Author's Notes:

One of these years, Fitz Kreiner was going to learn not to answer his phone if he didn't recognize the number. Especially if it looked like it might possibly be UNIT on the other end of the line. His life would be a lot less hazardous if he did.

He let out a curse in a language that he'd forgotten he even knew as something else behind him exploded, sending another wave of heat rushing past him. It was far enough away that none of the flames or debris was close enough to hit him, not unless...

"Fuck," Fitz muttered.

He grabbed the girl running beside him by the arm, all but dragging her with him as he dove behind the nearest stack of crates. A wave of purple energy blasted by them, presumably from one of those huge gun-like devices the aliens had been waving around earlier.

"Why does this always happen whenever I agree to do a favor for UNIT?" he muttered, breathing heavily as he leaned back against the crates and tried to catch his breath. "Tony's going to kill me if I come home with my eyebrows burned off again."

"UNIT?" a quiet voice beside him asked hesitantly.

Huh, so the girl was British. He hadn't seen that coming.

Shaking his head, Fitz glanced to his left, trying to see if any of the aliens were heading toward them. He still wasn't certain what species the rainbow-colored aliens belonged to, other than one of the ones that apparently believed humans tasted delicious, but he had thought it prudent to crash their dinner party once he had realized that the teenage girl caged in the corner was going to be part of the meal.

Admittedly, it might have been helpful if he'd had some sort of plan for what to do next, but still. He'd rescued the kid before they could turn her into an hors d'oeuvre. Actually making it out of a half-renovated restaurant couldn't be that difficult.

He glanced back at the teenager after a second or two. He'd had other priorities earlier, and he hadn't taken the time to really look at her until now. The girl looked to be sixteen or so, old enough to get herself into a hell of a lot of trouble but still just a kid. She also looked. . . well, not nearly as terrified as he had been expecting, all things considered.

She was staring at him, the scared look on her face quickly fading into a thoughtful one. "You work for. . . UNIT?" she asked, hesitating just slightly on the last word.

Fitz realized that he had never actually replied to her.

"Yeah," he said, nodding. "It stands for–"

"The Unified Intelligence Taskforce," she cut in. Her voice was shaking, just a little, but other than that Fitz never would have been able to tell that she'd almost been eaten by aliens ten minutes ago. "They're one of the groups that deal with aliens on earth."

Fitz opened his mouth. Then he closed it, eyeing the girl warily for second or two.

"I'm not sure which I should be more surprised about," Fitz said, raising an eyebrow. "That you know about aliens, that you know about UNIT, that you know there are agencies out there other than UNIT, or that you don't seem even remotely surprised by this conversation."

The girl gave him a weak grin. "Everyone knows about aliens. Some people just like to pretend that they don't."

Fitz paused for a moment. "Fair point," he said, nodding reluctantly.

"And if it helps," the girl said, her eyes twinkling a bit despite the situation, "the only other agency I know about is Torchwood."

Fitz closed his eyes for just a moment. "Of course it is," he said tiredly. "Harkness wouldn't know what the word subtle meant if it bit him in the–"

A roar from the other side of the building, around where the aliens were presumably still grouped, cut him off.

"Less talking, more running?" the girl suggested.

Fitz nodded. "Less talking, more running," he agreed, grabbing the girl's hand in his. He gestured toward a door on the far wall, one that was hopefully hidden from the aliens by stacks of crates. "On the count of three, we're making a dash for that exit over there."

The girl took a deep breath, shifting slightly.

"Three," Fitz said.

They ran.


"That was close," the girl gasped out, her breathing ragged

Fitz nodded, but he didn't quite trust his voice yet. The entire building had burst into flames about two seconds after they had made it out the door, presumably thanks to the aliens and their space guns and, damn it, he was getting too old for close calls like that.

The two of them stood there in silence for a few minutes, watching fire trucks pour into the restaurant's parking lot. It was obviously a lost cause even before the firemen had a chance to turn on the hoses. There were enough onlookers gathered around gawking that they didn't stick out at all; apparently this far out in the suburbs, a restaurant fire counted as prime entertainment.

The girl coughed. It was just hesitant enough that Fitz could tell that it was on purpose and not because of smoke inhalation or anything else along those lines. He glanced at her and raised an eyebrow.

"My name's Maria," the girl said, holding out her hand. She paused for a moment before adding, almost as an afterthought: "Maria Jackson."

Fitz stared at her for another second or two before reaching out and taking her hand. "Fitz," he said, nodding slightly. "Fitz Kreiner."

"Thanks for saving my life, Mr. Kreiner," Maria said, her face flushing a bit. "I, uh, really appreciate it. Obviously."

He smiled despite himself. "You're welcome," he said. "And it's just Fitz."

Maria smiled at that, tilting her head a little. "Why didn't you shoot at them?" she asked curiously. "They didn't look like they were bulletproof."

"No gun," Fitz said, shaking his head. "I'm not a big fan, so I try to avoid using them or having them used on me." He snorted deprecatingly. "Needless to say, I don't always succeed when it comes to the latter."

Maria gave him a weak smile. "You sound like Sarah Jane."

Fitz blinked, a rush of surprise running through his veins. "Sarah Jane?" he repeated slowly.

Sarah Jane wasn't that uncommon a name. It was most likely a completely different Sarah Jane than the one he was thinking of. Probably.


Maria blushed. "She's a friend of mine," she said, trying to sound casual and completely failing to do so. Fitz could practically hear the quotation marks around the word friend, but he didn't speak teenage girl quite well enough to know if she meant girlfriend or hopeless crush. "She's the reason I'm here."

Fitz did a double-take and turned his gaze back toward the burning restaurant. It was almost completely engulfed, its roof probably only minutes away from caving in. If there had been another teenager in that building, then–

"Oh, no! She wasn't actually here with me!" Maria said quickly, following his gaze. "She knows about aliens and things, I mean. I found out about them from her."

Fitz turned his gaze away from the fire and back to Maria. "Sarah Jane Smith?" he asked, somewhat incredulously.

Maria blinked. Then she nodded.

Hopeless crush then. At least, he assumed, considering the age difference. Unless he hadn't been the only one who had been dropped back on Earth at a later time than he had left, but he was fairly certain the math still wouldn't add up considering the last time he had seen Sarah Jane Smith it had been with Sam back in–

"You know her?" Maria asked, drawing him back to the present. She looked surprised as she took a closer look at him, her eyes widening. "Are you– you're not the Doctor, are you?"

Fitz couldn't help it. He burst out laughing.

If anything, Maria's eyes grew even wider.

"I'm definitely not the Doctor," Fitz said, forcing himself to stop laughing though he couldn't quite hide his smile, "though he'd probably be very amused to know you thought I could be."


"Thanks for giving me a ride home," Maria said. She shuffled her feet a bit, not quite meeting his gaze. "My dad's probably been wondering where I was."

Fitz couldn't help but notice that she was very obviously not moving toward the door of the townhouse she had pointed out as being her home.

"You snuck out?" he asked.

Maria rolled her eyes. "No, I didn't sneak out," she said just a little too quickly.

Fitz raised an eyebrow.

Maria didn't quite meet his gaze. "He knows that I went out with some friends," she said. "He just didn't know that I was going to slip off and–"

"Almost be eaten by aliens?" Fitz suggested.

"That's accurate," Maria admitted sheepishly. "Not what I was going to say, but accurate."


Maria flinched and reluctantly started walking again.

Fitz glanced at the door to the townhouse where a man at least a good ten years younger than him was standing, a worried look on his face. Her father, presumably. He was eyeing Fitz warily, not that Fitz could blame him.

Maria glanced back over her shoulder and jerked her head toward the house. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes, but he followed her anyway, a list of plausible excuses for why he was giving a sixteen-year-old girl a ride home running through his head. He just hoped whatever story she had prepared would give him something to work with.

Her father shot Fitz another suspicious look, but his first question was aimed only at Maria. "Where on earth have you been?"

Fitz braced himself for whatever excuse she was going to make up, hoping that it was at least innocuous enough that he wasn't going to end up getting punched in the face by an irate father.

Maria gave her father a disarming grin. "I might have, uh, almost been eaten by aliens," she said quickly, as if she was hoping he wouldn't hear her.

She wasn't so lucky.

Fitz blinked in surprise. He had to admit, he hadn't been expecting her to actually tell the truth.

Her father went very still, his complexion going a bit gray. "What?" he asked, his voice slightly strangled.

"Come on, Dad, it's not like it's the first time," she said in what sounded like it was supposed to be a placating manner.

If anything, her father's face grew even grayer. "What?" he repeated. This time, the strangled tone was more audible.

Maria half-turned and pointed at Fitz. "This is Fitz Kreiner. He's the one who got me out of the cage before the aliens could, you know, cook me."

"Cook you?" her father repeated brokenly. "Maria, I thought you were going to see a movie with your friends from school. How on earth did you–"

Her father cut off suddenly as he grabbed her and pulled her into a tight hug. He looked more than a little lost as he clung to her.

Fitz couldn't help but take pity on him. "Maybe we should go inside?" he suggested, glancing at the house next door where one of the Jacksons' neighbors was standing in the doorway, his key halfway in the lock, openly gaping at the three of them.

It took a second for Fitz's words to sink in, but Maria's father reluctantly let go of her long enough to follow his gaze. He grimaced and nodded in agreement. "That might be a good idea."


"Thanks again for saving her," Alan said, pouring a liberal amount of whiskey into his cup of tea.

Fitz waved Alan off when he offered him the bottle. "I was just in the right place at the right time."

"Still, thank you," Alan repeated, his grip on his cup tightening just a little. "I thought that moving to the States would be the end of all this alien nonsense."

"This isn't the first time she's run into aliens since you moved here, I take it?" Fitz guessed.

Alan snorted.

"Ah," Fitz said, taking a sip of his tea. "Where did she disappear to, by the way?"

"I expect she's probably setting up her computer so that she can call Sarah Jane," Alan said, taking a large swallow of his own drink. He grimaced. "She usually does after she has a run-in with, well, anything extraterrestrial."

As if on cue, Maria poked her head in the kitchen doorway. "Fitz, I have Sarah Jane on call. Did you want to talk to her?"

Fitz hesitated for just a second before nodding. "Thank you for the tea," he told Alan as he stood up.

"It's the least I could do," Alan told him with a tired smile. "Thank you again."

Fitz bowed his head slightly. "My pleasure."

Maria just rolled her eyes, though Fitz knew he wasn't imagining the fond look she shot her father as she turned around and headed back down the hallway.

Fitz took his cup of tea with him, wrapping his hand around it as he followed Maria up the stairs and to what had to be her bedroom. She dropped down on her bed and picked up her laptop. "One second, Sarah Jane, he's here," she said to the screen. Then she turned it toward Fitz, sitting it beside her on the bed.

The woman staring at him from it was very familiar, albeit older than the last time he had seen her.

"Sarah Jane Smith," Fitz said, surprising even himself by the warmth in his voice.

On the computer screen, she smiled. "Fitz Kreiner," Sarah Jane said. "It's been a long time." She paused and tilted her head, studying him closely. "But I suspect that it's been longer for you than it has me."

Fitz nodded. "You'd be right."

Maria was listening to the two of them unabashedly, but she didn't say anything. She just brought her legs up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them.

"I'm so sorry about Sam," Sarah Jane said softly. "I know that you and the Doctor–"

She stopped abruptly, grimacing as she reached up to rub her temples. A confused look appeared on her face.

Maria frowned. "Sarah Jane, are you okay?" she asked, breaking into the conversation.

Sarah Jane blinked a few times, suddenly looking older than she had just a second before. "Maria, I know it's your home, but do you think Fitz and I could talk alone for just a moment?"

Maria bit her lip, her gaze drifting between the laptop and Fitz for a second. Then she nodded. "Sure," she said, standing up from her bed. "Dad's probably waiting for the chance to yell at me. Or hug me. One or the other."

She paused in the door way long enough to shoot one last worried look behind her. Sarah Jane smiled at her reassuringly, and Maria shot her a weak smile back before disappearing from the doorway.

Fitz stopped trying to hide the worry from his face the moment she was gone. "What's wrong?"

"I distinctly remember meeting you, and Sam, and the Doctor," Sarah Jane said slowly. "I remember her staying behind with me. I remember her telling the two of you goodbye. I remember, well, everything that happened after that."

Fitz nodded.

"But–" She hesitated for just a second. "Until I saw you on the screen, just now, I would have sworn that the last time I saw the Doctor was when he dropped me off in Aberdeen all those years ago. Until recently, I mean."

Fitz stared at her for a moment. Then he groaned.

Sarah Jane raised an eyebrow. "That doesn't look like surprise on your face."

"It's probably the divergent timelines," Fitz said tiredly, shaking his head. "Damn, I never even thought about it, but you'd have been affected by it too."

Sarah Jane stared at him blankly. "I think you might need to start from the beginning."

Fitz gave her a weak smile. "It happened during the Time War," he said, reaching up to run his fingers through his hair. "Do you– I don't know when the last time you saw the Doctor was, for him I mean. Do you know about the Time War?"

She nodded. "I do."

"At least two timelines, maybe more, combined and twisted until they created a new one," Fitz continued slowly. "Those of us who've traveled in the TARDIS were protected to some extent. We have the potential to remember the old timelines plus the new one, if something's there to remind us of it."

Sarah Jane's eyes were still a little too bright, the pained wrinkles around them too pronounced, but she nodded. "That's the Doctor talking, not you."

Fitz shrugged. "He had to explain it several times. For me, for Leela, for Ace. All of us humans who refused to leave."

"Ace?" Sarah Jane repeated slowly, her confusion evident. "Do you mean Ace McShane? Dorothy McShane?"

Fitz nodded.

"But she didn't stay with the Doctor," Sarah Jane said, still confused. "I've met her, here, on Earth."

"Multiple timelines, remember?" Fitz asked, smiling weakly. "In one of them, she stayed with the Doctor. She went to Gallifrey, attended Prydon Academy, fought in the Time War." He paused. "Died at Arcadia."

"And in another, she didn't," Sarah Jane said, realization dawning on her face. "She returned to Earth and started a multi-million dollar charity."

Fitz nodded. "Yep," he agreed, his voice slightly bitter despite his best efforts. "In another, she ended up falling for a nurse who started traveling with her and the Doctor. They left the TARDIS and settled on Arcadia for a bit, and when the Time War started moving in that direction the Doctor kidnapped them against their will, dropped them off on Earth in the 90s, and never looked back. He's good at that, by the way."

Sarah Jane had the good grace to flinch. "Good at dropping people off on Earth in the 1990s or good at never looking back?"

Fitz met her gaze. "Exactly."

"Both," she said, answering her own question. Her answer overlapped with his. "Not just the 1990s, though. He's good at dropping people off in the 1980s as well."

"And the early 2000s," Fitz said, nodding. "But, still, it all amounts to the same thing. He's good at dropping us off and not looking back."

They both smiled a little, despite themselves.

There was a knock on the door behind Fitz, and he glanced behind him. Maria was standing there, a sheepish look on her face. "Um, I hate to interrupt, but there are a couple of guys at the door who say they're from UNIT. They're looking for you, I think?"

Fitz groaned. "Oh God, what now?"

Sarah Jane raised an eyebrow. "Does this happen often?"

"More often than I'd like," Fitz grumbled. He stretched a bit, shaking his head. "Let me go see what's gone wrong now. Do you mind if I get your phone number from Maria? It would be nice to talk sometime."

"Of course," Sarah Jane said, smiling.

Somewhere in the distance, there was the distinct sound of an explosion. Sarah Jane's picture on the laptop disappeared, replaced by a black box. Maria grimaced. "There went the internet," she muttered.

Fitz closed his eyes. "I'm getting too old for this."

His eyes shot open when he felt someone hook their arm in his. Maria looked up at him, grinning. "Well, I'm not," she said. "Come on, let's go find out what's happening."

"Maria," he said warningly.

She raised an eyebrow at him, and for just a second he would have sworn that he was looking at Sarah Jane. Fitz grimaced. "You're not getting involved."

"Of course not," Maria said brightly.

For some reason, Fitz didn't believe her in the least bit.