they left, stroking fingers over a console panel. “Take care of them, will you dear?” She chuckled. “They haven’t quite got the hang of your charms yet.”

The TARDIS warbled fondly at her pilot as they spun lazily through the Vortex.

(And indeed, there was enough hot water for all.)