"Hellllllllo, Las Vegas!" The man stumbled out through the door, arms already held aloft in a victory pose, awaiting the thunderous applause that was about to greet...
The lone cricket who does contract work for all these sorts of occasions chirped to emphasize the complete lack of cheering audience. The man opened his eyes. He was in a garage.
"Hullo," he said, "this isn't the 25th anniversary concert of Panic! at the Disco, is it?"
A pair of small 13-year-old boys blinked back at him in stunned disbelief. One of them dropped a drumstick.
"Oh, I see, right," the man said. "I'll come back when you're a bit older, then, shall I?"
He disappeared back into the large blue phone box that had just materialized out of nowhere in the corner of the garage and now dematerialized again, leaving the space bare.
Spencer turned to Ryan with a puzzled frown.
"You have any idea who that was?" he asked, perplexed.
Ryan shrugged. "One of your grandma's friends?"
Spencer considered this. "He was wearing a bow-tie. That's pretty last century."
Ryan shrugged again and picked out a chord. "I dunno. Bow-ties are kinda cool."
"You ever heard of that band he mentioned?"
"What, Picnic at Desk O? They're not on myspace."
"Oh well. From the top?"
Time passed. In some places. In others it stood still, or went around in swirls and loops of the vortex, or got stuck in the flux invertor and made the temporal co-ordinates go all wobbly. Like most things in life, it all depends on where you're standing.
This time when the man stepped out of the box, he peeked out the door first and asked, "Excuse me, are you Panic! at the Disco?"
"Uh, yes?" said Brendon, shifting nervously from one foot to the other and wishing the other guys hadn't all gone to raid the fridge at the same time. It was hard enough being the new guy without having to act as spokesperson for the group.
"Brilliant!" The man beamed at Brendon, which just made him more nervous. "Knew I'd get it right sooner or later hang on, you're a bit small, aren't you? And weren't there more of you last time?"
"Um," said Brendon.
"Never mind!" the man said, and vanished into the blue box. When it disappeared a minute later with a whooshing sound, Brendon shook his head vigorously and decided that this was what happened when you stayed over and ate too much sugar at a friend's house. Maybe his parents had been on to something after all.
Time passed. Mostly. Some of it got muddled up, and tangled in the middle bits, and started fraying around the edges.
"I think I've got it worked out this time," announced the man in the tweed jacket as he stepped out into the venue dressing room, "one of you has been placed in a state of temporal flux by an unexpected divergence in the time-space-causality-probability-plausibility continuum, so you're just going to have to come with me so I can get you sorted. I'm the Doctor, by the way" he ground to a halt, noticing for the first time that things were not quite as he had expected. "Oh, hullo, who are you? You don't look like Panic! at the Disco."
"Doctor who?" asked the large, bald man who was, now one came to look at him properly, regarding the Doctor in a very unamused way indeed.
"Exactly," said the Doctor. "Nice to meet you, Mr...?"
"Just Zack," said Zack. "Do you have a backstage pass, Doctor?"
The Doctor flashed a piece of paper in an ID holder at him quickly. "I trust that is satisfactory?"
"That's a blank piece of paper," said Zack, not even bothering to look at it.
"How did you?" the Doctor asked, looking at the paper in consternation.
"I guarantee you there is nothing you can come up with that hasn't been tried by hundreds of teenage girls who claimed to be Brendon's secret girlfriend. Let me rephrase the question: Do you have a real backstage pass?" Zack asked.
"Ah, now, you see, that's an interesting question," the Doctor said, "because I do but I'm afraid it's not for this century. Would you accept one from 1987? That's pretty close to 2006, when you think about it. No? How about 2013? 2492? No, I see, I'll just be going then..."
Time passed, etc.
"Good afternoon, I'm the Doctor," said the Doctor, "and I'm here to save you from an imminent temperospatial event collapse and ensure that my reunion tour concert tickets don't become invalid."
A row of four unimpressed musicians with identical emo hairstyles stared blankly back at him. The Doctor did a quick head-count and determined that he had a complete set. Good.
"Did Pete send you?" asked the one on the far left.
"Aha, first album out, but new bassist, am I right?" said the Doctor. "I never could tell you apart in this era, which one are you?" He pointed to one of the four at random.
"Jon," said Jon. "And that's right. Did Pete send you?"
"No, wait, yes, who's Pete?" the Doctor asked. "Oh, of course, yes, Pete. Yes, he did. How do you do, I'm the Doctor, and I'm here to save your"
"You said that bit already," said one of the not-Jons flatly, but the Doctor wasn't paying any attention. He was peering very closely at the waistcoat of a different not-Jon, who fidgeted under the inspection.
"Looks like ...what is this, a bit of a Regency-influenced line, cabaret style, oh dear, that's a definite sign of temporal dislocation if I ever saw one. Tell me, small Panic boy," he asked the not-Jon, "have you spent any significant amounts of time in the 18th century?"
"Uh, I don't think so? And my name is Brendon," Brendon said, backing away slowly. "Could you please stop molesting my waistcoat? Zack doesn't let the fans take my clothes off."
"Ah, but I'm not a fan," the Doctor said, then paused and corrected himself. "Well, no, I am a fan, but that's not why I'm here. Well — no, that is why I'm here, but that isn't why I'm taking your clothes off. One of you is in a state of extreme temporal flux, and it's affecting all of you, even" he pulled something out of his pocket and pointed it at Brendon "your costumes. Now, Jon" He turned back to the one on the left, took more readings, and frowned. "Your sonic frequency is all wrong, why is my sonic screwdriver telling me that you aren't Jon Walker?" He peered at him suspiciously.
"Because I'm not Jon, I'm Ryan," said Ryan.
"Well, then why are you standing in Jon's place?" the Doctor demanded. "How am I supposed to keep track of you all if you keep moving about like that? I know, why don't you put yourselves in alphabetical order. Brendon, Jon, Ryan, Spencer..." he trailed off.
None of the boys were following his instructions. On the bright side, this meant they were standing still, which might help to remember which was which. Until they moved again.
"I know," he said brightly, "how would you feel about wearing name-tags?"
"Are you sure Pete sent you?" asked maybe-not-Jon.
"Yes, absolutely, of course he did," said the Doctor hastily. "Now, if you would all step in here, yes, I know it looks like a big blue box, but it's much bigger on the inside."
"Hang on," said maybe-not-Jon, "we've seen this guy before. Remember, Ryan? Years ago, that weirdo who showed up at practice..."
"Yeah," said probably-Ryan, "there's something fishy about all this."
"Listen, if you don't come with me now," said the Doctor desperately, "your band is going to break up inexplicably before you've even finished out your contract with Decaydance, your entire second album will be scrapped, the big bad wolf tour will never happen, and this is the really important bit the world will never know what 'The Pale Lavender Album' would have sounded like."
Another collective blank stare.
"You know, like the Beatles' White Album?" the Doctor added, to more blank looks. "It looks like I got here just in time. Don't tell me you haven't discovered the Beatles yet?"
Ryan shrugged. "What's so great about the Beatles?"
The Doctor looked at him sadly. "Ryan Ross, I cannot believe you just said that. Clearly I've arrived not a moment too soon, this time. How would you all like to go see the greatest band of all time well, the second greatest well, the greatest unless I can get you boys sorted out front-row tickets, back-stage passes, the works? Lennon's an old friend well, I say 'friend' still owes me a favour and a scarf. Aren't you coming?"
"Aren't the Beatles kind of... over-rated?" Ryan asked skeptically.
"Not a moment too soon," the Doctor repeated, corralling the boys into the blue box.
"It's bigger on the inside," Ryan said dutifully once they were all inside.
"Normally," said the Doctor testily, "people sound a lot more impressed when they say that. Awe-struck, even. Why don't you sound impressed?"
"Ryan doesn't really do awe," said the one attached to Ryan's hip.
"I think it's awesome," said another one, beaming at all the whirring, whizzing, spinning things on the console.
"You," said the Doctor, pointing to him, "what was your name again?"
"Brendon," said Brendon patiently.
"Brendon, you are my new favourite," the Doctor announced. "Can I convince you to wear a name tag so I can remember which one you are? Right, the rest of you, hold on to your hats, scarves, gloves, and other miscellaneous accessory items, because this is going to be fabulous."
Time gave up and went to go have a lie-down.
A busker sat on a sidewalk in Chicago, picking out strains of 60's music on a cracked and worn guitar. A few passersby tossed coins into the open guitar case on which he had propped his feet, probably to keep the snow from getting into his flip-flops.
"Can you play, 'All You Need is Love?'" asked a man who stopped to fish out his wallet with one hand while his girlfriend clung to the other.
The musician scratched his wildly tangled beard contemplatively then mumbled, "This one is dedicated to my cat Clover Dylan III, and it's called 'All You Need is Love and Cat-Food'."
He began to play a sad, poignant tune that detailed the story of the tragic day he didn't find the can opener in time. The couple watched in bemused disbelief until the chorus and then walked off in a huff, leaving behind only one spectator to listen to the remaining verses of feline lament.
"Oh Jon," said the solitary listener sadly, "Jon, Jon, Jon, Jon, Jon. There is such a thing as doing too many Beatles tributes. I am so, so sorry."
Time passed. Just not always in the right direction.
"Aha, I've worked it out!" the Doctor exclaimed, bursting out of the TARDIS and into...
"Ah, bit too early this time," he said as a baby... Jon? burbled up at him from a crib. "Something a little wonky with the navigation. Probably shouldn't have eaten all those biscuits in the control room, crumbs in the keyboard, that sort of thing. I'll come back later much later."
Time wound back to watch some repeats of its favourite shows while the man in the bow-tie played with the dial.
"It's all right, just me, nobody panic!" the Doctor announced. "You see what I because you're Panic! Never mind."
The musicians of Panic at the Disco, who could no longer stir up the sheer exclamatory energy to merit the extra punctuation, greeted the Doctor's appearance with wide-eyed exceptionally, almost psychotropically so — astonishment.
"Ah, still a little too hung up on the hippie lifestyle, I see," said the Doctor, picking his way through a carpet of flowers that he sincerely hoped had just been put down for the photoshoot. "My fault," he confessed to his apathetic audience, "I should have realized. One influence wasn't enough. Couldn't be, not for a truly nuanced musical style like yours... was should have been will be again. What you need now what we all need is a return to the classics. Music you can dance to. Dancing, that's the ticket, I love a good dance, don't you?" He clapped his hands excitedly.
"Doctor?" said Brendon at last, incredulously. "Are you back or am I just having another hallucination?"
"If you're hallucinating the dude with the big blue box," said Jon, "then I think we're having the same hallucination."
"Sweet," said Brendon, playing idly with some flowers and what appeared, on second-glance, to be one of his band-mates's headbands.
"If you're weaving more flowers into my hair, Brendon," said Spencer, who was taking a nap on some tulips, "I'm going to have to murder you, and I really don't want to have to move right now."
Brendon hastily withdrew his fingers and transferred their activity to another head that was lying next to Spencer's. Ryan swatted at him aimlessly but made no further objection to being garlanded, so Brendon settled down happily to his task.
The Doctor sighed and took a seat to wait for their buzz to wear off. Maybe he could lure them back into the TARDIS with promises of food once the 'munchies' set in.
If you would care to leave a message after the tone, Time will get back to you as soon as possible.
"So this is the 18th century?" Spencer asked doubtfully, peering through the crack in the door that lead into the ballroom. Music filtered back to him, old music, music that was nothing like they did. It was music you could dance to, maybe, but it didn't have much of a drum beat.
He kept tugging on his red velvet jacket, which Ryan and the Doctor swore looked right for the period, but their own choices of clothing weren't exactly reassuring at the moment; the Doctor was still wearing the same tweed coat and bow-tie he always did; Ryan was wearing...
"I know Brendon said it would go with the flowers," said Spencer hesitantly, not wanting to offend anyone, "but are you sure that's what you want to wear?"
"I think he looks pretty," said Jon, patting Ryan's shoulder affectionately. Brendon agreed eagerly, though that was probably just because he was proud of his work on Ryan's hair-do.
"You know how I feel about gender norms," Ryan told Spencer reprovingly, hitching up the front of his dress and peering down the front of it. "Though I think you may be right about the fit. It's a little off."
"That's because the person it was made for hadboobs, Ryan." Spencer rolled his eyes. "You should have taken one with a smaller bust measurement."
Ryan glared. "This one suited my colouring better. Doesn't anyone have a sock or something?"
Brendon gallantly removed his and handed them to Ryan, who accepted them after a cursory sniff.
Spencer groaned. "This is such a bad idea."
"What are you talking about?" the Doctor said. "This is the best bit. On the other side of that door is a world you can't even imagine, a world of romance and dancing and brilliant, sparkling wit I hope one of you brought a lyrics notebook." He looked hopefully at Ryan, then turned away in slight embarrassment as he noticed that Ryan was still busily engaged in stuffing his bosom.
"All right, ready to go?" he asked a minute later, when Jon had stopped patting Ryan's chest experimentally to see if anything was going to fall out. "Geronimo!"
They burst out into the ballroom and the Doctor grabbed Ryan's hands to swing him into the next movement of the dance.
A few minutes later, they burst back through the door and ran pell-mell into the TARDIS.
"I told you that was a bad idea," Spencer puffed as he collapsed on one of the console chairs. "They had swords."
"If you knew it was such a bad idea, then why did you punch the big one?" Jon asked mildly.
"He impugned Ryan's honour!" Brendon piped up. "You can't expect Spencer to let something like that go unanswered."
Ryan sulked the rest of the way home and then went to go revise some lyrics about how hard it was to fall in love when guys were such assholes.
Time came back from holiday and found, much to its astonishment, that someone had tidied up about the place. Slightly. It was still a mess, but there was a small oasis of calm in the middle that smelled faintly of lavender.
"Hellllllllo..." the voice paused, and a head poked out tentatively from the wings of the stage. "Uh, is this Las Vegas?" he asked a passing tech.
"Are you supposed to be back here?" the tech demanded, doing a double-take at the head emerging from a big blue prop that no one had informed her about.
"Yes, I do believe I am," the head replied. The body attached to it strolled out and locked the blue box thing.
"Can I see your pass, then?" the tech asked skeptically, already motioning discreetly to security. It was amazing what some people would try to get back-stage, but she'd never seen someone actually smuggle an enormous fake prop in before. It didn't even match the set-design; the big phone box on the stage was pink, everyone knew that.
"Absolutely, got it right here," announced the intruder happily, flashing an ID badge at her and the security guard who strolled over to join them. "I also have—" he rummaged in his jacket pockets and produced a crumpled piece of paper "—an autograph, isn't that cool? I think it's cool."
The tech shook her head and gave up. It wasn't her job to deal with weird fans, that was security's problem. She went to go check the connections on the sound board.
A little while later, she wandered back and found, much to her surprise, that the stranger from before was now surrounded by an excited group of the headliner band members, who seemed to be trying to drag the man bodily into the blue prop.
"No, I really can't," he was saying, extraordinarily flustered. "Look, I really just came for the concert, I don't know if now's a good time I mean, I can probably get you back in time, but do you want to risk missing your big entrance? Think of all the disappointed fans let me tell you, I remember this one fondly, I don't want to have to remember missing it instead. Can we at least have a chaperone!"
His voice was drowned out as the blue box slammed shut with the guy and the band all inside it. Well, maybe it was part of the show. It would be nice if someone told the techs what the hell was going on with the staging, but no one thought of these things.
Oh no, not again.