The Way Things Are
It was early afternoon when Archie and Edith Bunker’s car was kept from zooming down the highway towards the other side of town because of the annoying thudding of a flat tire.
“Well, how about that, Edith,” complained Archie as he pulled his late model chevy over to the side of the road. Cars zoomed by on the highway while Archie made his way to the rear of the car to confirm his prognosis. The rear passenger tire was indeed quite flat. The problem was, his back had been giving him problems and no doubt if he stooped over to change the flat he indeed would simply have more back problems. He looked around the highway, and suddenly his eyes landed on what he was looking for though he had to admit it was a strange looking phone booth not to mention the fact being located on the shoulder of a busy expressway was really weird. But never one to look a gift horse in a mouth he proceeded to make his way to his wife’s side of the car.
“Edith, you need to come with me to that phone booth over there,” said Archie thumbing in the direction behind them. “I don’t have any change, and besides you’re the only one who can get that lazy bum of a son-in-law to anything worth doing for us.”
As usual, Edith didn't complain, she just grabbed her purse and got out of the car as he backed out of the way of the car door. Sometimes his wife acted as if not all her knives were in the draw but the woman was a saint and would do anything to make him happy. “Oh…it’s cold out here, Archie,” she complained, drawing her coat closer to her and then shoving the car door closed behind her.
“Of course, it’s cold out here, Edith,” said Archie, rolling his eyes at her astute observation of the weather conditions. “its friggin January,” he said as he took her hand and led her towards blue junkie looking phone booth that for some strange reason was labeled as a police box. “And we’re going to freeze to death if that meathead son-in-law of ours doesn’t get off his duff and come out here and help us.”
“Of course, Michael will come and help us, Archie,” replied Edith as they finally arrived at the pathetic looking wooden phone booth.
“Well, at least, one of us has blind faith in the Meathead,” retorted Archie as he held his free hand out towards his wife. “Got a quarter?”
“Sure,” said Edith digging into her purse. After several minutes of searching, Edith Bunker managed to find one and handed it to her husband.
Archie smiled at his wife and stuffed an unlit cigar in his mouth and tried to open the phone booth door. “What the hell is this?”
“What is it, Archie?” asked Edith.
“Can’t you see?” Archie replied gruffly to his wife. “The door to this thing is stuck. It won’t open.” Then pushed against the other door and the door swung inwardly leaving a small space to for him to climb into the phone booth.
“Come on in, Edith. I ain't taking any chances leaving you out here for any perverts to manhandle you,” said Archie pulling in his wife into the phone booth behind him.
“Oh Archie, what if I get claustrophobic or something,” she said as she walked in only to run into her the back of her husband. Edith took in the scene with wide open eyes.
“I don’t think there’s much chance of that, Edith,” he said looking around the spacious interior of the phone booth.
As always Edith said the first thing that came to mind; “Looks like one of those spacecraft things you see at the movies. You know like Star Wars or something like it.
Archie rolled his eyes heavenward and shook his head. His wife could be such a ditz sometimes. “This here ain't no UFO or anything like that, Edith,” Archie explained looking around, not really having made up his mind what the room really was. But his mind reached for something feasible, something it could be rather than some stupid UFO. “You’re crazy, Edith, if you believe this thing is a spacecraft,” he said ready to debunk her theory about what this place was. “This is one of those newfangled subway cars, you see. That’s what this is.”
“Oh I don’t know, Archie,” Edith said doubtfully, looking around at the large white walls that were inlaid with plastic bevels. She never had seen such a design before. Not even at the art deco store. The hexagonal table that had all sorts levers, knobs and buttons on it. It even had a couple of television screens in it! Whoever these people were who made this subway car, as Archie called it, forgot to put in one very important part. “Doesn't it seem a little strange for a subway car to be missing seats for the passengers to sit down on?”
This was an observation Archie Bunker had missed out on. Leave it to Edith to point out something so obvious to him that was missing right from under his nose. “Well, ain't that something,” said Archie still looking around the subway car just in case he missed out on something. “What kind of a moron would design a subway car without a place for anyone to sit down in it?”
Archie jumped when someone behind him cleared their throat. Archie whirled around and found himself facing a blond young man of about thirty-something. He was dressed in some pansy-ass duds and a sweater. And since when did people wear celery on their jacket? Well, apparently this must be the moron who designed the subway car. “Might I enquire as to what you are doing in my TARDIS?” the young man asked him.
“Your what?” asked Archie.
Right, then a short brown haired young woman came through the doorway the moron was standing in front of. “Doctor, I—” she stopped long enough to take in the scene. She was wearing a short enough dress that would have made Gloria blush. The young woman looked up at the moron and then back at them. “Who are they?” she asked.
Oh, wonderful. They were both foreigners. From what he could tell the man was from England and his wife was from…somewhere else. The place that had a load of Kangaroos. Austria or something.
“Actually, we haven’t been properly introduced, yet, Tegan,” said the moron.
“How about we start with us? I’m the Doctor,” said the moron extending his hand out for a handshake. “…and she’s Tegan.”
Archie took the moron’s hand and shook it. It would have been rude not to and Edith was on had been on her manner’s kick all week. “I’m Archie Bunker and that’s my wife over there,” Archie said nodding over to where Edith stood behind him like a scared rabbit. “Edith.” Archie let go of the moron’s hand and looked around. “So…uh…what’s up with this place?” he asked.
The moron or the Doctor as he had called himself didn't look very happy. Well, he had to admit to himself that had he had a wife like Tegan he wouldn't be very happy himself being interrupted in the middle of whatever they had been doing behind that door. “This place is…our home. We like to call it the TARDIS.”
Now Archie thought to himself that was a bit strange naming one’s house. But why on Earth would the two of them live in a subway car. Then it hit him. They were illegal aliens or something like that. “The TARDIS, eh?” he said, backing cautiously closer to Edith who was standing near the table in the middle of their home. He wondered how the hell either one of them expected someone to eat off a table like that. “Got a phone?” he ventured.
“No,” said the moron—Doctor.
“What kind of place is this if it ain't got a phone?” Archie countered. This guy must really be a moron to live place without a phone. But then he remembered why he came into this weird place first. Which really didn't make any more sense. These two were pretty desperate if they were living in a phone booth that somehow led to a subway car, and he wasn't about to give them a single dime. It was bad enough that the IRS was on his case every year about paying taxes, all he had to do was get mixed up with these two and the government would take everything he had. Then where would he and Edith of them be? In a rest home, just where the Meathead wanted you and Edith, he thought to himself.
“This isn’t really a place,” the guy’s wife explained. “It’s a spacecraft.”
“I told you, Archie,” said Edith excitedly. “I told you it was a spacecraft just like in Star Wars.”
“Will you can it, Edith.” That woman was just as bonkers as his wife was. “I’m talking here.”
“Tegan’s right, this is a sort of a spacecraft. TARDIS is an acronym for—” the Doctor explained.
“Rackety old crate,” the young girl piped up, laughing. The moron didn't seem to appreciate his wife’s critique on his handiwork. Archie laughed a little. At least, the Doctor’s wife was right about something. The place looked to be a strange combination of art deco and his cousin Marty’s garage.
“So what brings you two to Earth then?” asked Archie going along with the two loons’ game. What the hell? He had nothing better to do. And it was a far better cry than listening to his Meathead son-in-law’s ramblings about how wrong it was for him to have to bail them out of trouble again.
The Doctor walked closer to Archie until he was tolerably close enough to intimidate the elderly Earth man. “One might enquire how the two of you got into the TARDIS as well.”
“See me and Archie’s car,” explained Edith. “It had a flat tire and so he thought we could come in here and use the phone booth to call our son-in-law for help.”
“I see,” said the Doctor. He smiled and then turned and faced Tegan and looked her straight in the eyes. “Sound familiar?”
Of course, Tegan responded to his question with a glare instead of words. He hadn't expected much else from her. “Anyway, perhaps I can help you,” said the Doctor moving over to the console and shifting the lever to the viewer to on. Outside was a typical North American highway, save the broken down vehicle that rested on the shoulder of the road.
“That’s our car,” yelled Edith from where she remained partially hidden behind her husband’s back. “How can we see our car from here?” she questioned naturally.
He was impressed with her question. But only slightly. Most of the time he would have taken the time to explain how the outside viewer worked but he really wanted the older couple to leave. He had repairs to finish and he really hadn't the time for a lengthy chat about the viewer.
“It’s technical,” the Doctor simply replied to Edith’s question. Basically saying to the elderly Earth couple in a friendly manner that they were most likely too ignorant to understand the details anyway.
“You don’t say,” said Archie, sardonically as he leaned—
“No,” shouted the Doctor frantic to prevent what was about to happen from happening. “Don’t lean there.”
But it was too late the elderly gentleman had already leaned against the one control that he rather not anyone lean on, sending the TARDIS zooming through time and space.
“What the hell just happened?” asked Archie not sure why the subway car or the spacecraft or whatever they were in had just lurched in what it felt like an up direction. Something in the middle of the table was now going up and down. It looked like something like an oval candelabra with its lights in the center going off and on. It looked like something that fella Liberace would own to simply entertain himself with.
“More importantly, where’s our car, Archie?” Edith asked pointing at the viewscreen. He looked over at it and saw something that looked like a picture of stars and other space stuff. The Doctor moved over to a certain part of the table and looked at one of the televisions. What a helluva time to watch TV, when our car apparently disappeared somewhere. What a moron, thought Archie.
“Your car is still on Earth, about three million years into the past,” the Doctor pronounced as if he were God or something.
“What?” asked Archie not quite understanding what the moron was saying. Sometimes the British were just plain weird, Archie proclaimed to himself.
“He’s being technical again,” said the Doctor’s better half, giggling at some unknown joke.
“Well whoopee-do,” said Archie in his characteristic tone of non-excitement. “Just get us back to our car. I don’t want it stolen,” demanded Archie.
Tegan laughed again. “I think it’s a bit too late to prevent that from happening. Like three million years too late.”
“Tegan...” the Doctor warned. 'There's no need in panicking this wonderful couple any further."
Archie looked at the Doctor fellow. So he could keep his woman in line after all. Well, it was good to know that there were some constants in the universe where men were concerned. But the Doctor looked as if he was about to go overboard on his wife.
“Hey, Mr. Fancy Pants, calm down. Your wife over there was just having a bit of fun at our expense,” said Archie pretended chuckle at her little joke. But that all stopped the moment he said the word wife. The girl's laughter behind him had stopped and the Doctor’s glare only intensified towards him this time.
“Tegan is NOT my wife,” said the Doctor. Archie closed his eyes and mentally counted to ten. There were some things left better unsaid in front of Edith, and that was one of them. Edith, bless her heart, understood many things, and could understand most of the paradigm shift of morals that was happening in America. But living with a guy and not being married to him was not one of them. Yes, he was against it too, but he had always thought that it was okay as long as Edith never knew. And now she did and there would be no way in hell of stopping her from harassing the young lady about her living arrangements with this English alien bozo.
“But what about our car, Archie?” Well, except, maybe that.
The English gent looked at Edith and smiled. “Your car is perfectly fine. I’m just reversing the coordinates and we shall land where we had been before,” he informed her cordially. First, he has the pretty little gal doing whatever they do together and now he was on the make with his wife. What kind of jackass was this guy?
“Why didn't you do that for me?” asked the Tegan girl getting all cozy with the Doctor. Well, that sort of made sense. Maybe he was her personal physician or something. One of those GYN OBs or something like that. That’s one thought that wasn't going to make it out of his mouth. He knew better. Tegan would find herself being forced into their car by Edith herself had he said something like that. And the Doctor guy look pissed off enough as it was. It certainly wasn't any of his business what went on between the two of them.
“Because,” the English dude said, “I didn't know you were on the TARDIS before I had taken off for Logopolis, Tegan.” There were glares and then there were glares. The types that can make a man’s skin crawl into submission. That’s the way Tegan was looking at the Doctor making him shrink just enough to where he had to find something else to do or be forced to admit he was wrong. “Uh…I shall return shortly,” said the Doctor making his way behind Tegan and to the door. “Please…do not touch anything on the console.” And then that was that. The Doctor had managed to squeeze his way out of the situation just like he had done thousands of times with Edith in the past.
“Well, I can’t believe a perfectly nice girl like you living in sin with…your friend,” said Edith addressing Tegan. It was just like a scrabble game. Shake her up and the words just came tumbling out on their own accord, without much thought given to other people’s feelings.
Tegan opened her mouth to reply but Archie cut her off; “That’s enough, Edith. The girl looks like she’s perfectly happy living with fancy pants in this…whatever it is. Give it a rest will ya?”
“I’m just saying that it’s strange for a girl to be living with a man without being married to him.” God bless his wife, but sometimes she could be such a pain in the ass.
“It isn't strange, Edith,” said Archie before Tegan could reply. “Not everybody has the ability to stay married to the same guy for thirty years.”
“You mean like Mrs. Shoemaker who married three times?’ Edith pointed out.
Archie shook his head. Some days he wondered if God would be kind enough to send her to the Wizard of Oz so he could hand her a brain. “Mrs. Shoemaker was married three times because she was a widow twice, Edith. You’re comparing apples with oranges here.”
Edith truly looked befuddled. “What do apples and oranges have to do with any of this, Archie?”
The woman was driving him insane with this conversation. “Nothing, Edith! I was just saying comparing Tegan situation here with Mrs. Shoemaker’s isn't the same.”
“Of course, they’re not comparable, Archie. Tegan is much younger than Mrs. Shoemaker.”
“I give up,” said Archie, throwing his hands up in surrender. The woman was being unreasonable.
That’s when Tegan butted into the conversation. “The Doctor’s my friend not my lover, Mrs. Bunker. Besides, I don’t think he’s even interested in me.”
Archie again looked up as if he was asking God for strength and shook his head. Here we go again.
“Oh you poor girl, I’m sure he finds you attractive. Ain't she attractive, Archie.”
Now he was going to hear about his answer all the way home when Edith was boohooing about how he wasn't attracted to her anymore. And if he didn't answer truthfully she’d only nag him until he went crazy and bust out of this joint before they landed or whatever they were in the process of doing. So he gave his usual, “Yeah. Yeah. Sure, whatever you say, Edith,” answer.
“See, even Archie thinks you’re pretty,” said Edith, nodding. “And he’s old enough to be your grandfather,” said Edith. Archie could feel that stinging pain of his ego being bashed to hell and back, not to mention he could have sworn he could hear someone in the distance…laughing <i>at him</i>.
Tegan laughed at Edith’s comment. The one that made him feel too old to be going through this shit. “It’s not a confidence problem. It’s the Doctor. I think he’s rather asexual.”
That look crossed Edith’s face. The look of the wires in her brain didn't seem to make a connection. And then she looked his way. Dear God did she look lost as a babe in the woods. “What does asexual mean, Archie?”
“It means,” said Archie trying to think of a nice way of saying it. ”It means, Edith, that the Doctor’s door swings both ways.”
With a crook of a painted eyebrow, the meaning of what he said seemed to dawn on her. “You mean he’s double hinged?”
“Oh boy.” Archie Bunker ran his hands down his face in frustration while Tegan burst out laughing again. “No, it doesn't mean he’s double hinged. It means he likes both girls and boys.” There that should do the trick. If she didn't get it then she’d never understand.
“I’m afraid that’s not quite what asexual means, either, Mr. Bunker,” laughed Tegan. “It means that I believe the Doctor likes no one quite like he likes himself.”
Edith shook her head in response and said; “Someone should warn him about that. He could go blind!” The only response she got from Tegan was a hardy belly laugh. Seeming to believe that Tegan wasn't quite convinced of the danger of ‘liking’ oneself, “Ain't that right, Archie? Tell her—”
The girl was absolutely out of control with her laughter then. “Will you just shut up for once, Edith?” Archie warned his wife. He couldn't believe his bubble-headed wife had said that. In front of a stranger even! But this was Edith; she was capable of saying anything at any time and not realizing what exactly she was saying to people.
“I don’t think—” said Tegan between laughs as she began to calm down. “I don’t the two of you have anything to worry about concerning the Doctor or myself. He’s perfectly harmless when it comes to that aspect of life. I’ll be fine,” said Tegan finally calming down as the candelabra-thing in the center of the table stopped going up and down. Edith probably had something to say about that thing but he wasn't going to ask. Not ever.
Without much of a hiya-do, the Doctor burst in on them carrying a toolbox; the tools rattling inside. Well, at least, he hadn't heard anything that Edith had said.
Edith pointed at the television on the wall again. “Look, Archie, it’s our car again. Just like we left it.” Archie looked over his shoulder and saw that it was. “Well, what do you know? Small miracles do happen,” said Archie. He looked at the Doctor in time to see that ‘fancy pants’ was pissed off again. The man needed a beer or something; he was too tense for his own good.
The Doctor appeared to force a smile turned and grabbed the hat that had been dangling on the coat rack thing near the door. “Shall we go and fix your tire then, Mr. Bunker?”
To the Doctor’s credit, despite the bad company he and Edith had been during their stay in his spaceship the young man was willing to help. That showed that the young Doctor had a civil upbringing. When life smacks you in the face turn the other cheek, though Archie preferred to smash life in the face when that happened.
“Sure,” he said but before he left the spacecraft he turned to his wife who was already following him out the door. “Stay in here where it’s warm, Edith. It won’t take us long to change the tire.” It was in that moment he realized why they had stayed together so long; she looked at him as if he was her knight in shining armor. He could date a thousand dames but he could probably never find someone who adored him like she had all their married life. He didn't even want to imagine what life would be without her. Bah, what was he thinking, he silently scoffed at the thought of losing her to the grim reaper first. He was going to go before her. He was sure of it.
With that in mind, he turned and headed out the door to slay the dragon, that is, to fix the flat tire on their car.
When he arrived at his car he popped the trunk and searched around and found the tire iron while the Doctor squatted in front of the bad tire. Then Archie heard a loud buzzing noise coming from where the Doctor was at.
He leaned over and looked at the young man. The toolbox was open and the Doctor held something like a long red screwdriver in his hand, except it buzzed like a loud bee.
“What the hell is that?” Archie asked, leaning over to exactly what the Doctor was doing to the flat tire. But what was weird, is that the tire didn't look as flat as it had earlier. He decided he must be seeing things.
“This,” said the Doctor, as he used the ‘screwdriver’ that held in his hand again. “This is a Zarnian Freeweight. It senses where the damage is, removes the offending object from the tire, repairs all the damage to the tire, all while inflating it.” The Doctor said with a smile. “Handy little gadget when traveling long distances by car.” He used the thing in his hand again, but when he used it this time the tire inflated all the way back up and looked as if it had never been flat.
“There we go, I wouldn't say it’s good as new but it’s close,” said the Doctor with a prideful smile.
Archie took the now lit cigar in his out of his mouth. “Can you do that to the spare?” asked Archie, hooking a thumb towards the trunk of the car.
The Doctor smiled. “Of course.”
Edith was worried as Archie slammed the trunk to the car as after the Doctor and Archie looked as if they had found something else in the trunk to fix. She had noted that the young man never took off the flat tire but since Archie wasn't throwing a fit about it, she guessed it was okay.
She turned to the young lady who hadn't taken her eyes off of the blond young man. She felt for the girl. She really did. Clearly, she liked the young man who she said she was only traveling with. “Your friend is really nice,” said Edith. It was all she could think of to say without forcing the issue of marriage again.
Tegan laughed as the two men were heading back to the TARDIS. “Oh, the Doctor has his moments.”
The two women heard the doors to the TARDIS open. “Come on, Edith, we’re leaving,” announced Archie as soon as he entered the TARDIS.
“Are you sure you won’t stay for tea?” asked the Doctor as he hung up his hat back on the same coat rack.
“Tea? At this time of day?” And not to mention what had just happened to them? “I need a beer. Let’s go, Edith,” he said, yanking on Edith’s hand, pulling her through the door.
“Goodbye, everyone,” shouted Edith, waving to them both. “Thanks for all your help,” she managed to say before the TARDIS door closed firmly behind them.
Archie tugged on his wife’s hand as he dragged her towards their car when they heard something akin to grinding metal and both turned around in time to see the phone booth disappear.
“Did you just see what I saw, Archie?” asked Edith.
He really needed that beer now. “No, and neither did you, Edith. Understand?”
Edith shrugged and said, “Sure.”
Archie and Edith made way to their car and drove away towards the department store; Edith had wanted to go to but not before Archie had gotten his beer.
Tegan felt out of sorts watching the old couple go. They had reminded her of her Mum and Dad somewhat. Always bickering but never really meaning any harm to one another. She missed them. She missed a lot of people but not as much as she had missed the Doctor when he had left her behind at Heathrow. She had really missed him but she hadn't known why until he had seen the way Mr. Bunker looked when he had left the TARDIS to go help the Doctor with the flat tire. Every now and again she’d catch him looking at her that way when he had no choice but to leave her behind so he could go off and to do whatever heroic Time Lords had to do to save the day. And it wasn't the first time they hadn't been mistaken for a married couple. What a load of rubbish. The Doctor and her lovers? What a ridiculous notion. They were friends. Since they managed to get Turlough back to his home planet, they had been wandering aimlessly. Always at arm’s length. But that’s how they were. Going place to place and finding ways to help. Maybe it was time to go home herself.
“Why the sad face, Tegan?” She looked at him. She really looked at him then. He would go on and on and never stop. She knew she really didn't mean anything to him beyond another friend. But suddenly she wanted more. The older couple gave her glimpse at what could be in store for her and (feeling rather selfishly) the Doctor. She wanted to…grow old with him. And she knew that would never happen.
“I think it’s time for me to go home as well,” she finally managed to say. The look on his face pained her. Why did he have to look that way? It was almost as if she had betrayed him or something. Which wasn't the case, she was simply…done. It was time to find someone.
And then he smiled as if he had realized something. He slowly shortened the distance between then and then placed his hands on her shoulders; locking his gaze with hers. “It seems our friends has made you realize what you've might have been searching for.”
Gawd, how she hated when he was right about these things. And he was. She could imagine, given his age, that sometimes in one of his lives before that he had grown old with someone. Loved them as a man loves a woman until whatever happened to send him away from his home and family. She had to at times remember that he had lived many lifetimes over already, and would live much more in the future beyond her. “I suppose so.”
“So where to next?” the Doctor asked, excitedly. He let her go and swiftly walked over to navigation console; his coattails swishing through behind him. “Brisbane? Little Holcombe? The Eye of Orion?”
“The Eye of Orion?” Why would she want to go there again?
“Why not,” he said. “It’s one of the better places of the Universe to start an extra-long holiday,” he noted, chirpily setting the coordinates and then walked over to where the dematerialization switch
Didn't he understand? She wanted to go home and find a nice bloke to settle down with. “That’s not what I had in mind when I said I wanted to go home, Doctor.”
“Brave Heart,” he said to her, using her pet name for her as he walked over to her and rested forearms on her shoulders and pressed his forehead against hers. “When will you learn that home is where the heart is?” A smile appeared on his face after he said that and then he left her with that riddle to solve.
But just as she began to decipher the clue he had left for her to solve, he reappeared at the door leading to the corridor. “And to clear things up between the two of us: I'm not asexual. I’m most decidedly heterosexual,” he revealed as he seemed to give himself permission to give her a quick once over. Oh, Rabbits! He had been listening at the door. She had thought he been a little red when he had reentered the console room. “Food for thought,” he said before disappearing behind the closing door to the corridors.
Tegan smiled as she watched him leave the console room once more; because this was the way they were.