It had been a long day of Avengering, and everyone else on the team had passed out upstairs after eating takeout. Tony was hunched over a repulsor he'd been trying to miniaturize when there was a really weird screech-whump noise from the far side of his workshop. When he looked up, there was a blue police call box, like he’d seen when visiting London with his folks as a kid. He looked at the call box for a while. Looked at the clock. Looked at the sensor array for JARVIS in the corner.
“JARVIS, you seeing this?”
“Ah, if you mean the… police call box? In the corner of your shop, then yes, my sensors have indeed found one.” Pause. “It was not there five minutes ago. I have no record of it entering.”
Tony noded thoughtfully, then took a sniff of his coffee. Nope. No booze. Last time he’d done LSD, the hallucinations had been NOTHING like this. So. “Huh.”
The door of the call box burst open, and a guy in a tweed suit and his hair on end jumped out. “Right! New York!” He glanced around, and his eyes landed on Tony. “Tony Stark! Just the man I’ve been looking for.” He walked over, grabed Tony’s hand, and shook it a couple times.
“Uh.” Tony said.
“I’ve always been an admirer of your work. Brilliant. The repulsors. So much incredible work based on those, use the underlying theory myself, every day. And the Thanos thing was bloody clever.” The guy stared, paced, poked into Tony’s stuff.
“Thanos?” Tony asked.
“Ah.” The guy cleared his throat. “What year is it again?”
“Twenty fourteen.” Tony answered automatically, as a young blonde woman exited the police box. “Who are you again?”
“He’s the doctor.” The woman said simply. “I’m Rose. It’s a huge honor to meet you, Mister Stark.” She shook his hand too.
“Doctor Who?” Tony asked.
“Exactly!” the guy said cheerfully.
Tony sniffed his coffee again. Still no booze in there.
DUM-E rolled up, beeping, with fire extinguisher raised. “Oh, hello!” the woman – Rose – said brightly. “You must be DUM-E. I have heard so much about you!” She held out a hand like people do with dogs, beaming.
DUM-E, the traitorous pile of bolts, put down the extinguisher, examined her for a long moment, then shook her hand.
Tony drank the rest of the coffee, hoping there WAS booze in it.
“Such a gentleman!” Rose cooed at DUM-E. “I don’t suppose you have any tea about, do you? It’s so hard to get sometimes.” DUM-E chirped happily. “Oh, there is? Lovely. Could you show me?” DUM-E carefully took her hand and began pulling her toward Tony’s kitchenette. “Would you like a cup, Mister Stark?” she called.
What the hell. “Coffee please.” he answered helplessly. He turned to the guy who was currently-- SOLDERING SOMETHING IN THE REPULSOR HE’S BEEN WORKING ON. “What in the hell? Do you mind?”
“Sorry, sorry. I haven’t worked on tech like this since I was a boy. Takes me back.” A frown moved over his face, then he visibly shook it off and went on. “I was hoping you could help me with a bit of a repair job on me old TARDIS.”
“TARDIS.” Tony repeated.
“Yes, yes.” He waved a hand at the police box. “We’ve had a bit of an… adventure, let’s say, yes, it was an adventure, wasn’t it Rose?” he called, going on when she called back an affirmative. “We sustained a bit of damage, nothing major, some shielding pulled out, you know how it is, tow truck, chains, warping causality. We need the grate bit welded back in.”
The guy clearly believed whatever he was saying, and Tony would like to call bullshit on the entire thing, but there ARE two people and a police box in his workshop who weren’t there ten minutes ago. Assuming he was awake. He was not convinced. “You want me to fix… whatever that is.”
“Yes!” He clapped his hands, bounced on his toes. “Just a bit of welding will do it, spot here, spot there. Little bit of titanium-osmium alloy, no problem.” He made a waving gesture to the call box.
“Titanium-osmium alloy doesn’t exist.” Tony said slowly.
“Oh come now, you synthesized vibranium in your basement, what is this ‘can’t exist’ nonsense?” The guy asked.
Rose edged up and slid a mug of coffee toward Tony, then went off with DUM-E on what appeared to be a tour of the work shop, chatting with him naturally, as if she spoke to robots every day.
It was the best coffee he’d ever tasted. “How do you know about the vibranium?”
The guy stopped acting like a used car salesman and got a tiny bit more serious. “Where I come from, everyone knows that.” He turned to look back at the call box for a long moment, turned again. “I need the shielding grate put back in, and can’t do it. I need help and you’re the best qualified person nearby.”
Tony nodded at that, wondering exactly what ‘nearby’ meant to this guy. “Does it travel in time, or just space?” He asked, not expecting an answer.
The guy brightened up again, clapped him on the shoulder. “Now there’s Tony bloody Stark! It does both. Time And Relative Dimension In Space.”
It was beginning to make sense. Sort of. If you left everything you knew about physics at the door and rolled with it. “You’re not from around here?”
Another frown, another dark moment, and then the guy shook his head gently. “No. A long way away. In every sense.” He brightened again. “Rose is from London, though, do you want her to translate?”
“JARVIS?” Tony sighed.
The guy grinned hugely and looked up at the ceiling, then spun around to look at walls until he found a sensor array and faced it. “JARVIS! History’s first sentient AI. It is an honor, a true honor.”
“Thank you.” JARVIS said cautiously. “...Doctor.”
“Can you scan the… TARDIS for me?” Tony asked. Might as well get a sense of what he was getting into. Maybe it would be a dozen pink elephants and he could go back to sleep.
“Ah. Only the outer dimensions of it, I’m sorry.” JARVIS said. “The interior is… void.”
“Void what?” Tony asked. “Empty space?”
“No. Empty space in a planetary atmosphere means atmosphere and all it contains. The interior of the TARDIS is scanning as absolutely nothing.” JARVIS explained.
Tony let that sort of… sit in his brain for a minute. “So let me get this straight. You came to me, probably from the distant future, or at least a distant part of reality, for me to fix your time machine.”
“Yes, that sums it up neatly, rather.”
“Why can’t you do it?” Tony finally demanded.
“Ah.” He held up his hands, rubbed the fingers to the thumbs. “New hands. Don’t have the hang of them yet. And I really need to get the old girl fixed before we do anything else.”
“And why can’t Rose do it?” Tony asked, trying to remain patient.
“Um.” He looked around, at his feet, at Rose talking to U and DUM-E, his fingers, the microwave. “You need to do it blindfolded.”
Tony went for more coffee and the whiskey bottle.
“I am telling you, there is nothing in this shop that will produce the temperatures we need to weld this stuff together. Not in the consistent way we need.”
“Of course there is, we just need to finish your mini repulsor over there, and what do you call it, hotwire it a bit.”
“Assuming that works and we don’t slag ourselves, it still won’t focus the beam enough for real precision work like you need.”
“Ah. Have you ever heard of a sonic lens?”
“I can’t do it by touch, the damn thing will be at least eight thousand degrees.”
“Wear gloves for heavens’ sake, you’re Tony Stark, how do you not know that?”
“What in hell can I feel through gloves thick enough to withstand those kinds of temperatures?”
“Oh, right, right.” Pause. “Do you have any graphene laying about? And some silver?”
“Everyone experiences time in a line, so that’s how they think of it, but really it’s more like string, and can be balled up.”
“Does space ball up along with it?”
“Oh now, that’s a fine question, innit?”
“Quit saying wibbly-wobbly.”
“But it IS!”
“You can’t possibly take off the blindfold.”
“Then you’re gonna have to figure out how to hold this damned thing in place while I weld it.”
“Do you think DUM-E would like some heat shielding? Perhaps some extra sensors?”
“Turing save me.”
“Oh, have you met him then? Brilliant. Just brilliant. Shame, though.”
“If you yell about reversing the polarity one more time, I will not be responsible for my behavior.”
“Well, it looks okay, but since I can’t mag it and you won’t let me zyglo it, we’ll have to poke at it with our fingers and hope.” Tony sighed, wiping his hands on a rag. This may have possibly been the best night ever. He hoped he remembered the dream in the morning; if half of it even partially worked, it’d transform, well, everything.
“It’s a beautiful job.” The Doctor assured him. “It’s been a pleasure working with you.”
“Yeah.” Tony nodded gamely. “Me too. Really interesting.” He’d decided to act like this was real, even though he was 99% sure it wasn’t. Just that tiny sliver of hope in him that it was, that these things were possible, well. He hadn’t had hope for the future in a long time. He’d keep it while he could.
Rose was saying goodbye to DUM-E and U, hugging them both as if she dealt with robots every day. Hell, maybe she did. “I made a pot of tea for Doctor Banner, it’s in the kitchenette under a shop rag for a cosy.”
“I’ll point it out to him.” Tony told her. She’d kept him supplied with coffee all night and helped at least as much as the bots did. “If you ever want a job as a lab assistant, look me up.”
She brightened like the sun. “Oh! What a lovely offer. I’ll definitely keep it in mind.”
“We’re off then!” The Doctor announced. Rose kissed Tony on the cheek, patted DUM-E again, and hopped inside. The Doctor started to turn away, paused, turned back. Grasped Tony’s arm, hard. “In that ball of time I was talking about? Some things are fixed points. Knots, maybe. They WILL occur, and they are not our failing, that we didn’t stop them happening.” Then he nodded briskly, slammed the door after him, and screech-thump.
Tony looked at the ceiling. “JARVIS, did that actually happen?”
“Yes, sir.” JARVIS assured him. “I took the liberty of recording it all so you’d have access to the information later. Some of it seemed invaluable.”
“Cool. Thanks. I’m going back to sleep.” He dropped onto the couch he kept in the back corner.
“You were never asleep, Sir. Sir?”
He opened his eyes, and Bruce was bending over him. “Where’d you get this tea? It’s incredible.” He sipped out of a small, blood red bowl, held between two fingers and his thumb. “And the pot and cup are insane. Is this stuff real? Why in hell are you serving tea in museum pieces?”
Tony sat up. Tea. He ran his hands up into his hair and pulled on it a bit. He’d had the weirdest fucking dream. And… Rose had left tea for Bruce. His head snapped around. There, on his work bench, was the finished repulsor, some weird-looking gloves, and a flake of metal he thought might possibly be titanium-osmium alloy.
“Tony, are you okay?