01 Kiss of the Vampire

by MizJoely [Reviews - 2]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Het, Romance

KISS OF THE VAMPIRE

Everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon
- Pink Floyd, "Eclipse"


Prologue: From the Journal of Mina Harker

...I saw the Count lying within the box upon the earth, some of which the rude falling from the cart
had scattered over him. He was deathly pale, just like a waxen image, and the red eyes glared with
the horrible vindictive look which I knew too well.

As I looked, the eyes saw the sinking sun, and the look of hate in them turned to triumph.

But, on the instant, came the sweep and flash of Jonathan's great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear
through the throat; whilst at the same time Mr. Morris's Bowie knife plunged into the heart.

It was like a miracle; but before our very eyes, and almost in the drawing of a breath, the whole body
crumbled into dust and passed from our sight.

I shall be glad as long as I live that even in that moment of final dissolution, there was in the face
a look of peace, such as I never could have imagined might have rested there.

Fragments from a second journal written by Mina Harker, discovered recently in London

...As I reread the words I wrote for the benefit of my husband and his friends, I find myself stifling
a childish urge to giggle out loud. It has been a grand adventure, with but a few moments of tragedy
to remind me of the actual seriousness of the course Fate has plotted for my life. Were it not for my
dear Lucy's untimely demise, I should feel complete happiness.

It has been three months since Vladimir's "death". I keep these pages locked away, far from the eyes
of my husband; were he ever to see the words I have put to paper, I fear the truth of those strange
events would kill him.

Yet I feel a need to keep this secret journal, to recount the true events of that fateful night, to
remember yet again how I aided my lover in the creation of his own death scene and the deceiving
of four men whose only thoughts were of my safety.

That deception was so very simple, too, which fact does not aid me in remembering our mad venture
with the proper sobriety. Four grown men, taken in by a simple magician's stage trick, and I the
accomplice, with none the wiser. Really, it is quite ridiculous; I am honestly bewildered at how they
could begin to believe that a simple metal knife would destroy one who had proven himself
impervious to such weapons in the past.

I confess to feeling a certain uneasiness with my various deceptions throughout this entire venture,
but from the moment Vladimir and I met, I felt a sweet madness come upon me, one I was helpless
to stop. I understand all too well Lucy's acquiescence, and Lord Godalming's jealousy of her
relationship with Vladimir is not far removed from the way Jonathan would feel, were he to discover
my duplicity. He is a good man, but he cannot set fire to my blood as the Count can. I am helpless
before the storm of my emotions...

...Vladimir has asked me to come away with him, as we had intended, but I fear we have waited too
long. Dr. DeLancey has informed me that I am to have a child, Jonathan's child, and I cannot now
give up this life of mine in good conscience. Already I feel a deep affection for this baby, and so
must tell my Count of the decision I have reached.

I pray he will understand. With the grace of God, in another time, another life, perhaps we will be
reunited. I hold to this hope at all cost, and will attempt to be the dutiful wife Jonathan deserves.
Already I have put him through so much...

Naples, Italy

Tegan Jovanka was unhappy. Bored and unhappy. She'd felt that way for almost four years and still
didn't want to admit it, but it was time to face facts. She was finally plying the trade for which she'd
trained a seeming lifetime ago...and she wasn't finding it as grand an adventure as she'd hoped.

"Admit it, girl," she said to herself as she propped her chin on one hand and stared dismally out of
the hotel window at the pouring rain, "once you've seen the Eye of Orion, Naples is pretty tame."

When she first left the Doctor, she'd felt a certain sense of relief, liberally mixed with both pain and
guilt. Relief at finally having made a decision, at the thought of going home and seeing her family,
leading a normal life...getting on with the life she'd been just starting, which her whirligig side-trip
with the Doctor had interrupted. Pain at the thought of leaving that life behind, because no matter
how frantic and terrifying it became, she always--always!--felt that same rush of exhilaration upon
entering the TARDIS and its bigger inside/smaller outside magic that she had the first time.

Both emotions had felt overwhelming, but had in turn been overwhelmed by the guilt; she'd lied to
the Doctor when she left. Lied to him, and especially to herself as long as you're being honest,
Tegan--about why she felt compelled to leave. But he knew you weren't telling the truth, didn't he?
You've always believed that. The look he gave you--oh yes, he knew you were lying. And why you
were doing it, too, no doubt.

Well, not all of it was a lie, she amended silently. After all, I really was tired of all the death and
the killing--it was getting out of hand. It really wasn't fun anymore!

So was that any excuse for running away? When has that ever solved anything? some devil's
advocate part of her mind argued back. Besides, you're just clouding the issue. The real reason, the
only reason, you left was because you'd fallen in love with him, and you know it.

There, she'd finally come out and admitted it, acknowledged the emotion she'd been skittering
around for four long years. Not only had she fallen in love with him, she'd never had the good sense
to fall back out again. You fell in love with him, and you are still in love with him. That is what set
you running. Not any lofty, noble sentiments about the horrors of war. Not even a lack of fun--and
oh, didn't that sound like a sullen, spoiled child! To make it even worse, he knew. He knew, and
didn't try to stop you. even though you really wanted him to. And that, as they say, is the unkindest
cut of all.

Tegan made an impatient noise and brushed at her face, as if to brush away that sly, cynical interior
voice, speaking truths she'd rather not hear. She pushed away from the window, pacing irritably,
then halted as she reached a decision. She had eight weeks of vacation coming to her, saved up after
four years without taking any time off until this miserable weekend lay-over she'd allowed one of
her co-workers to talk her into, and was due an extra month's leave of absence on top of that. Right
now, more than anything, she wanted to be home with her family, whom she hadn't seen in years.

She'd welcomed the thought of being with them again when she'd first returned, but ended up
keeping the original reunion brief; seeing her parents, with all their love for each other, and meeting
her cousin Colin's new wife, had just been too painful. So she fled back to London, attaining her
current position through sheer tenacity, and burying herself in her job while telling herself and her
family that she was too busy to visit.

Now, it was time. Naples was nice, and the Eye of Orion had been exotically relaxing, but Brisbane,
Australia had always been home. She felt certain that now she would be able to find the means there
to ease her aching heart. She picked up the phone next to the small bed and spoke in halting Italian:
"Hullo, operator? I'd like to place some long-distance calls, please."

Brisbane, Australia - One Month Later

She was here! The man who had been lounging elegantly at a corner table in the most fashionable
club in Brisbane went very still as she came through the door with a crowd of people, his eyes
picking her out immediately.

She was the one; there could be no doubt. The single glimpse he'd had of her in London told him
she wore Mina Harker's form and face, but as he stared hungrily at the woman it had taken him so
infuriatingly long to track down, he was certain he saw Mina's soul as well. He felt a surge of
elation. Finally! After almost 100 years of waiting, you're here. My Mina, you have returned to me.

His face gave none of this away. Centuries of existence had taught Count Vladimir Dracula the
schooling of his emotions, and the cultivation of the perfect poker face under any circumstances.
It had also taught him how to avoid notice, without even having to resort to any of his vampiric
abilities. He had turned his eyes away from hers almost immediately, stretching slightly before
returning to his previous negligent pose, as if stretching were all he'd had in mind from the start.

He wasn't even noticed by the girl he believed now housed Mina Harker's soul; she was too busy
arguing with the couple accompanying her. Arguing with them, and winning; he watched with
satisfaction as she turned back to the door, leaving her companions to wade through the crowd in
search of seats.

Dracula smiled to himself as he signaled the waitress and paid for his untouched drink before rising
to saunter after the girl. He knew her name; he'd known she was coming here tonight with her
young cousin and his wife. Causing her to become irritated enough with them, and uncomfortable
enough with the noisy, overcrowded club to leave, had been child's play for someone with his
abilities. The Transylvanian count allowed himself another congratulatory smile as he slipped
through the doors and followed her unhesitatingly to the right. He had her scent now, achingly
familiar even after so much time. Another sign that she was the one.

* * *

Tegan shoved her hands into her jacket pockets, furious and not sure why. With herself, perhaps,
for not relaxing and enjoying the night out Colin and his wife Alison had coaxed her into sharing.
Or with them, for having the sheer gall to bring her to a club that absolutely screamed "meat
market".

She'd had every intention of enjoying the evening, but found herself balking even as they walked
in. Colin and Alison had been trying to set her up with different fellows ever since her return, and
she was getting heartily sick of it. Tonight was just another tiresome example of their attempts to
get her out to meet someone--anyone--who could bring her out of her funk.

They'd appeared hurt and disappointed when she told them abruptly that she didn't feel like fighting
the crowd, and would instead catch a late showing at the cinema. She only convinced them to let
her go in peace by promising to meet them back at the club when the show was over, not bothering
to tell them about the feeling of panic that had come over her when they were looking for a table.
All those people, men mostly, the music blaring, and the walls crowding in on her...she shuddered
at the memory and took a deep, calming breath of the clean night air.

Colin had reluctantly agreed to her decision, and she knew that it was his desire to see Blind Legion,
the band that was playing there, that let her have her way with only a token argument. That, and
almost 25 years of him being used to her bossing him around. It was mostly Alison who was trying
to play matchmaker, which only served to irritate Tegan further, as she hardly even knew the bloody
girl!

Yes, it was Alison that had set her simmering, Tegan decided, and she knew she needed to get away
before she blew up at her cousin's wife. Did she really seem that desperate to them? It burned her
up, knowing they felt sorry for her. Poor Tegan, pining after some chap that dumped her. Well,
enough was enough--at least for tonight. That new murder-mystery playing at the cinema on the next
block was just the thing to soothe her ruffled feathers, so off she went. Besides, they had no way of
knowing that the only man she really wanted to see wouldn't just mysteriously appear--certainly not
in a club like The Lost Horizon! Colin might suspect who was on her mind, but if he did, he gave
no indication. Men could be so dense, Tegan decided with a mental snort of disgust. All men.

Lost in her thoughts, she didn't hear the footsteps behind her. Not that she would have, since Count
Dracula could walk as silently as the night when he wanted to. Her first inkling that she wasn't alone
was when she felt herself suddenly seized from behind by a pair of powerful hands and hustled into
the darkened alleyway just ahead. As she opened her mouth to scream, one of the hands transferred
to her throat, turning her scream into a choked gurgle as she was shoved up against the nearest wall,
both hands now held tightly behind her back. She wondered in a fog of panic if she was about to be
raped, mugged, murdered, or some ghastly combination of all three.

Dracula could smell her fear, could feel the pulse jumping in her throat, the blood racing in her
veins. He whispered calmingly in her ear, until her pulse slowed and she stopped the reflexive
attempts to jerk her hands free from his powerful grip. She was still full of terror, but he remedied
even that when he was able to turn her to face him. The moment their eyes met, he released his
achingly tight grip on her throat, turned it instead into a caress.

She was almost completely under his control now, and he quickly loosened the collar of her jacket
and the blouse she wore underneath. Until he tasted her blood, she would still have a measure of
freedom, but that would soon be remedied. He smiled, a savage, hungry smile this time, one that
fully revealed his fangs. In a moment, Tegan would belong to him, body and soul, and she would
never even know it unless he willed her to.

He moved her now-unresisting body deeper into the shadows of the alleyway. When they were fully
hidden from even the most piercing scrutiny, he spread his fingers across her neck, bringing his lips
first to her cheek, then to her ear and finally to her throat. Her blood was the sweetest thing he'd
tasted in almost a century, as sweet as he remembered it to be--and it did taste the same, exactly the
same. This realization set his own blood to pounding, and it was only with great reluctance that he
was able to stop himself, close the wound and look once again into his victim's eyes. They had taken
on a sensuous, dreamy quality, and a half-smile hovered about her partially open lips. She was
completely under his thrall. It was time.

The vampire gently entered Tegan's mind, feeling a thrill of satisfaction at the confirmation of his
hopes he found there. Oh yes, Mina Harker slept within the confines of this young woman's mind;
he could feel her responding to his touch, brief though it was. Unfortunately, now was not the time;
his preparations were not yet complete. He couldn't release the bird without a net to catch her in.

The vampire regretfully returned his attention to the overlying mind belonging to Tegan Jovanka,
whom he'd seen for the first time only a few short months ago. That sight had been a shock; she
looked exactly like his beloved Mina, in spite of the short hair and the short skirt and the hideous
Australian accent.

He had to find out who she was. Unfortunately, discovering her identity in this life hadn't been as
simple a matter as he'd hoped. It had taken him over a month to track her down and find out who
she was, and where she worked and lived. She'd already returned to Australia before he discovered
so much as her name. But once he had that piece of information, obtaining the rest had been simple.

Over the years, especially since his carefully staged "death" at the hands of Von Helsing and the
others, he had gained an interest in the occult away from the vampiric lore that had always
fascinated--and amused--him. Now, however, he found himself turning to that information out of
a burning need to see if there were some way a soul could be reborn--and if there were some way
to evict the present tenant in favor of the previous.

As time passed, it seemed the answer to his question was "no". He was on the verge of forcing
himself to give up what he was beginning to consider a foolish obsession with the girl when he made
the discovery that rekindled his hopes: souls could--and, if the evidence was to be believed, very
often did--emerge virtually intact within the same bloodline.

It took him only a few days to obtain the confirmation he needed, received through some of his
contacts with the true practitioners of the occult he'd met in his various travels and business
dealings. The book he'd found in a London occult store, the one with a reference to a spell that
claimed to bring the "true" soul of a person to consciousness, was considered by his sources to be
legitimate. It would only work, he was cautioned, if the soul had something to anchor it to the world
of the living, something that would give it the strength to dominate and eventually erase the "outer"
consciousness. This information brought a feeling of jubilation to him, which quickly palled as he
realized he hadn't the faintest idea of how to accomplish such a thing.

The answer to his dilemma came to him, as such things often do, in a flash of inspiration.
Remembrances of Mina as she had been, as well as his desperate literary hunt, haunted his mind
until his errant memory put them together...


It was a typically rainy London night. He was in yet another occult bookstore, this time one that
specialized in one-of-a-kind items. A book had fallen off the shelf while he was casually glancing
over the titles next to it. When he bent to pick it up, a page fell out. The loose page, he saw, was part
of a spell, one that made passing reference to the physical transformation of the body.

It meant nothing to him at the time, but now it brought the glimmering of a plan. It was risky,
possibly even dangerous, but he knew that if it worked, the reward of holding Mina in his arms once
again would be more than worth the risk--even the risk of taking someone skilled in spellcraft into
his confidence, which he had already, reluctantly, done. He wouldn't be able to perform any of the
magic required; witchery was a talent as well as an art, an innate ability that he did not possess.
There was nothing he could do at all--except provide the anchor.

Although he did not travel well over water, he could manage it when forced to. At least the advent
of modern technology, especially aeroplanes, gave him more freedom of movement than in the past.
When Tegan's flat-mate and fellow air hostess, Eileen Duggan, revealed under hypnosis that Tegan
was on a leave of absence and would be in Australia for several months, he decided to go to
Brisbane, rather than wait for her to return to London. He'd waited far too long already.


What Dracula now saw in Tegan's memories, the things she believed to have happened to her,
caused him to briefly question her sanity. Time travel? Alien planets? It couldn't possibly be real !
He smiled at the irony of a mythical creature like a vampire doubting the truth of a girl who claimed
to have traveled in time and space.

Intrigued, he immersed himself more fully in her mind, determined to get to the truth of the matter.
What he saw caused him to lose all doubt as to the state of her sanity. The things she remembered
had, indeed, happened to her. And, he saw with a gleam of triumphant satisfaction, there as well was
the information answering the crucial question of just who it was her flat-mate said her friend was
"missing so badly"...


"Oh, she's got a chap on her mind," she'd told him, once Dracula gave her the suggestion that he
was an old friend, someone she trusted completely. He hadn't even needed to take blood for the
interview; she was by far the most suggestible person he had ever met, and had disclosed Tegan's
present location with little prompting. "Tegan's been moping around a lot. She hardly spends any
time here, y'know," Eileen had continued, waving an arm to indicate the small flat.

She lowered her voice confidentially. "She hasn't been the same since she came back after getting
the sack a few years gone. We all knew it was because of a man, but try getting her to admit it!" An
indignant expression flashed across the pretty blonde's face. "She finally let it slip one night when
we'd all gotten together on a layover and were getting silly on a couple of bottles of wine. She
clammed up right away, though, like she hadn't meant to mention him at all. All we could get out
of her was that he's some kind of doctor, and she doesn't expect to ever see him again. Probably
married, the bugger," Eileen had added as an afterthought, her tone faintly disapproving. "But
Tegan's still got a thing for him, that's certain!"


Yes, here was the image of Eileen's "married doctor", the virtual center of Tegan's chaotic,
undisciplined thoughts and emotions. The chatty young air hostess would have been as astounded
as the vampire to find that he was actually a time-traveling alien, however human he might look.

Tegan had certainly led an intriguing life for someone so young, and Dracula felt a momentary
twinge of regret at what he was planning. Then he remembered Mina, the feel of her in his arms and
in his mind, and the regret vanished like smoke on the wind. He had always been a man who took
what he wanted, and he wanted Mina Harker alive, in both body and soul, more than he had ever
wanted anything else, and would do anything to achieve that goal. Anything. With that firmly in
mind, he gently disentangled his thoughts from those of his victim, but not before whispering
forgetfulness into her mind. When that was accomplished, he permitted himself the indulgence of
another taste of her sweet essence. Just one, he told himself. Just one...

That second taste almost proved his undoing. So absorbed was he in the ecstasy of tasting Mina's
blood--and soul--once again, that he grew careless. He should have sensed the presence of the young
girl short-cutting through the alley on her way to a parentally unapproved liaison well before she
stumbled into them. She started to stammer an apology, noticed the blood streaming from Tegan's
neck, and changed her words to a piercing scream.

Before Dracula could fully engage her attention, she vanished at nearly supernatural speed,
screaming for the police all the while. He hesitated, then decided to exercise the better part of valor
and fled in wolf-form in the opposite direction, mentally cursing the strong-lunged little tramp for
causing him to leave Tegan still partially entranced with a gaping neck wound which he had no time
to heal. There was no way he could take her with him now; his plans would have to wait a while
longer. At least there had been enough time to put her memories to sleep; she would have no
recollection of her attacker. With these thoughts as cold comfort, Dracula vanished into a mist.

Left to stand alone in the alleyway, Tegan swayed on her feet as consciousness returned. She felt
curiously light-headed, and wondered vaguely what the distant screaming she heard was about. That
was all she had time to think before she collapsed into a faint from the blood loss she was still
experiencing, and it was thus she was found by the police officer who came to investigate one
Dionne Haye's hysterical report of yet another "vampire" attack.

Two Weeks Later

Part one had been implemented. Tegan was firmly under his control, however unknowing. It had
been a frustrating fortnight of waiting, but that would soon be over. Dracula gazed at the nondescript
store front across the street, waiting with inhuman patience for the last customer of "Tabina's
Curiosity Shoppe" to leave. Then he waited another quarter hour, barely moving, for her clerk to
leave as well. The boy, an American exchange-student, always rushed through his work on Friday
evenings, and was never there more than 15 minutes past closing.

Here he was, right on schedule; David Halsey, another university student with a part-time job and
a full-time girlfriend, walking rapidly with his head down against the light rain that had sprung up
during the vampire's wait. He ignored the boy as inconsequential and waited for Tabina's "all clear"
in the form of a light in the front window upstairs.

While he waited for the signal--it would be at least half an hour, in case David had forgotten his
books, as had happened before--the Count mused on the relative ease with which he was achieving
his goal, in spite of the setback he'd suffered. He'd been unable to approach Tegan in the hospital
or at her cousin's apartment in the city; there were too many suspicious people around her. But her
parents had bundled her off to the family ranch only a few days ago, and the forced respite had the
virtue of giving him time to finalize his plans and make his preparations for leaving the country.

It had also given his accomplice time to finish her arrangements. Tabina Doyle was a transplanted
English witch, one with whom he'd had dealings in the past. He trusted her as far as he was willing
to trust anyone. For one thing, if she exposed him, she exposed herself, and Tabina's skin was
something of which she was overly fond. For another thing, he knew her weakness: that same
fondness for her skin. Not just for the skin, but for the beautiful woman that skin surrounded. She
was vain and proud and terrified of death. She would never betray someone who might be able to
help her achieve immortality, even if that immortality were only the shadowy, night-restricted
existence of a vampire.

Even this knowledge led only to a guarded kind of trust in the witch. It had never been easy for
Count Vladimir Dracula to give his trust to anyone. Or, for that matter, his forgiveness. Cross him
or threaten him in some way, and you were as good dead; but do him a favor, perform a service for
him, and you were generously rewarded.

Only four men had escaped that infamous sense of justice: Victor Van Helsing, Jack Seward, Arthur
Holmwood, and Jonathan Harker. All for the sake of one woman. But also, perhaps, because it had
been safer in the end to let them live, to allow them to think that his "death" meant the end of their
troubles. He knew that time, the famous healer, was his friend as surely as it was their enemy. He'd
learned from his mistakes during that first, ill-fated journey to London, and had never been a man
to make the same ones twice. No, all he had to do was wait, and his enemies would fall.

It was curiously satisfying, waiting passively in the background for them to die, gloating as they
were cut down one by one by the caprices of the breathing world. But in the end, Mina's death was
the only one that mattered. She'd asked him to stay away when she found out about her pregnancy;
begged him to forget her. Impossible, he'd told her, and did his best to convince her to have the baby
and leave it to Harker to raise. She almost weakened, but the night she gave birth he realized she
was truly lost to him. The expression of love and tenderness she lavished on the slimy, bloody thing
rivaled any love she bore for him, and would be, he knew with a feeling of bitter defeat, impossible
to challenge.

That was the last time he'd seen her alive. He'd kept his distance, keeping track of his enemies and
the woman he loved through intermediaries. He lost interest even in that when she died in a railway
accident. Although it was impossible for him to attend the graveside funeral, he'd managed to keep
silent vigil by her coffin the entire night before her burial, clasping her icy hand in his own until just
before sunrise. He'd risen then, kissed her cold lips, gazed a final, loving time at her face--as
beautiful and serene in death as it had been in life--and slipped away into the darkness.

Part of him wanted to stay by her side, to wait for the deadly rays of the rising sun to turn his body
to ashes and set his soul free to face whatever fate awaited him. But his strong sense of self-
preservation prevented that; his feet were moving before he was even conscious of it. So he left,
returning to the home he'd acquired at the other end of London, to brood on the inequities of the
world until the rising sun pushed him into his usual, dreamless daytime sleep.

Now there was a way to get Mina back. Tabina Doyle was the one person he trusted to help him
achieve that goal, even though there would be a price for that help. She would be putting herself in
as much jeopardy as he, something both their kind tried to avoid. True witches, Dracula had
discovered, were as secretive as true vampires, and as jealous of their powers. It was a survival trait,
a necessary one in light of history's past treatment of their kind.

Tonight Tabina would collect the three vials of vampire blood she had requested as payment.
Dracula grimaced in distaste at the thought of the silver needle she would need to pierce his near-
invulnerable skin; it was one of the few vampiric weaknesses, the basis for the myth of the cross as
a valid weapon against a vampire. Since many crucifixes were made of silver, naturally they burned
vampiric flesh.

The needle would also burn, but it was a price he was willing to pay. If the spell for which Tabina
required his blood failed, he knew she would ask him to bestow his own version of immortality on
her. He knew the scent of terror, and it clung to Tabina like a heavy perfume. She was not yet
desperate, but her fear grew with the passage of time, with every tick of the clock, and the scent
grew stronger each time he saw her.

He had already decided to do it if she asked, on the condition that they were able to restore Mina
Harker. Transforming someone into one of his kind was no longer a task he undertook lightly. The
wrong choice could wreak havoc, as witness the disaster of the three women he'd had in his home
at the time of Jonathan Harker's ill-fated first visit to Transylvania. Tabina , he judged, was a worthy
candidate. She had the prerequisite strong will and overpowering urge to survive, no matter what
the cost, and she knew that the price of power was circumspection. Besides, a vampiric witch would
be a powerful ally, indeed.

He hadn't told her anything of his plans, nothing beyond the bare facts of what he wanted her to do.
She was intrigued enough to agree, especially when he agreed to her terms of payment without
demur. She'd already more than proven her value; she'd taken a single look at the transformation
spell he'd found and shaken her head firmly.

"This spell is useless for your purposes," she'd said in her cultured English accent, looking up to
meet his eyes. "The ingredients are unreasonably costly and extremely difficult to acquire. And the
end result would be a little more than you might like."

"A little more what?" he asked, hiding his dismay at her bluntly spoken words.

"A little more permanent," came the disconcerting reply. "If I read this correctly, you would have
no way to return to your true form once the spell was cast. It's very subtle, and very powerful. But,"
she added, "I can think of one or two others that might suit. It will involve some research time. Are
you on a very tight schedule? Will a few days make a difference?"

He allowed a small, tight smile to briefly cross his face. "No hurry. I've waited this long " The look
she gave him told him he had given away quite a bit with that statement, but Dracula found to his
surprise that he really didn't care. He had always known that he would eventually have to tell her
his entire plan; once she had everything ready for him, he would do so.

Now, that time had come. He turned his gaze back to the window and saw that her lamp had been
lit. She was ready.

There would be no more delays.

* * *

Tabina sat quietly on the edge of her chair, a cup of tea resting on the low table placed precisely in
the center of her boxy living room. Her visitor sat on the small, matching sofa opposite. He hadn't
spoken since she opened the door and announced that she had everything prepared for him. He had
simply nodded, brushed past her, and taken a seat.

When he spoke, it was abruptly and without preamble: "I fell in love almost exactly one hundred
years ago." He laughed, a short, bitter laugh, at Tabina's surprised expression. "Oh, yes, even I have
not been totally immune from Cupid's arrow. Not that I haven't been 'in love' before, during my
breathing days." His eyes seemed to focus inwardly for a moment, following the unseen march of
centuries in rare contemplation of his own past before returning to the present. "But those times, and
those women, could not even begin to compare to Mina Harker."

There was surprise in her eyes once again, along with a bright glint of curiosity. "What happened?"
She knew the story, of course; what she wanted was the truth, not that highly exaggerated piece of
popular fiction which had ended without telling the final fates of the characters involved.

"She was like sunshine in a life that had seen nothing but darkness for too many centuries," the
Count replied softly. "I did not expect the depth of feeling that came over me when I saw her, when
I came to know her. Nor, I think, did she," he added. "She admitted it to me, later, how she fought
against the instant bond that seemed to have been forged between us. She married Jonathan Harker,
not out of love, but from duty and a fear of the strength of our bond. A bond I did not use my
abilities to influence in any way," he stressed, and Tabina believed him. "I could speak of the
hundred things about her that made my existence suddenly worthwhile." But he wouldn't, and
Tabina understood that as well, showed him her understanding in the form of a brief smile. "We
loved, but she was torn between the mortal world and my own. I should have swept her away;
instead, I let her hesitate, and that was our undoing. She became pregnant with Harker's child, and
I lost her forever. Or so I thought."

Tabina sat in silence when he finished speaking, digesting his words as he jumped up to prowl
restlessly around the small room, the only sign of how much this revelation disturbed him. Like
herself, the Count was intensely private, and the witch knew, instinctively, that he had been that way
even before becoming a vampire. Just as she had been, before discovering her spellcrafting abilities.
"And Tegan? You're certain about her?" Tabina asked. She felt confident of his answer, but she had
to hear it from him, gauge the depth of his certainty for herself. If there were any doubt in his mind,
any at all, then the spell was doomed to failure before it was even cast.

The Count returned to his original seat opposite her, and Tabina found herself repressing a shiver
at the burning intensity of his gaze. "I've received confirmation that Tegan is a direct descendant
of Mina's son James, if that adds certainty. But she's more than that; she is Mina. I know it."

There was no doubt in his voice, Tabina noted with a feeling of satisfaction. That would certainly
help the spells he needed for his plans--whatever they entailed. He'd told her more than she
expected already, perhaps if she prompted him..."Once you've awakened her, you'll need an
anchor." Her voice remained carefully neutral.

Dracula nodded. "I have an anchor, as you call it. I have perhaps mentioned that I have a plan."

It was Tabina's turn to nod. "Yes, but you haven't told me what it is."

"Through a child. Our child, Mina's and mine."

A confused frown crossed Tabina's face; she opened her mouth to speak, but waited instead for the
Count to continue. "That first child created a bond, between her and Harker--a man whose throat
I would gladly have torn out! and her and the mortal world. I lost her through a child, and I intend
to regain her through the same means."

Tabina's frown deepened. "I'm not certain I understand. Why not simply use your own abilities to
make her do as you wish? Why do you need the shapeshifting spell?"

His prompt reply told her he expected the questions. "It would be useless to appear to her as myself
at this time; there would be no recognition while she is still Tegan Jovanka. There are other dangers
as well," he continued. "Even though I control her, she could conceivably break free; it has
happened in the past. I will not risk that." His voice was adamant. "I would have to maintain a very
high level of control over her to keep that from happening, but I have discovered that such control
creates problems of its own. It is damaging to maintain that intensity for any length of time,
especially for something as long-term as this would have to be. It will also be unsafe for me to
continue taking blood from her once she is with child; modern medicine has finally discovered what
the vampire has always known, that bleeding someone is more likely to lead to their death than their
recovery," he added dryly. "I have therefore concluded that it would be much safer for me to present
her with an illusion--one she should be more than willing to accept."

Tabina admired his plan; it was extremely well thought-out, if not positively brilliant. She felt a
slight glimmer of conscience, but squelched it with practiced ease. Ethics were fine, but rarely put
a roof over one's head or food on one's table--not to mention getting one any of the finer things in
life. No, she had used her abilities for less than ethical purposes in the past, and was in far too deep
to back out now. Count Vladimir Dracula was not a man she would cross lightly; the venom in his
voice and the cold light in his eyes when he spoke of Jonathan Harker clearly revealed the depths
of the vampire's ability to hate.

He frightened her as much as he intrigued her, had from the time of their first meeting in London.
But her fear of him was nothing compared to her fear of death. During the ten years that had passed
since that first meeting, she'd watched anxiously for the first gray hair, the first wrinkle, standing
by with every spell to aid in retaining her youth that she could find. But search though she did, she
found nothing that would do more than extend youth for a few, precious years--or worse, only give
the illusion of youth without erasing any of the actual effects. Eventually, even the spells she did
make use of would fail, and she would age and die. She would gladly assist anyone that could help
her avoid that fate, and the vampire was the first person she'd met that even came close to attaining
immortality. She was desperate to avoid aging and dying, and Dracula knew this; she could see that
knowledge in his eyes every time he looked at her. It gave him as much power over her as she had
over him, and that thought comforted her. They needed each other; where there was need, there was
that much less likelihood of betrayal.

Tabina was very conscious of these things as she selected a book from the small stack on the table
next to her chair and opened it to the marked page. "I believe this spell is best suited to your needs.
I have everything I need to cast it here, and the preparation time is minimal."

"Then shall we begin?" Dracula asked. There was a fine line of impatience edging his voice now,
the witch noted, but the fact that he was willing to take her word on it betrayed him more than his
voice ever could.

The witch raised a cautioning finger. "Not so fast. I have to make certain you understand the risks
involved. I'm dealing with spells that I had no part in creating, extremely old spells."

"Which means exactly what?" Dracula broke in impatiently.

"Which means that I can put no guarantees on them, the way I can on my own spells or on other,
more modern spells," Tabina replied. "I can tell you that they are authentic, that I think they'll work,
but there's no way of actually telling what will happen until we try them. The older the spell, the
more uncertain its results can be. The Soul Rebirthing spell depends on the will of the spellcaster,
the strength of the existing consciousness, and the desire of the previous soul to be reborn. It
depends on more variables than the Changeling spell, and is the one most likely to fail."

Dracula gave an understanding nod. In every endeavor there was a chance of failure, no matter how
small.

"I can promise you that the Changeling spell will not lock you in the form you choose, but that's all
I can promise you about it. Of course," Tabina added with a grim smile, "you should also remember
that this spell only creates the image. You won't have his memories."

"I have Tegan's memories of him. They should be more than adequate," Dracula replied. "I have
learned, my dear Tabina, that in spite of my naturally cautious nature, existence, even as a vampire,
is nothing without risk. I will not blame you unnecessarily if the spell fails."

Tabina allowed a glimmer of amusement to show as she added, "But you will determine what
constitutes 'unnecessary' failure? I understand. I can be ready tomorrow night, if that suits."

Dracula bowed. "I will be here."

The Following Night

David Halsey knew that he was working for a witch. She advertised it, from the discreet sign by the
cash register to her equally discreet business cards. But he knew now it wasn't just nonsense put on
for the tourists, that his boss at the job he'd taken to piss off his father was a real witch. Which, no
pun intended, was the root of his present predicament.

He'd found out by accident. He had forgotten a vital piece of his botany paper at the store and hadn't
discovered the loss until almost midnight, after dropping his girlfriend, Bertie, off at her flat. He
knew exactly where it must have fallen, too; behind the counter where he kept his things while
working, most likely wedged between the shelf and the wall. Even though Tabina had flatly
forbidden him to come back to the store after 10:00 at night ( "to keep my privacy, as I do live here"
he'd been told the last time he left something and came back for it after the store closed), this time
it couldn't wait. The paper was due first thing in the morning, no excuses short of death, and he had
no back-up for that particular section. So he had to sneak back, determined to be quiet enough not
to alert the elegant Ms. Doyle to his presence. If he was caught, so be it; he didn't really need the
job, just wanted to annoy his old man as much as possible.

It was after he used his key to the back entrance and quietly slipped inside the main store, finding
his precious data just where he thought it would be, that he heard the noises from upstairs.
Apparently his lady boss was entertaining a guest--a man, by the sound of it--in her private rooms.
Which was none of his business and didn't he know it! David's face flushed with acute
embarrassment as he hurriedly stuffed the papers into his backpack. But before he could make his
escape, the light on the stairs had come on and he'd barely had time to duck behind the curtain that
covered the entrance to Tabina's office before he heard her coming down. She called something out
to the man, whoever he was, then creaked her way down the ancient staircase.

David was sure he was dead. She was probably going to come waltzing into the office, and there he
would be. He'd be lucky if all she did was fire him; if she wanted to, she could probably sic the cops
on him for breaking and entering, or maybe trespassing. By the time he heard her moving some
bottles around in the cabinet she usually kept locked behind the counter, he was half-ready to come
out and take his medicine, rather than continue to lurk in the back like a thief.

The only thing that kept him from doing so then and there was the fact that her visitor had
apparently made his way downstairs as well, and without being heard, even though David would
have sworn there was no way to miss that squeaky third step from the top. It was only the fact that
the stranger started talking as soon as he came fully into the store that allowed the unwilling
eavesdropper to know that the man was there at all.

It was the word "kidnap" that froze David in place.

Before, he was afraid of being caught and fired. By the time the conversation in the front of the store
ended, he was terrified that he would be caught and suffer some kind of bizarre fate worse than
death. Vampires? Real magic, spells that worked? Kidnapping women and stealing their souls? The
thought crossed his mind that he was overhearing some kind of elaborate joke or hoax, but on who?
Him? They couldn't possibly know he was there.

With that thought, David gained the courage to peek out from behind the thick brocade curtain. He
had to see what was going on.

Tabina was pulling aside the faded oriental rug that lay in the middle of the room, revealing a trap
door David never even knew was there. She then escorted her guest, whom he heard her call
"Vladimir," down to what must be the cellar. She turned off the light before they disappeared
through the still-open door, using only a candle to guide their way.

If David Halsey had one failing, it was curiosity. That open door drew him like a magnet, in spite
of his fear of what he had just heard. He knew he ought to take this opportunity to leave, to get the
police or something, but couldn't quite bring himself to do so. For one thing, who on earth would
believe him? He had to have some sort of proof of wrong-doing before he could act--and this might
be his only opportunity to find out more.

Praying fervently that he wouldn't get caught, David lowered himself as quietly as possible to
stretch full-length on the floor next to the opening, poking his head cautiously over the edge. He saw
his boss and the mysterious "Vladimir" bending over a table holding what looked like a B-movie
mad scientist's home chem lab. Since they faced away from him, he continued to watch unseen as
Tabina spoke a few unintelligible words, poured a bluish liquid from a jar into a ceramic mug, and
handed it to "Vladimir".

The stranger drank the concoction down swiftly and simply stood there for a few moments. Then,
without warning, he shimmered, was the only way David could describe it, and right before the
young American's disbelieving eyes, the stranger changed, turned into another man. The dark-
haired, dark-eyed gypsy with the aristocratic stance and arrogant face became a slighter, more
slender blonde with a sunny smile that still somehow looked evil. Probably because the mysterious
"Vladimir" was still there, underneath.

When he spoke, even his voice was different. The slight, vaguely Russian accent disappeared, to be
replaced by a voice that was wholly British and half an octave higher. Then he shimmered once
again, and the original Vladimir was back, smiling a smile that caused a chill to race up David's
spine, expressing his satisfaction with the spell as he spoke casually to Tabina about his plans for
Tegan Jovanka, how he'd been "preparing" her by sending dreams.

It was no trick, no optical illusion; of that much, at least, David was certain. Although the
transformation had taken place quietly, without any flash or dazzle, it was real. Nothing he'd ever
seen came close Not even the special effects from the horror movies he loved so much.

It was a mess, all right, and one David didn't have the faintest idea how to fix. He had finally come
to his senses and beat a hasty retreat, retaining enough presence of mind to grab his backpack before
bolting for the back door. Once in the relative safety of the alley, he leaned against the door, took
a shuddering breath as he looked back at the building he had just exited, and ran home without
stopping.

* * *

When David finally made it to the dubious safety of the small apartment he shared with fellow-
university student Paul Tanner--who was spending this night as he spent most of his nights, at his
girlfriend Jen's he locked the door and bolted for his room. Once there, he collapsed on his bed,
panting in exhaustion as the adrenaline rush faded, only to jump back up and grab his mother's
silver-and-onyx rosary from where it hung on his dresser mirror and wrap it around the window
latch. That done, he popped open a diet soda, sat on the edge of his bed, and tried to remember why
the name Tegan Jovanka rang a bell in his memory. It wasn't someone he knew personally, of that
he was sure. A friend of a friend? No, not even that close. More like someone he had heard or read
about--that was it! David jumped up once again and began feverishly digging through the junk
beneath his bed. A newspaper article, that's where he'd seen that name. He was sure of it.

There it was, under a jumbled pile of dirty socks, crumpled paper bags, and unread magazines. Front
page. Tegan Jovanka, latest victim of the "Brisbane Vampire." And the only survivor. He smoothed
the page out carefully on the floor, frowning in concentration. It was beginning to make a weird kind
of sense, especially if "Vladimir" was who David was beginning to think he was, impossible though
it seemed.

It had been too much of a shock at first, for him to put two-and-two together, but as David finished
the article, he knew he was right. He had to be. He rose from the floor and looked over at his dresser
uncertainly. There, in a velvet-covered box buried beneath his sweats in the bottom drawer, resided
his great-grandfather's journal and notes from an event that had always been viewed as so much
science-fiction by David and especially his pragmatic, no-nonsense father--one of the only things,
David remembered, the two had ever agreed upon.

The box and its contents had been given to David by his mother's father, Grampa Stef, who had in
turn been bequeathed them by his father. Dr. Victor Van Helsing. Who claimed to have been the
model for Bram Stoker's famous vampire hunter.

Now it seemed those yellowing pieces of typewritten paper could be the most important weapons
in David's arsenal. If only he could figure out how to use them! "I could use some help in this,"
David muttered to himself as he walked over to the dresser and removed the box. "Too bad you're
not still around, Grandfather Van Helsing." He tapped the cover thoughtfully. "But I guess you are,
in a way. Right here." David mentally apologized for having previously taken his father's viewpoint
about the ancient collection being nothing more than his great-grandfather's notes from his
unrecorded collaboration on the novel with Bram Stoker. The old man had turned out to be telling
nothing but the truth; there were vampires in the world.

Vampires. David shivered, then looked around his room in sudden suspicion. How safe could he
actually be here? What if Tabina and Dracula heard him leaving or something? And why, he thought
with a flash of unease, didn't they even notice me? "I thought vampires were supposed to have some
kind of supernatural senses," he muttered to himself as he abruptly picked up the velvet-covered box
and shoved it into his backpack, along with his mother's rosary and the silver cross she'd given him
for his First Holy Communion. Staying here for the night was out. He needed to be around other
people, just in case they hadn't been as oblivious to his presence as he thought.

He'd hole up in a hotel for the night, he decided, halfway into stuffing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt
into the backpack. A trip to the hospital on the other side of town was definitely in order; that
Jovanka woman was in serious trouble, and no one knew it yet. Probably not even her. It was up to
him to warn her. It should be safe enough to see her during the day. If he truly hadn't been sensed
or seen, it was a time during which Tabina would be safely tucked away in the store and Dracula
would be safely tucked away--well, wherever it was Transylvanian vampires tucked themselves
away during visits to Australia.

Checking only to make sure he had all his money and his passport, David scribbled a quick note to
Paul, explaining only that he'd gone out for a while. He then bolted out the door, praying under his
breath the entire time. For once in his life he truly felt the presence of Evil in the world, the kind the
priests had always warned against, and it comforted him to know that his Catholic upbringing hadn't
entirely turned to cynicism as he reached adulthood.


The TARDIS

"Well," the Doctor said cheerily, pulling the lever that opened the TARDIS' observation window,
"here we are!"

Ace stared at the scene he had revealed--a quiet back street of some Earth city, by the looks of it.
"Here we are where?"

The Doctor, his back still to the screen, looked offended at her words. "'Where'?" he repeated
indignantly, "'Where?!?' Exactly where I said we would be!" He spun around to gesture at the
screen, but halted in mid-turn, freezing as soon as he saw the view.

"Sorry, Professor," Ace said, "but it doesn't look much like the Eye of Orion to me." She studied
the scene critically. "Fact is, it looks an awful lot like Earth. Of course," she added as the Doctor
continued to stare open-mouthed at the screen, "I could be wrong. After all, I'm not the expert on
these things--"

"Brisbane!" the Doctor exploded, startling Ace into silence by his vehemence. "Brisbane, Australia.
I don't believe it!" He looked extremely offended as he ran a practiced eye over the glimpse of
buildings and parked cars offered through the screen. "20th century, mid-1980s," he continued in
a disgusted mutter. "Of course. It would be--"

Ace felt a shiver go up her spine at the date. She'd still been on Earth in the 1980s, or most of them,
anyway. What if she went back to Perivale and saw herself? It was a disturbing thought. "Why does
Brisbane, Australia in the 1980s bother you so much?" she interrupted, as much out of a desire to
distract herself from such uncomfortable thoughts as from genuine curiosity.

"Bother me? Bother me?!?" the Doctor repeated indignantly. "Don't be ridiculous! It does no such
thing." But his gaze remained riveted to the view screen.

"Well, then who is it in Brisbane, Australia in the 1980s that bothers you so much?" Ace persisted
shrewdly.

The Doctor turned to stare at his young companion, blinked twice, then shook his head. "You," he
declared peevishly, "are becoming far too perceptive for my own good."

Ace looked pleased. "I've been practicing." Then, more insistently: "Are you going to answer my
question or not?"

The Doctor sighed and began to pace around the TARDIS console. "Ah, the single-mindedness of
youth. Has it occurred to you that perhaps I'm 'bothered', as you so quaintly put it, by the fact that
once again this foolish piece of antiquated junk"--he thumped the console of the TARDIS angrily
for emphasis-- "has landed us somewhere I didn't program it to? Hmm?"

Ace considered this, then shook her head. "Nope. It never has before. At least, not this much," she
amended. "So why should it now?"

The Doctor sighed again, this time in exasperation, and turned his gaze once more to the screen. Ace
found herself startled out of her next flippant remark by the look of guilt she thought she saw on
his face.

"Tegan," he murmured in a voice so low that Ace had to strain to hear him. Surely that wasn't regret
she heard? At any rate, he certainly didn't hear her demands to know who or what Tegan was as he
continued to stare at the view screen, but she was determined to find out. One way or another.

* * *

Ace discovered Tegan's identity--that and the fact that she did, indeed, come from Brisbane for all
that the Doctor had met her on the road to Heathrow--through the simple process of accessing her
file in the TARDIS database. She leaned back in her chair, satisfaction written on every feature, but
with a trace of disappointment as well. It turned out to be no big mystery. Tegan had been a
companion, like Ace herself; had traveled with the Doctor for several years, then left. Left
unhappily, granted, but at least she was alive, which was more than could be said for the boy Adric,
who was as closely connected with Tegan as Nyssa of Traken and Turlough of Trion. Yes, she'd left
seemingly disillusioned with traveling on the TARDIS, but that hardly accounted for the depth of
emotion the Doctor was spending on her; after all, he'd had much more reason to be guilty about
Adric, and he was willing to talk until the cows came home about the boy from E-Space.

She leaned back over the keyboard in the auxiliary computer room, completely absorbed in the
problem. Did Tegan die after she left the Doctor? Had her experiences driven her completely 'round
the bend, did she wind up in a loony bin, or was it something else entirely? The lack of illuminating
details was vexing, to say the least.

Well, she thought as she stretched to relieve the dull ache that had settled in the small of her back,
at least we're having a bit of a rest. The Doctor had practically taken the TARDIS console apart,
muttering that he would get "that circuit" fixed once and for all. That was yesterday, and it was still
a mess when Ace dragged herself out of bed the next morning. Since the Professor seemed to have
no intention of moving the TARDIS any time soon, it meant that she had time to start her discreet
inquiries with the computer, and wonder idly if he planned on visiting his former traveling
companion during their stay.

As if in answer to that question, a battered-looking newspaper landed with a loud "thump" on the
keyboard, causing Ace to yelp in surprise. She looked over her shoulder guiltily, expecting to get
the lecture of her life for nosing about, especially when she saw the grim expression on the Doctor's
face. But he said nothing about the information still showing on the screen in front of her, instead
pointed wordlessly to the newspaper. She spared a second to wonder when he'd gone out, then
quickly scanned the front page of the local paper. Her eyes quickly fastened on the main headline.
In impossible-to-miss two-inch lettering, it screamed: "BRISBANE VAMPIRE NEARLY
CLAIMS FIFTH VICTIM".

The photo on the front page was unmistakable, for all that it appeared to be some sort of school
picture. "Tegan Jovanka?" Ace stared at the page incredulously. Yes, there it was in black and
white. Tegan Jovanka, attacked while on her way to the cinema.

The article was written for lurid effect, containing some gruesome "on-the-scene" shots of the
previous victims of the "vampire" as well as a rather fuzzy picture of Tegan on an ambulance
stretcher. She had been saved by sheer luck, Ace read. The other victims weren't half so fortunate;
they had all had been found dead, completely drained of blood. The police were described as being
"puzzled by the fact that the other victims were all itinerants"; a "noted psychiatrist" (unnamed, Ace
noted sourly) gave his opinion that, since "psycho-killers usually follow a pattern, as had been the
case with the so-called 'Brisbane Vampire' up until now, we are facing a most unusual fellow, one
with the cunning to change victim-types in order to attempt to throw off the scent." The story
continued on, but Ace set the paper down and opened her mouth to ask the million questions that
flooded her mind.

Questions the Doctor gave her no time to voice. His mouth pinched in a grim line, he said curtly:
"We're going to pay a visit to an old friend in Hospital." He spun on his heel and left, without
waiting to see if Ace would follow. She grabbed the paper and ran out the door after him, not even
bothering to shut down the computer.

* * *

Ace and the Doctor headed straight to admissions as soon as they reached the hospital. The sister
on duty wore a thoroughly annoyed expression and was shaking her head "no" at the young man who
stood in front of her. The Doctor and Ace stopped a few feet behind him, although Ace could sense
the act of will it took for the Doctor to do so; she wouldn't have been at all surprised if he simply
shouldered past the impediment and demanded Tegan's room number from the peroxide-blonde
nurse.

Ace's mouth dropped open in surprise as she heard the young man in front of them demand to know
where he could find Tegan Jovanka. He was holding a newspaper under his arm that looked
suspiciously like the one Ace was holding, although in slightly better condition. She turned to the
Doctor, her mouth open to speak, but was shushed by his finger against his mouth. He didn't so
much as turn to look at her, and she wondered for the thousandth time how he managed to do that.
Then she returned her attention to the conversation in front of her, joining the Doctor in shamelessly
eavesdropping.

"Look," the stranger insisted in an American accent, "I know she already checked out, but I have
information I absolutely have to get to her; she could be in real danger. I need to know where I can
find her!"

The sister shook her head again. "I am very sorry, but I simply cannot give out patient information,
not after they've been discharged, and certainly not if they've been involved in a crime." She eyed
him with sudden suspicion. "If she's in so much danger, why haven't you gone to the police with
your information?" At that point, she noticed the Doctor and Ace behind the young man and pasted
on an artificially pleasant, if somewhat strained, smile. "May I help you?"

The Doctor shook his head. "No thank you, sister. We're just here to pick up our young friend." He
nodded at the boy, who, along with Ace, turned to face the Doctor with a startled jerk of the head.
The stranger was tolerably good-looking, Ace noted, in spite of the general air of dishevelment he
wore. His shaggy brown hair was mussed and deep blue eyes were shot through with red. Either he
hadn't slept in a while, Ace decided, or it had been one helluva party last night.

He continued to gape at them as the Time Lord continued: "I'm the Doctor. Our young friend is not
very stable, I'm afraid. He sees articles like this in the paper and makes a nuisance of himself by
claiming to know more than he actually does. It's his way of getting attention. When he found that
newspaper, I knew exactly where he'd be heading." His voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper.
"Broken-Home Syndrome, I'm afraid." The sister nodded knowingly at this diagnosis, although Ace
had the distinct feeling the Doctor was making it up on the spot. The nurse's expression turned
sympathetic, but when her gaze returned to the now-totally confused-looking stranger, she seemed
to be torn between pity and her former annoyance.

"I suppose there's been no harm done, Doctor," she decided, pity apparently winning out. Her
expression turned stern. "But you must remember that this is a hospital. I could turn him in to the
police for this sort of nonsense!"

"Yes, quite right," the Doctor replied with an ingratiating smile. He turned to the young man, who
still appeared unable to do more than gape in astonishment, and took his arm gently but firmly.
"Come along, then. Off we go." He nodded at Ace, who stared back at him in puzzlement for a
second before grasping his intention and the young man's other arm. They hustled the unresisting
stranger between them out the double-doors of the hospital entrance.

Once they were outside, the boy seemed to come out of his daze at being accosted and accused by
complete strangers. He jerked his arms loose. Ace and the Doctor let him go without resistance.
"What are you doing?" he demanded. "If anyone's crazy here, it's you."

"The state of my sanity is not in question," the Doctor snapped back, clutching his umbrella in a
distinctly threatening manner. "Just tell me why you were asking about Tegan Jovanka, if you
please."

The young man's expression became guarded at the hostile tone the Doctor was taking with him.
"Why should I tell you anything?" he asked with a return of the defiant belligerence, eyeing the
umbrella uneasily. Ace thought he seemed almost frightened, as if he thought she and the Doctor
were enemies of some kind. Not that the professor was doing anything to dispel that belief; on the
contrary, he was behaving rather belligerently himself.

"Because," the Doctor replied grimly, interrupting her thoughts. "Tegan happens to be a friend of
mine; after this attack, anyone who claims she's still in danger is very interesting to me." His eyes
bored into those of the younger man. "Now tell me who you are and why you were asking about
Tegan."

He's using some kind of hypnosis, Ace realized as she saw the stranger's eyes go blank and he began
speaking in a flat, emotionless monotone. "My name is David Halsey. I overheard a conversation
last night, which is when I found out that Tegan Jovanka was attacked by a vampire." The Doctor
looked a bit taken aback at this revelation and Ace felt her mouth twisting in a disbelieving sneer.

"It was just a random attack then," the Doctor murmured, more to himself than to David. Ace
decided that he had been worried about it being an old enemy seeking revenge, and was relieved that
it might have no connection to him at all. David, however, took the comment as being directed to
him. "No," he contradicted, still in that same, flat tone. It gave Ace the creeps.

The Doctor looked even more startled, then genuinely concerned. "Are you saying that it wasn't
random?" The young man nodded, and the Doctor asked more urgently, "She's still in danger from
this vampire?"

He received another affirmative nod as answer. Ace turned to face the Doctor, her mouth open to
voice a scathing comment at this foolishness, but he pulled the "shushing-her-without-looking"
routine again as he asked, quietly but insistently: "Are you quite certain about this? A genuine
vampire, not a psychotic with delusions? Tegan is still in danger from it?" He asked these questions
even more carefully, as if repetition might change the answers to ones he liked better.

No such luck. "Yes," David replied with absolute conviction. "He's a genuine vampire, and Tegan
is still in danger."

Surely the Professor isn't taking this lunatic seriously! Ace thought incredulously as the Time Lord
continued to question the crazy Yank. This was going too far; a nutcase that thought he was a
vampire was one thing, but a real vampire ?!? Absolutely bonkers.

Then again, who was she to judge? Especially since she would be considered a loon if she ever tried
to tell people she'd been blown through time and space to another planet, and had spent the past four
years or so knocking about the universe with an alien time traveler. Lock her up right quick, they
would! If she thought about it, a vampire was no stranger than robotic humanoid dragons or any of
the other things they'd run into over the years and the Doctor certainly had a lot more "over the
years" to run into strange things than she did!

Ace looked around nervously. Not, she told herself, for vampires, but because there were so many
people about who might overhear the conversation, or see the strange look on the young American's
face and wonder what was going on. They were still standing on the front steps of a busy hospital,
after all. Even though they were off to one side, Ace was beginning to feel exposed.

"Oi! Doctor!" she interrupted urgently. He raised a hand, and David fell silent. The Doctor turned
to his companion, seemed to realize what she wanted and nodded, all without saying a word. He
turned back to their unwilling guest, spoke briefly in a low voice, and snapped his fingers. David
shook his head, looked at the Doctor disbelievingly, and exclaimed, "You're a what?!?! And you
want me to do what?!?"

"Come to my ship," the Doctor replied evenly. "I believe we can help each other."

David frowned. "How do I know you are who you say you are?"

The Doctor shrugged. "Come along and find out."

David hesitated a moment longer, then nodded. Either he'd decided to trust them for now or else
the Doctor'd given him one of those post-hypnotic suggestion things. Ace certainly couldn't tell. All
she did know was that she still felt a nagging worry about the Doctor. It wasn't like him to use any
of his abilities as a Time Lord to force answers out of people, no matter how urgent the need. True,
David seemed none the worse for wear, but it still made Ace uneasy. However, while she was
dithering, the two men had already started back for the TARDIS. She ran to catch them up, deciding
in her usual fashion to worry about it later. If she had to.

* * *

David was suitably impressed by the TARDIS. Any doubts as to the truth of what the Doctor had
told him were eradicated the minute they passed through the double doors of the "police box". The
young college student stared around in a mixture of delight and disbelief, forgetting for a moment
the reason he was there. Spying the door that led to the interior of the TARDIS, he pointed to it and
asked in a near-whisper, "Where does that go?"

"To the rest of the ship," the Doctor replied matter-of-factly.

David looked back at him with comically widened eyes. "You mean there's more to it than this?"
The Doctor nodded.

"Well, now I've seen everything," David declared as he stood, hands on hips, next to the console.
He turned to face the Doctor and Ace once again. "Space ships, time travelers" his expression
instantly sobered "and vampires. It's like being trapped in a Steven King novel."

Ace smiled grimly. "Only if he swiped the plot from H.G. Wells, eh?"

She'd managed to put David off-balance again, Ace realized, as his expression became confused.
"You read Wells in space?"

She shook her head. "Nope. Not since school. I'm from Earth, too, a place in England called
Perivale. Call me Ace." She thrust out her hand. David took it automatically, the dazed expression
lingering on his face.

"Now that we have the introductions out of the way," the Doctor interrupted tesily, "perhaps we
should see what we can do to spare Tegan from any more of this vampire's attention."

"Not just any vampire, Doctor," David interjected eagerly. "I think he's Count Dracula."

Ace rolled her eyes. "Look, mate, it's tough enough for me to believe in bloodsucking vampires
without you trying to make me believe it's a fictional character come to life as well."

"But he's not fictional," the Doctor and David objected at the same time, then: "How did you
know?" they both demanded as they turned to face each other suspiciously. Ace found herself
looking back and forth from one to the other, as if at some bizarre tennis match. If they kept up the
stereo bit, she had a feeling she'd be getting a headache very quickly.

The Doctor broke it up. "Tell me," he ordered.

David pulled off the knapsack he'd been wearing casually slung over one shoulder, thumping it
down on the console as he opened it to reveal an antique-looking box covered in dusty black velvet.
Ace peered over the Doctor's shoulder with interest as David pulled out a small key and opened it.
It contained notes of some kind, brittle and yellowed with age. "My mother's maiden name was Van
Helsing," David said in defiant tones, as if he expected to be disbelieved. "My great-grandfather "

"Was Dr. Victor Van Helsing," the Doctor finished, with a touch of awe. "The man who originally
convinced Bram Stoker to write up his story as a fictitious account, almost ten years after the actual
events occurred." He studied David's face, then murmured: "I should have guessed..."

"How did you know that?" David demanded. "That's supposed to be some sort of family secret, that
Grandfather Van Helsing actually came up with the story and gave it to Stoker." He shook his head.
"My father always thought he was nuts, you know? Because he gave away the plot of a best-selling
story to someone else and let them take all the credit except for giving his name to one of the
characters. And because he kept claiming the story wasn't fiction. My father said he'd brainwashed
my mom and her dad, but he never believed it. Neither did I," David admitted. "Not until last night."
He shook his head as if to dispel the memory. "When I saw the Count turn into that other guy, I
thought I was gonna have a heart attack!"

"'Other guy'?" the Doctor asked quickly. "I didn't realize the Count was capable of transforming
himself into another person."

"Right; I thought it was just bats, wolves and mists," Ace agreed. Neither she nor David noticed how
the Doctor had deftly turned the conversation away from his intriguing knowledge that Dracula was
real.

"That's right; I didn't tell you the rest." David smacked his forehead with one hand. "Everything's
been happening so fast, and I didn't sleep much last night. The Count drank some sort of potion that
made him look like a completely different person, even changed his clothes and hair."

Ace felt even her elastic credulity being strained at the edges by that statement. "A magic potion?
A spell?"

David nodded seriously. "You got it. He's working with my boss well," he interrupted himself,
distracted by the thought of his job, "my former boss, I should say. After everything I heard them
talking about, I'd have to be nuts to go back there!"

"What exactly did you hear? Try and remember everything," the Doctor urged. No more hypnosis,
Ace noted with relief, now that it was clear that David wasn't an enemy. Good.

"'Begin at the beginning and when you get to the end, stop'" she quoted helpfully. "What's the first
thing that happened? What's Count Dracula got to do with your boss?"

"Well, it all started when I forgot a piece of this botany paper at work Tabina's Curiosity Shoppe
last night," David began, casually leaning back on his elbows-and against the knapsack he'd left on
the control panel-as he spoke.

"Don't lean there!" the Doctor shouted, racing to intercept David just as his elbows knocked into
the backpack, which struck squarely on various controls and sent the TARDIS spinning off to who-
knew-where.


The Jovanka Ranch - That Night

Tegan tossed restlessly in her bed. At the beginning of her extended visit home, she'd slept well, for
the first time in four years. But now, ever since her return from hospital after an attack she still
couldn't remember, after too few nights of peaceful, uneventful sleep, her problems seemed to have
returned a hundredfold. She no longer woke for no reason, to stare at the ceiling for hours before
returning to sleep; instead, she was awakened by dreams. Not even nightmares; there was no way
she could call what happened behind her eyes nightmares. Just incredibly detailed, vividly realistic
dreams.

No two of them were exactly the same, but they all focused on one thing. Or rather, one person. The
Doctor. She saw him doing everything from working on the TARDIS console, the way she'd seen
him so many times in the past, to eating breakfast in the small galley, to drinking tea in the
Conservatory garden, always with a gentle, welcoming smile on his face whenever he turned and
saw her standing behind him. He always reached out a hand towards her, but before she could take
it, she awoke. Awoke with an ache in her heart so fierce she thought it would kill her, and tears of
loneliness and frustration streaming down her face.

No matter what time of night she went to bed, the dream always came about three to four hours after
she fell asleep. Once she was awake, she knew it was for the night; she was so tightly wound that
she doubted if even a valium would have been of any use in helping her relax. Besides, she didn't
know that she really wanted to go back to sleep. What if she simply returned to the dream? Once
a night was enough for that kind of pain, thank you very much. You'd think after four years she'd
be over the infuriating man...

Tegan rose from her bed, the same bed she'd slept in as a child, shrugged into a robe, and walked
over to stare moodily out the window. The ranch looked so different at night, with nothing to light
it except the moon. Machinery and buildings alike cast eerie shadows, and Tegan found herself
shivering involuntarily as she continued to gaze out at the darkened landscape. At times like these,
it was very easy to believe in things that go bump in the night. Traveling with the Doctor for so long,
actually having seen those types of "things", certainly didn't make it look any friendlier. It was quite
easy to imagine, for instance, that the looming shadows hid a squad of Cybermen, or a platoon of
Daleks...

With an exclamation of disgust at her overactive imagination, Tegan started to turn away from the
window. Much more of that kind of thinking, my girl, and you'll be seeing the shadows moving! she
thought irritably.

Right on cue, a shadow moved.

Tegan froze, not sure what she'd just seen, then leaned forward slightly from her vantage point
behind the safety of the curtains, trying to get a closer look. What or who ever it was, she felt
confident of her ability to scream the house down at the first sign of danger. Traveling with the
Doctor had strengthened her lungs, if nothing else. She leaned forward even more, straining to see.
But there was no further movement. She relaxed, convinced that her eyes were playing tricks on her.
Lack of sleep, she decided, and turned away from the window.

There was someone in the room. Her mouth opened to form a scream, then snapped shut again as
she recognized the figure standing before her.

"Doctor?" Tegan whispered disbelievingly when she could finally force her numb vocal cords to
work. He nodded and held out his arms. She walked towards him haltingly, stumbled into his
embrace. "I can't believe it !"

"Believe it, Tegan," the Doctor whispered tenderly as his hands caressed her back and shoulders.
His lips brushed the top of her head, and she shivered at the touch. "I discovered I couldn't just let
you go, although I tried. I fought it as long as I could. Can you forgive me for taking so long to come
to my senses?" Her arms tightened around him as she murmured a yes into his collar.

It was an eternity before Tegan was able to raise her eyes to gaze searchingly at his face. His
expression held all the tenderness she had ever hoped to see, along with the welcoming smile of her
dreams. "Are you real?" she asked urgently as sudden fear constricted her heart. The smile
frightened her; what if it was all just another dream? I've wanted this so much...

"Does this answer your question?" the Doctor murmured. He bent down to take her more firmly in
his arms for a kiss that swept all doubt from Tegan's mind. This was no dream, unless it was a
dream come true. She returned the kiss in full measure, giving vent to more than four years of pent-
up passion. When he swung her up effortlessly into his arms and set her on the bed, she made no
protest. The moment she longed for had finally arrived. It was no time for words.

Later, when the Doctor asked her to come away with him again just the two of them, this time she
said yes without a moment's hesitation. She dressed in the dark, then dashed downstairs to the study
to scribble a quick farewell to her parents. It never even occurred to her to wonder how he had
appeared in her room. She simply accepted.

In the darkness of Tegan's bedroom, Dracula also clothed himself and smiled with deep satisfaction.
It had begun.

The TARDIS

"In the future, young man, I would appreciate it if you stayed away from the console!" the Doctor
snarled for the dozenth time as they finally materialized back on Earth. "I thought Harry Sullivan
was bad! No one has ever managed to muck up the controls so thoroughly at least, not without
shooting them or deliberately sabotaging them first," he muttered as he snapped the cover to the
console base back into place.

"I said I was sorry," David mumbled, shooting a guilty look at Ace, who rolled her eyes in sympathy.

The Time Lord had been grumbling like that, off and on, for 24 straight hours which was exactly
how long it had taken him to fix the mess David had accidentally created. Not only had he sent the
TARDIS spinning off to an unknown destination, he had also managed to somehow lock those
destination coordinates into the computer and then erase them which meant that, not only did they
not know where they were, but they couldn't get back.

David and Ace understood the Doctor's desire to return to Earth as closely as possible to the time
at which they'd made their inadvertent side-trip to the unknown sector of the galaxy in which they
now found themselves. However, Ace confided to David, she'd never seen "The Professor" so
rattled not even when the entire galaxy was at stake, much less a single life. Not that the Doctor
didn't value a single life, Ace hastened to assure their newest traveling companion, but he just
seemed to be reacting a bit strongly to the threat to this particular life.

"Is she an old girlfriend or something?" David asked around lunchtime. Then, as another thought
struck him: "Does he have old girlfriends?"

He and Ace had retreated outside to the small clearing in which they'd materialized to escape the
Doctor's black mood. He was ignoring them both anyway, concentrating on the problem of
where not to mention when they were.

Ace shrugged. "Dunno." It was something she'd wondered herself, and she was glad to see that
David's thoughts were tending in the same direction. "He never even talked about her before all this,
and he talks about his other companions all of them," she stressed. "I mean, you can ask him about
the ones that died, and he doesn't really mind. It still hurts him, but he doesn't avoid talking about
them. He never even mentioned Tegan until we accidentally landed in Brisbane."

"Accidentally? You didn't go there on purpose?" David was surprised, and didn't bother hiding it.

Ace shook her head, half in exasperation, half in amusement. "We hardly ever go anywhere 'on
purpose.' The TARDIS seems to have a mind of its own. Brings us to all the trouble spots until
we've had enough, then wham! brings us where we want to go so we can have a bit of a rest before
it brings us to the next problem."

She sounded more amused than upset, David noted as he continued his interrupted train of thought.
"Well, all I can say is, it's a good thing you did show up! Old girlfriend or not, she's in some deep
sh trouble," he finished lamely, while Ace grinned at his discomfiture.

"Well, my grandfather always said no swearing in front of ladies," he muttered, then quickly
returned to the subject at hand. "I know this is none of my business, but he's acting like he really
cares about her, more than just a friend, I mean." He looked down as the rock at which he'd been
idly kicking suddenly sprouted feet and a head and disappeared rapidly into the bush. "Some sort
of speedy turtle," he commented unsteadily as he watched it vanish, momentarily distracted from
his speculations.

Ace nodded again, her eyes also tracing the creature's path but her mind obviously still on their
conversation. "Right. If you picked up on that after knowing him for a day, and it's something I've
been thinking after knowing him for a few years, then maybe we're on to something. Are you sure
Dracula and that witchy boss of yours didn't say how they were going to do this soul-switching
stuff?"

David shook his head, twisting his face in a frustrated grimace. "I even told the Doctor to go ahead
and hypnotize me again to make sure I wasn't forgetting something. He just said that it wasn't
likely, it was too traumatic an experience for me to ever forget, and would I please get out of his
light?" He shivered. "I guess he's right; I can still see them when I close my eyes."

Ace tossed the small pebble she'd been holding in the general direction of David's "speedy turtle,"
first checking it carefully for signs of life, then dusted her hands on the sides of her black bicycle
pants. "I think there's more going on here than meets the eye," she announced, resisting the urge to
pat David's shoulder. Strictly for comfort, of course.

"Is there some sort of file on her in the computer?" David asked as he leaned over to cautiously
inspect a flowering piece of moss that was growing, like almost all of the vegetation they'd seen so
far, on the back of a medium-sized rock.

Ace nodded. "It doesn't say much. Just who she was, how long she traveled with the Doctor, and
that she left. It doesn't," she added significantly, "go into details about why."

Further speculation was made impossible by a startled yelp from David as the plant he was
examining suddenly jumped up at his face, rock and all. He stepped back in clumsy haste, one arm
flung protectively across his eyes, and was saved from potential harm only by the fact that he tripped
over his own feet and fell backward. The creature another turtle-like animal, Ace noted in passing
as she raced to David's side overshot its original target and disappeared into the trees as quickly
as the first one, apparently as frightened by them as they were by it.

"Oi! You all right?" Ace asked, leaning over David in concern. He merely nodded, too winded and
still too startled to answer. Ace decided comforting was appropriate in this case and offered her
hand to help haul him back to his feet.

"Maybe we'd better wait inside," David suggested after a moment spent catching his breath. He kept
her hand, and Ace didn't pull it away. She simply nodded her agreement, waiting solicitously for
him to recover before heading back to the TARDIS.

"Did you say there was a swimming pool here?" David asked as the doors slammed shut behind
them.

* * *

They'd never finished that conversation, Ace realized as she returned to the present with a start. The
distraction caused by the "Mossback", as David had christened the flower-encrusted denizen of the
alien planet, had succeeded in completely wiping the conversation from both their minds. The
vigorous swim they'd shared in the TARDIS pool not to mention the yummy sight of David in
swimtrunks also distracted them. That is, it distracted Ace. That distraction had been interrupted
in turn by the Doctor suddenly bellowing over an intercom system Ace had never known existed that
he needed help with some gadget or other. After that, it had been nothing but work for the rest of
their enforced stay.

Now it was too late to worry, Ace decided as she looked out of the view screen at the Jovanka ranch.
Maybe they would find out more when they finally met Tegan.

The Doctor barely finished his last dig at David's clumsiness before hurrying out the main doors.
David grabbed his knapsack hung neatly on an old-fashioned coat rack the Doctor had dug up from
somewhere and pointedly placed in the farthest corner from the console and followed, with Ace
right behind him. The urgency of their mission had returned to her, now that they were back on
Earth and able to do something.

* * *

The Doctor tried to aim as closely as he could to their accidental departure date, but had
unfortunately and, Ace thought with a mental sigh of resignation, inevitably overshot. It was a
week later than when they'd left, and Tegan was already gone.

Her mother wasn't at all helpful when they materialized on her doorstep out of nowhere. "Tegan's
not here," she said with an unfriendly glare, keeping the screen door firmly latched between herself
and her unwelcome visitors. "She's gone on holiday."

"Did she leave already?" the Doctor asked in his most conciliatory manner. "We were supposed to
meet her," he lied glibly. "I must have got the date wrong."

Mrs. Jovanka glared at him with undisguised hostility. "She never said anything about meeting
anyone here." Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "She went on holiday," she repeated, her voice
almost mechanical as she rubbed at her neck just below the collar in what Ace took to be a nervous
habit. "My husband isn't far," the older woman added abruptly, backing a step into the house.
"You'd just better push off. I'll tell Tegan you were here when she gets back."

"When will that be?" David demanded in growing frustration. His only answer was a firm "click"
as the door shut in their faces. He turned to look at the Doctor, only to be confronted with the Time
Lord's back as he and Ace started walking briskly away.

David trotted to keep up with the other two as the Doctor said over his shoulder: "It's no use asking
any questions here. Did you see the way she was rubbing her neck?" He didn't wait for an answer
as they entered the TARDIS, but continued speaking as he grimly set the controls: "Our friend the
Count has already been here and taken steps to ensure that he isn't followed."

Ace shifted uneasily from foot to foot. "You mean he's controlling her parents?" she asked with
macabre fascination.

The Doctor nodded, finally looking over at the two young people standing huddled together in the
corner as if for protection. "He can exert a certain amount of control over people without taking
blood from them, but for any sort of long-term control, he must take it. Only a very little is enough
for someone to be under his influence for the rest of their life."

David shuddered. "I could've been killed or-or-vamped that night," he said weakly. The
vulnerability of their position finally seemed to occur to him. "It could still happen."

The Doctor nodded gravely. "Yes. It could. By coming here, we've no doubt alerted Dracula to our
presence. We shall have to tread very carefully from now on."

"Where d'you think he's taken her?" Ace asked, although she had a feeling she knew the answer.

"Transylvania," the Doctor confirmed, still in that same, grim voice. "To finish what he's started."
He gazed down at the console, his hand tightening into a fist. "Whatever that involves." The fist
pounded once on the console. "Why the shapeshifting? Turning into someone Tegan knows, so she
wouldn't be suspicious? I suppose that seems obvious. But how do they intend to replace Tegan with
Mina Harker?"

He looked up at his two companions, who stood in shocked silence at the Doctor's angry outburst.
"We know he already took blood from her," he continued in a quieter tone. "He could literally force
her to do anything he wants her to with her willing and anxious to cooperate every step of the way!
Why all the mumbo jumbo with witchcraft and potions and shapeshifting?"

He paused for so long that Ace and David thought he was through, until he answered his own
question as he began to pace, eyes on the floor. "He obviously needs Ms. Doyle to perform some
sort of spell to replace Tegan with Mina Harker." Ace and David moved out of his way, backing up
a few steps as he appeared ready to plow through them unseeingly while he continued his musings.
"The dreams must be somehow linked with that process, hmm?" He peered back at them abruptly,
as if waiting for a response.

"Uh, yeah, sure, Doc," David replied feebly, while Ace merely nodded, looking as mystified as the
young American felt. The Doctor grunted, then resumed his pacing. His two companions exchanged
puzzled looks, then returned their gazes to the Time Lord. He didn't speak again until the TARDIS
reached its destination.

Transylvania

"Someone is coming." Dracula turned alertly at the sound of Tabina's voice. She had turned out to
be a very good ally indeed; he hardly needed physical or electronic guardians with her spells set up
to catch any attempted approach to their hiding place. Apparently one of them had just been tripped.

"Is it the strangers that came to the Jovanka ranch?" he asked, hoping it wasn't. If it was, then it
meant they somehow knew he had Tegan. He approached the small table upon which Tabina had
set her "crystal ball," which was actually a small scrying mirror. She occupied the only chair, her
attention focused on the occult spying device, but looked up as he neared.

"Yes. And they know something of your plans," came the unwelcome reply. "The leader, you'll be
interested to know, is someone who's face you've borrowed. Although," she added, glancing back
down at the mirror, "he's wearing a different face himself these days."

Dracula frowned blackly. The news became worse and worse. According to Tegan's memories, the
chances of the Doctor turning up again were vanishingly small. And yet, Tabina was telling him that
the alien was on his way here, which could only mean that he knew, somehow, about their plan. It
was the only explanation; the Count did not believe in coincidences. "Let me see," he ordered,
leaning over Tabina's shoulder. She shrugged and shifted to one side, allowing him to peer into the
misty depths of the scrying device.

Dracula saw an ordinary looking man, one who appeared to be nearing middle-age, staring
broodingly at his hands. Regeneration, of course; it could be nothing else. The fair-haired, blue-eyed
Time Lord with the gentle, merry smile was gone, replaced by an older face framed by dark curls,
with a smile more wry than merry, the eyes perhaps a shade more haunted. But there was something
about the stranger in the mirror, something that told Dracula beyond a shadow of a doubt that this
was, indeed, the alien Time Lord known as the Doctor.

Dracula was intrigued at his first real look at the man he was presently impersonating at least, while
he was with Tegan. For some reason that neither he nor Tabina could explain, it tired him to stay
in the Doctor's form for extended periods of time. But none of that concerned him as he studied the
Time Lord. The concept of regeneration fascinated him, on a different level, as yet another
demonstration of the universal desire to sidestep mortality, to cheat death. According to Tegan's
memories, the Gallifreyan Time Lords were granted 12 lives and lived many hundreds of years in
each life unless they met with some kind of accident or were killed by conventional means. A
dream come true, for many. But, no matter how far away the limits to life extended, they still
existed, even for a Lord of Time. Immortality seemed to exact a price no matter how it was
achieved.

But this particular Time Lord was not a project to study, he was a potential problem. One that would
have to be eliminated. "You're certain he is on his way here?" the Count asked Tabina, although he
already knew the answer. "Who are his companions? Tegan's mother said there were three of
them."

The witch nodded. "Yes, he's on his way." She tilted her head back slightly, just enough to look
Dracula in the eye as she confirmed the bad news. "He does, indeed, have company." She gestured
at the mirror, which immediately clouded over and almost as quickly cleared again, to show two
young people walking silently down a long corridor the Count also recognized from Tegan's
memories as belonging on the TARDIS. The girl he'd never seen before, but the boy...

"Isn't that your clerk? David Halsey?" he demanded in outraged fury.

Tabina nodded again, a little more sharply this time. "Yes. Apparently he was in the store the night
we first cast the spell to change your appearance. I would imagine that's why he didn't come to
work the next day. And to think, I felt badly at the time, because he wasn't there to collect his
cheque before I 'went back to England to stay with my sick mother.'" Her tone was mocking, but
her eyes were as coldly furious as those of the vampire. "I don't know why he was there, or why we
didn't detect him, but he was there. Now he's traveling with the Time Lord and his companion,
Ace."

Dracula straightened and turned to face the stone wall, hands grasped tightly together behind his
back. "How much do they know?"

"Only that you plan to somehow replace Tegan's psyche with Mina Harker's. They don't know how
you intend to achieve that goal." She paused, then added with a touch of spite: "There's one other
thing I should tell you. David's mother, Anika, was killed in a car accident when he was a child. Not
that she's important in and of herself, but you might be interested in the fact that her maiden name
was...Van Helsing." She leaned back in her chair, waiting to see his reaction.

"Van Helsing," he murmured, showing no other sign that he even heard her until he suddenly
smashed his fist into the wall. Stone shattered and crumbled at that superhuman blow, and Tabina
winced. She'd provoked a reaction all right, and now half-regretted her statement. But he needed
to know.

"Van Helsing," her host repeated, louder now as he whirled to face her once again. His eyes glowed
redly with a fury that Tabina knew was close to the point of eruption. "This is intolerable! That
meddling fool reaches beyond the grave to keep me from achieving my goals." His hands clenched
into fists, and the points of his fangs protruded over his lower lip.

Tabina felt frightened before, but now she was terrified, literally frozen in her seat by the sheer force
of Dracula's anger as he paced furiously in the small corner of the room. "I should have kept better
track of them no, I should have destroyed them, killed them while I had the chance! I should never
have allowed Mina to talk me into sparing them any of them," he raged. "Not them, and not their
cursed descendants." He whirled to face Tabina once again, pinning her with the strength of his
infuriated gaze, eyes glowing red in the dim light of the secret chamber. "Get rid of them."

"I'm not sure I can," the witch protested weakly. "I don't know how much influence I can exert over
the alien or his machine."

"Then work through the girl she's human, is she not? or the Van Helsing brat," the Count growled
as he stalked closer. "Cast a glamour on one of them, make them destroy the damned controls of that
vehicle, or kill the Doctor anything! I do not want them here. Or " he paused consideringly, fury
abating as an idea came to him. He leaned back once more, to stand with preternatural stillness. "Or,
perhaps not kill the Doctor. Not yet. If they arrive in several years, there won't be anyone left for
them to rescue, will there?" He smiled, then laughed in pure delight. "Can you do that, my witch?"
he purred, running a finger lightly across her cheek. "Can you merely delay them for a time?"

His fangs, Tabina noted in a small corner of her mind, had retracted once again. She wrenched her
gaze away from his, trying not to shudder at his touch, concentrating on her hands, which, she noted
with surprise, had balled themselves into tightly clenched fists. "I believe so," she replied faintly,
willing her fingers to uncurl. If she had ever harbored any illusions of influencing her host, they
were shattered now, as shattered as her nerves. Never, never had she felt such power, and she had
deliberately placed herself into that power.

Reminding herself firmly that Dracula was known for scrupulous fairness the real Dracula, not the
soulless, inhuman wretch concocted by Bram Stoker she gathered the remains of her courage and
turned to look coolly at him. "David's clumsy; the only reason we've had this grace period at all is
because he accidentally sent the Doctor's ship off-course. Which gives me an idea " She leaned
forward, eyes glittering, her fear willfully suppressed for the moment.


The TARDIS

David tossed restlessly in his sleep. The TARDIS was in Romania now, having arrived in the middle
of the night. The Doctor had decreed that a good night's sleep would do them all some good, and
that they would tackle Castle Dracula in the morning. In the meantime, he assured his two
companions, the force field would keep any unwanted visitors out.

The Doctor told nothing but the absolute truth when he made those reassurances; unfortunately, they
extended only to the realm of the physical. When Tabina and the Count came calling that night, it
was through the medium of David's dreaming mind. One minute he was deep in slumber, the next
he found himself sitting up in bed, eyes wide with surprise and shock, brow bathed in sweat, body
shuddering from a savage internal battle for control.

A battle he was soon to lose. His eyes stopped their frantic darting and glazed over as Tabina's spell
and Dracula's own mental powers succeeded in stifling the young American's thought processes,
subduing his will with theirs. David felt his body rise stiffly from the bed, move woodenly toward
the door, fumble blindly for the latch and then march, puppet-like, toward the console room. It was
the last thing he saw before his consciousness was completely smothered beneath the mental blanket
Tabina and Dracula had woven.

David's body moved much more quickly once the battle for control had been lost, striding rapidly
and confidently toward the console room. Once there, he moved just as confidently to the
mushroom-shaped console itself. His hands hovered over the telepathic circuitry for a moment,
hesitating to touch anything that might alert the Doctor to the presence of an intruder. However, it
was the only way. Gritting David's teeth, Tabina/Dracula moved the hands toward the controls,
delicately depressing this button and pushing that lever, before moving quickly around the console
to the destination controls. They dropped David's body to its knees, pried open the base of the
console and made a few more adjustments. When that task was completed, they quickly closed it,
jumped him back up to his feet, entered certain time/space coordinates, and maneuvered the final
lever.

Now it was just a matter of waiting to see if the information plundered first from Tegan's memories
and then from David's now-quiescent mind were even remotely accurate. Even though she never
really understood how or what the Doctor was doing, Tegan still kept, deep in her mind, a
subconscious memory of the actions her traveling companion had taken in the past to maneuver the
TARDIS through the space/time vortex, not to mention the memories of her own, futile attempts to
guide the machine. David's memories of how he had just recently put a spanner in the works by
innocently depressing the wrong levers were also valuable. Those actions had bought the Count time
before; would they do so now? No actual destination was needed; just enough to throw them off the
trail until it was too late for them to stop the vampire's plans.

As the time column began to rise and fall, they had their answer. With a sigh of satisfaction at
having completed their mission, and one of regret at not being able to stay and watch the show,
Tabina/Dracula withdrew silently from David's mind, leaving his body standing rigidly by the
control panel, his extended forefinger still touching the fatal lever.

It was thus the Doctor found him when he burst into the console room mere seconds after the
invaders had withdrawn. David's eyes were glazed, his body motionless. "What are you doing?" the
Doctor yelled, staring in consternation at the console. He went into immediate action, trying vainly
to halt the processes the possessed David had set into motion.

As he did so, David felt the blanket slip a little, and cautiously raised a mental hand to remove it.
It worked this time, the fuzziness fading rapidly as he blinked his eyes and raised a shaking hand his
real one to his forehead. "What what happened?" he asked. He looked down at his other hand, still
resting on the lever, as if it were a completely unfamiliar object. "Doctor," he said urgently, backing
away from the console with an expression of dawning horror. "What's going on?"

The Doctor was glaring furiously at the console, even went so far as to kick at it angrily. He whirled
to face David, the fury still there but not, David felt, directed him. "You've sent us off to who knows
where," he snapped, turning back to the console. "And somehow locked in our course. I was alerted
by the telepathic circuits being put into use, but by the time I made it here, the damage had been
done."

"But I didn't !" David protested. He glanced down at the offending finger, snatching it behind his
back guiltily. "At least, I don't remember "

"Of course you don't," came the Doctor's muffled response. He had dropped to the floor and was
stretched out next to the console base, busily removing the same panel that David had just replaced
to reveal the console's inner workings. "It would seem that our friends have been alerted to our
presence, and have acted accordingly. They used your body to do their dirty work." A pause, then
a disgruntled, "We landed too close, they sensed us." He paused, then added softly, "I'm sorry,
David. I should have known something like this would happen."

David squatted on his heels next to the Doctor and peered with interest at the tangle of wires, chips
and other mechanical doo-dads festooning the console base's interior, momentarily distracted by
the fascinatingly complex alien machinery. "What are you trying to do?" he asked, then paused as
the Doctor's words finally sank in. "You mean they were messing around in my head?" he
demanded, all curiosity about the Doctor's present activities vanished with this revelation.

An affirmative grunt was all the response he received as Ace burst into the console room,
demanding at the top of her lungs to know what the hell was going on. The Doctor, of course,
ignored her, leaving a still-confused David to try and explain.

"Well," Ace remarked when David reached the end of his rather incoherent story, "at least this
means we're on the right trail. They wouldn't bother with all this mumbo-jumbo if we weren't
barking up the right tree."

The Doctor jumped back up to his feet. "There! That should do it!" he exclaimed, delicately
depressing a single button. The rising and falling of the central column stopped abruptly, in docile
response to the Doctor's action. Ace and David looked at it with identical expressions of surprise.

"What gives, Professor?" Ace asked suspiciously. "Last time the works got gummed up, it took you
a whole day to fix it. Davey here only hit a couple of levers, then. This time he really threw his shoe
into it, and it only took you a few minutes to fix!"

"Last time, I took a few extra precautions," the Doctor replied, leaning forward to punch in new
coordinates. "To make sure this sort of thing couldn't happen again. A little rewiring here, reversing
the polarity there, and voila! Accident-proof TARDIS controls." He looked up to beam at the other
two proudly. "All I have to do is enter our new destination that is, our old destination and we'll be
back on our way. Their little trick didn't work this time." He pressed a few new buttons, pulled a
single lever back, and waited.

And continued to wait. The central column remained stubbornly unmoving. The Doctor's wide
smile turned gradually into a deep, puzzled frown as he stabbed his finger down on a large red
button and pulled the lever back once again.

"It's not working, Professor," Ace said helpfully.

The Doctor glared at her. "I can see that and don't call me that!" He returned his gaze to the
console. "All I've managed to do is stop us going wherever they were sending us. Unfortunately, I
can't seem to get us going back where we want to be! I thought I fixed it!"

Ace blew an exasperated sigh. "Need an extra pair of hands, Doc?" she asked, unconsciously using
David's name for the Time Lord. The Doctor threw himself back onto the floor and grunted,
mumbling something about tools in a tone that sounded like an order as he pulled the cover off once
again. Ace left the room to retrieve his "toolbox," while David leaned back against the wall by the
main entrance to the TARDIS, determined to stay out of the way.

* * *

It took almost a full three days for the Doctor to fix things this time, three days during which not
only his temper but his companions' frayed badly. To be so close, and then get blown out of the
water ! David snapped at Ace, angry and guilty for his unwitting part in the delay; Ace snapped
back at him, frustrated to the very core of her being by their enforced wait and corresponding
inability to do something; and the Doctor snapped at them in turn for their bickering.

If they thought he'd reached the end of his patience the first time they were delayed, it was nothing
compared to his behavior now. He barked orders at them, sending them hither and yon on
mysterious errands, some of which involved retrieving items not normally associated with repairing
machinery. He growled at the console whenever something didn't go the way he expected it to,
muttering vicious oaths under his breath at least, his companions assumed his words were oaths,
since the tone was right even though the words were in a language neither of the two humans had
heard before.

He worked himself and the others to the point of exhaustion, at least as far as Ace and David were
concerned, although he himself never seemed to tire. He only reluctantly allowed them to drag
themselves to bed, late at "night," but they heard him still banging things around well into the small
hours of the TARDIS "morning." He was there to roust them out of bed at what would have been
the crack of dawn, had they been on a planet instead of floating aimlessly through an unknown
sector of the space/time vortex.

In the end, it paid off. Three days passed, three days of grueling, exhausting work, three days of
short tempers and little time for food and hardly enough sleep for one person, let alone three put
together. On the evening of the third day, however, just when Ace decided she was going to strangle
the lot of them to put them out of her misery, and David reached the gloomy conclusion that they
were going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere for eternity, the Doctor replaced the panel,
straightened up and looked down at the console consideringly. Then, without speaking, he reached
forward and pulled a single lever.

The rotor immediately began the wheezing rise-and-fall motion that indicated success. The Doctor
stood back and beamed at the console with a self-congratulatory smile as Ace and David heaved
twin sighs of relief. "In case of emergency," he said, apparently addressing the ceiling, "I have also
installed a recall button." Still staring upward, he pointed to a bright red button clearly labeled
"RECALL BUTTON" installed next to the door lever. "To be used only when absolutely
necessary." His tone implied that such necessity had better be non-existent. Or else.

"Got it," Ace replied. She and David exchanged meaningful glances and headed, by mutual and
unspoken consent, to the galley.

Transylvania

Tegan was living in a dream, and hoped she'd never wake up.

She and the Doctor had been traveling together, gloriously alone, no one else tagging along, no alien
nasties trying to kill them. "I'm taking us on holiday, Tegan," he'd said when they left her parent's
home. "A real holiday. I promise." He'd more than kept that promise. She looked around and
sighed in complete pleasure.

For a few months they'd remained on the TARDIS, not going anywhere, not doing anything,
just floating. If she thought they'd be bored, she'd most emphatically been proven wrong.
Absolutely super, she thought dreamily as she ran her fingers through her shoulder-length brown
hair. She'd started letting it grow after the Doctor admitted to her shyly that he'd love to see how
she looked with it long. But now, after a heavenly period of time Tegan secretly termed
"honeymooning," they were settled on some remote planet at the far end of the galaxy. Far away
from any possible interference by strangers. The Doctor said it was the safest place for her, the best
place he could take care of her, now.

Tegan looked down with a fond smile and slid a hand across her growing belly. She'd been so
worried, so frightened, when she first suspected her condition. Apparently the Doctor noticed it at
the same time; he came to her, asking gently if there weren't something she wanted to talk to him
about. She'd burst into tears and blurted out her suspicions.

He'd been what her mother would have called a rock. "I think it's wonderful," he'd whispered,
taking her into his arms, kissing her confused tears away. "It's what we need to make everything
perfect." He meant it, too; she could feel it from the moment he'd said it, and his every action since
then proved it to her as well.

"The TARDIS' medical facilities are better than anything you'll find on Earth," he'd reminded her,
when she asked if she ought to be in hospital, "and I want you on a world with no allure to anyone,
as far away as possible from any danger from my enemies." But he'd promised to find a doctor, and
Tabina Doyle was everything he'd promised.

Physically, she resembled a Norwegian goddess; tall, cool, thin and blonde, all the fashion magazine
beauties rolled up in one. Tegan, whose emotions were fragile with the onslaught of hormones and
who by all rights ought to have been ragingly jealous of the other woman, was surprised to discover
she wasn't. Tabina Doyle was too perfect; being jealous of her, Tegan decided, was like being
jealous of a Ming vase or a Rembrandt painting. Besides which, she was icily cool to the Doctor,
never treating him as anything but an employer. Tegan never questioned where he found her, where
she came from. Tegan didn't care. Tabina's presence was comforting, her knowledge soothing to
Tegan's understandable fears about childbirth. She never intruded on the Australian woman's
privacy, never interfered in any way with her relationship with her Gallifreyan lover. Tegan was
content.

Eight months of her pregnancy had passed, eight months of peace and calm. So far, the Doctor's
choice of planets had been ideal; there were no calamities, no dangers.

Well, that wasn't exactly true. They and the TARDIS were forced to remain underground due to
the continual dust-storms the Doctor said wracked the planet's surface. They had landed in an
ancient, long-abandoned ruin of a castle straight out of medieval Earth. The TARDIS was nestled
comfortably in a corner of the dungeons and cellars of the castle. It was far safer, and more pleasant,
to stay inside.

But not just inside the castle cellars; beneath them, she'd discovered the caves. After the initial
phase of peckishness and vomiting was over, she'd found herself full of energy. Explore, the Doctor
suggested, and explore she did.

Her favorite place was what she and the Doctor called the Grotto. It was even better than the
conservatory garden on the TARDIS; a series of caves filled with a crystalline beauty that took her
breath away. She spent most of her time down there, in the cool depths beneath the castle; the
Doctor fondly called her his little cave-dweller. As her pregnancy advanced, she craved solitude
more and more often, and could be found down there alone, for hours on end. Alone, but never out
of touch; both doctors insisted that she wear a beeper that her Doctor cobbled together. Just in case.
She privately thought it was a little silly, since the Doctor had clearly marked the paths and put up
lights to boot, but complied with their wishes. She was far too happy to want to argue.

Tegan picked up the device and looked at it. Just a little black box with a red button on it, but if she
pressed the button, they would both come running. It was comforting after all, she decided with a
smile and a shrug. The movement stopped and the smile became a grimace of pain as a contraction
rippled across her stomach. Tegan rose clumsily to her feet, rubbing a soothing hand across the area.
Braxton-Hickes contractions, that's what Dr. Doyle called them. They'd started about three weeks
ago, coming and going at whim. Nothing to worry about, she'd been assured. Perfectly normal.

But this time, Tegan felt, it was different. She turned, intending to go back to the TARDIS. After
all, she was awfully close to her due-date; Dr. Doyle might want her to rest in bed. Another spasm
of pain crossed Tegan's face when she tried to walk, and she clutched her stomach convulsively.
She'd never had pains so close together before; usually, the simple act of standing or walking was
enough to make them go away. Not this time. She gasped for breath, leaning heavily on a rock as
she tried to collect her thoughts. The beeper, she remembered, and raised it up. She hesitated a
moment, wondering if she were merely overreacting. When the next pain came, however, she
immediately pressed the button. Boy who cried wolf, she thought confusedly as she gasped aloud
with the pain. Even if it turned out to be nothing, at least the other two could help her to her room.

* * *

Tabina looked up alertly. The insistent beeping noise was not one of the sophisticated intruder
alarms the Count had installed to augment her own magical trip-wires; it was the signaling device
he made the Jovanka woman carry. Was it time ? It must be; the girl was too stubborn to use it
otherwise. Tabina felt her lips curve into a satisfied smile as she pressed the button that would alert
the Count to the situation.

Things were progressing smoothly, right on schedule. The Doctor the real Doctor had disappeared
into the space/time continuum, and shouldn't be able to make an appearance until well after the
completion of Dracula's plans for their guest.

On a more personal level, things weren't going quite as smoothly. The spell she'd needed the
Count's blood for had been a complete and utter failure. Tabina had cursed the fool who created it
and been in a foul mood for an entire week when she discovered that it wouldn't work. It hadn't
been easy, going to Dracula and confessing her failure. Especially knowing how much pain he'd
endured while she withdrew the blood from his veins. But he'd simply asked her if she wished to
become immortal in an entirely different manner. Her "yes" had been immediate and without
reservation. Every other way she'd tried in the past had failed; time continued to march grimly on,
and at least vampirism was a proven factor. As soon as Mina Harker was reborn, as soon as the child
that would anchor her to earth was delivered, Tabina would have the immortality and eternal youth
and beauty she craved. The thought of existing as a vampire held less terror for her than the prospect
of a more permanent form of death.

Tabina continued to smile as she rose from her chair and started down the ancient stairway that led
to the natural caves beneath them. She shook her head at the elaborate methods the Count was
employing to ensure the success of his plans. The fact that Tabina was a registered nurse/midwife,
he had revealed, was part of the reason he had chosen her to assist him in this plan. After all, he
hadn't needed a witch in Australia; he could easily have located one closer to home. One of his
precious gypsies, perhaps. They assisted him in other ways, helping to create the fantasy world
Tegan Jovanka was living in by building the console room and smuggling in the medical supplies
Tabina needed. The entire countryside, she had discovered, was riddled with caves and tunnels,
some of which were created before written history. Only a few the oldest, deepest ones led to
Castle Dracula; the Count admitted that even he did not know their complete extent. The best thing
about them was the fact that no one knew of their existence except people loyal to him.

These idle thoughts occupied Tabina's mind as she strode down the corridor that led from "outside
the TARDIS" to Tegan's favorite haunt, the Grotto. Dracula would be there as well. He'd hidden
his mounting anxiety as time passed, but not enough to fool his accomplice. There was so much
riding on this. If the spell failed, or if something happened to either the baby or Tegan...

Tabina frowned. The Count had no true notion of modern childbirth; in his mind, it was still a
mystery belonging to women, nothing he needed to concern himself with. Besides, he still had
something of the aristocrat's contempt for the working-class, the tradesman who had to use his
hands to make a living. A doctor, while a necessity, was still something of a peasant. She had no
doubts that if there were anything wrong with the baby, anything at all, Dracula would not hesitate
to place the blame on her skills. It was nerve-wracking, working for and with a 500-year old
aristocratic vampire, Tabina decided, but considering the reward... "The game, for once, is worth
the candle," she would have been heard to murmur to herself before vanishing into the depths of the
cavern, had anyone been there to hear. But of course, no one was.

* * *

"A year?!?" The Doctor glared down at the chronometer on the console, as if willing it to read
differently.

No luck. "A year," he muttered again, this time in resignation, then gazed up as Ace and David
continued the entrance into the console room his shouted words had halted. Both youngsters looked
as if they had taken jobs at a construction site. Their almost-identical outfits consisted of hiking
boots, sturdy denim jeans, flannel shirts over t-shirts, and bulging backpacks. In addition, David had
a windbreaker flung casually over one arm. The Doctor looked them over critically. "I assume there
are a few stakes in there?" he finally asked.

David nodded sheepishly. "It seemed like a good idea."

"Crosses?" David nodded again, and the Doctor shook his head with an air of mild exasperation.
"No good, unless they're silver. Are they?"

"One of them is," David replied, glancing at Ace in confusion. She simply shrugged and kept shut,
waiting for the Doctor to finish.

"Keep that one; get rid of the rest," the Doctor ordered, striding firmly to the interior door.
"Vampires have what one might call a bad allergic reaction to silver, not to the holy symbols made
from that metal. Get rid of the stakes, the holy water, and the garlic as well," he threw over his
shoulder as he disappeared. "The stakes might work if they're made of the right type of wood, but
there's no way you'll get close enough to Dracula to use them. None of the rest are any use at all."
The door slammed shut behind him.

David turned back to Ace. "Does he know everything, or does he just sneak ahead, find out what
happened, and then pretend he knows everything?" he demanded.

Ace shrugged, then slipped her backpack off. "Dunno. I've been trying to figure that one out since
I met him." She opened her backpack and removed a handful of stakes tent-pegs, actually,
painstakingly hand-sharpened by herself and David throwing them on the floor under the console.

David shrugged out of his own backpack. Catching it in one hand, he unzipped it and dumped it
upside down next to Ace's neat pile. A virtual shower of stakes, crosses, garlic and other items fell
out. He stooped down, rooted around for a moment, then snatched back the small silver cross from
his First Communion and shoved it into the pocket of his windbreaker. He also retrieved the water
bottle, the book of matches, the flashlight, the "Romanian/English-English/Romanian" dictionary
and phrase book, the map of "Transylvania As It Was In Bram Stoker's Time", his great-
grandfather's notes, and the three ham, cheese and salami sandwiches. The remainder he kicked
next to Ace's pile.

Ace raised an eyebrow at the amount of gear David seemed to feel necessary. Her own pack now
contained only an identical water bottle, a package of cheese and crackers, and four cylinders of
Doctor-unapproved nitro-nine. "What's all that for?"

David attempted to raise his own eyebrow in return, failed, and shrugged instead. "Just in case," he
replied. "Be prepared, and all that stuff. It's one of the few useful things I got out of being in the Boy
Scouts. That and how to sneak a Girl Scout out of your tent without the Scoutmaster catching you."
He grinned while Ace rolled her eyes in disgust.

The Doctor chose that moment to return from whatever mysterious errand had taken him back into
the ship, cutting off Ace's response to David's provocative remark, if any. He was dressed the same
as when he left, but had taken the time to retrieve his brolly and hat as well as a long policeman's
flashlight that made David whistle in envy. "Say, Doc, that's a beaut," he said admiringly. "Makes
mine look like a penlight!"

The Doctor glanced down at the flashlight, shrugged, and placed it on the TARDIS console. "It's
for later, actually," he said. "It's still daylight." He opened the view screen to show a magnificent
panorama that could only come from their being perched on the side of a mountain.

Directly below them, nestled in the rocky foothills of the valley, was a tiny village straight out of
Grimm, with a bleak, imposing castle towering over it on the opposite hillside. Their first glimpse
of legendary Transylvania, and it looked every bit the mythical home of vampires.

"We're going to do a bit of a recee first," the Doctor continued. "We're far enough away that they
shouldn't be able to trace us the way they did last time." He eyed their backpacks again, looked in
some exasperation at the rejected gear piled messily beneath the console, and shook his head. "If
you want to bring those packs, it's quite all right by me, but unnecessary at the moment. We're only
going into the village." He opened the main door and strolled outside. Ace and David followed, both
thankful they were properly dressed for the arduous climb ahead of them.

* * *

The people in town were not at all suspicious of the three strangers, especially the two youngsters
wearing knapsacks and hiking boots. The reason was immediately obvious; the town was hosting
a huge festival of some sort, and the square was packed with tourists and hikers of every description.
It was nothing like any Romanian town David's American background had led him to expect, and
he said as much to Ace and the Doctor as they mingled with the crowd.

"Even Communist countries have their celebrations," the Doctor replied curtly. "According to that"
he nodded at a banner covered with Russian lettering that was strung between two buildings "it's
their 750th anniversary."

"We'll take your word on it, Professor," Ace replied, raising her voice over the noise of the crowd
in order to be heard. "What d'you want us to do now?"

"Nothing," came the firm reply. "Enjoy the festival and meet me here," he pointed at a small
outdoor cafe, "in four hours. I'm going to find out what I can about Castle Dracula." He nodded in
the direction of the imposing battlements that loomed overhead, then started off determinedly.

Ace and David stared after him, then looked at each other. "Well," David said after a moment,
"what do we do now?"

Ace shrugged. "Enjoy ourselves for a couple of hours. Got any money?"

They started off together, arguing over whether dollars or pounds would be more welcome in the
middle of Romania, the trouble awaiting them in the future willfully put aside for a short time. It
was a welcome relief after the tension-filled hours on the TARDIS.

* * *

Four hours later, they managed to acquire a table at the cafe, in spite of the crowds of people
attempting to do the same. The owner, who spoke flawless English, was more than happy to take
American money, but even happier when Ace produced British pounds.

"It's not my fault the exchange rate's so cra-crummy," David grumbled as they waited for their
orders to arrive. He stared out into the crowd, looking vainly for the Doctor.

"It's no use looking," Ace said complacently, ignoring his comment and responding to his nervous
behavior. "He'll show up when he's ready, probably right behind us "

"What's right behind us?" a cheerful voice asked. Ace and David both spun around in surprise to
face the Doctor. "May I join you?" He sat down, hooking his umbrella over the back of Ace's chair
and snagging a passing waiter to order tea.

"See?" Ace said to David, then turned to the Doctor. "What's up, Professor?" She was heartened
by his obvious good cheer; he'd been uncharacteristically grim for far too long.

He reached into a pocket and produced three tickets of some sort. Just then their original waiter
arrived, and the Doctor waited until everything was served including his tea before answering the
question. "We have visitor's passes to Castle Dracula."

Neither of his companions asked how he had managed to get them; both had heard tourists
complaining that it was impossible to get in to see the famous castle during this festival. Instead,
David brought up their intended destination. "Doc, I don't mean to sound like a killjoy, but what
makes you so sure they're here? I mean, look at this place!" His sweeping gesture took in the crowds
of tourists and natives, the celebration continuing all around them. "How could they hide here? In
a castle that has guided tours all the time?" Those questions had been nagging at him all day.

The Doctor seemed unperturbed by David's impassioned diatribe, merely sat sipping his tea until
the young American had wound down. "Are you finished?" he asked politely. David nodded, a
baffled expression on his face. "Then allow me to outline the plan. We're going to Castle Dracula
this afternoon, to take the last tour of the day. It is strictly a fact-finding mission, to get the lay of
the land."

"Then what?" Ace prodded.

"Then we'll return tonight, enter the lower levels and see if there is any indication of a secret
passage."

"A secret passage to where?" David asked with renewed interest.

"A secret passage to the underlying levels and caves," came the surprising answer.

"You mean there are levels under the dungeons?" Ace demanded excitedly.

The Doctor nodded. "No one else knows about them except our friend the Count and his people,"
he explained. "No one left alive, anyway. Except me," he added darkly.

It was on the tip of Ace's tongue to ask him how he knew about the lowest levels, but she wisely
refrained from asking. She knew that look and that tone of voice; he wouldn't answer any questions
on the subject. Not right now, anyway. David, not knowing the Doctor as well as she did, opened
his mouth to ask; Ace kicked him in the leg warningly. His mouth shut abruptly, and he gave her a
reproachful look as he reached under the table to rub his shin.

The Doctor ignored this byplay, his lighter mood disappearing as he gazed broodingly at the castle.
It would be over soon. Very soon. No more silly tricks, no more hide-and-seek. One way or the
other, it would be over. He only hoped they weren't too late to save Tegan.

* * *

"If that wasn't a wasted day, I don't know what was," David grumbled as they re-entered the
TARDIS. He hadn't spoken since the tour ended, hadn't said a word during the long climb back up
the mountainside. Until now. He flung his backpack on the floor.

The Doctor looked at him complacently. "Well, I wouldn't say that." He held up one hand; in it was
a small ring of keys.

"How'd you get those?" Ace demanded with a touch of admiration. "Aren't they the guard's keys?"

The Doctor nodded. "Yes, but only the ones to the lower levels. They're considered unsafe, which
is why they aren't part of the tour anymore. The guard will never even know his keys gone, at least
not until tomorrow. By then, we'll be done with them."

"That's why you took us on the last tour," Ace exclaimed. "So you could lift his keys. But why not
take the other ones, too?"

"Because I intend to bring the TARDIS into the castle," was the prompt reply. The Doctor moved
over to the console. "The shielding I've cobbled together should be more than adequate to keep us
from being detected. As soon as it reaches full dark and everyone has gone except the night
watchman, we'll be able to come out. According to the tour guide, he never goes into the lower
levels at night and the door leading there is always locked after the last tour. I left them those keys,"
he added. "I only took the keys that actually open the doors to the dungeons and the interior
chambers. So the night watchman shouldn't hear a thing. When it's safe, we'll proceed to the lowest
level and look for a secret door."

David shook his head. "Look, Doc, I admit that your plan makes sense," he began.

"Why, thank you, David; your confidence is gratifying," the Gallifreyan replied with only a slight
note of irony.

"But what makes you so sure this is the right place?" David plunged on, determined to get his say
in this time.

"Because they were so desperate to keep us away the last time we arrived," the Doctor replied
gently, as if explaining something to a child. "They have to be here."

David shook his head stubbornly. "No they don't. I mean, you're probably right about them being
near here, but why in the Castle? With all those people around? Even if there is a secret entrance,
what makes you so sure we'll find it? No one else has."

"No one else has tried, and even if they had, they don't have our resources," the Doctor rebutted.
His voice held a note of finality. "We'll find it, never fear."

"Then why do we have to go at night? If no one goes into the lower levels, why not go in the
morning, when it'll be safer?" David asked desperately.

"The guard will have missed his keys by then," Ace pointed out. "We have to move fast; they knew
we were here last time, remember?" She continued on ruthlessly, ignoring the faint flush covering
David's features that showed he did, indeed, remember. "If we wait, or if we try to move through
time to the morning, it may be too late; shielding or no shielding, they may detect us and try to
sabotage the TARDIS again. We have to strike while the iron's hot, right Professor?"

The Doctor nodded, not even bothering to correct Ace's misuse of his name. "Precisely. Plus there
is the fact that, if they're staying underground, our friend the Count isn't restricted to night-time
activity; he's not ruled by the setting of the sun." He started the time rotor as he made that
disconcerting statement. "But David is also correct; it will be very dangerous. If either of you want
to stay in the TARDIS, you're welcome to." His gaze slowly moved from Ace, already shaking her
head "no", to David's troubled face. "Especially you, David. We certainly wouldn't think any less
of you; after all, it's hardly your fight. I practically hijacked you!"

David shook his head as well. "Sorry to disagree with you, Doc, but it is my fight; I'm still a Van
Helsing, after all. Or at least, half a Van Helsing," he added doubtfully before rushing ahead.
"Tegan's still in trouble, whether she's here or somewhere else, and Dracula is the one who's got
her. I'll stay. But if we don't find anything tonight, what are we going to do?"

"We'll find something, never fear," the Doctor replied confidently. He smiled, a mere quirk of the
lips, humorless. "I have no doubts about that. It will be over tonight, one way or another."

David felt a shiver go up his spine at that grim pronouncement, and turned away from the Doctor's
knowing eyes. Ace's expression was equally grim; even though she had initially shared David's
doubts as to whether Castle Dracula was the correct target or not, he knew she was determined to
follow the Doctor. Since she'd been traveling with the Time Lord for a lot longer than David, he had
a feeling she could tell when he was right.

The fact that they could all be killed, or that it might already be too late was not, he realized now,
something the other two had overlooked; on the contrary, it was quite clear to him, as Ace paced
deliberately around the perimeter of the console room and the Doctor fidgeted with the controls, that
they were very much aware of those facts. Danger was something they were, if not exactly
comfortable with, then at least used to. Something he'd better get used to as well if he wanted to
continue traveling with them.

And he did, David realized with a mental start. He did want to continue traveling in this wonderful
time machine that was also the most improbable looking spacecraft he'd ever seen, real or fictional.
He wanted to see other times, other planets. Once this little matter was taken care of, he decided,
he was going to ask the Doctor if he could stay on for a bit. After all, he'd already been told that they
could return him not five minutes after he'd left; too late to do anything about his missed deadline
for his botany paper, but not too late to ruin his entire academic career. Even if it was ruined, it was
no skin off David's back. College had been his father's idea, which was why David had chosen a
college in a foreign country that was as far away from home as he could get, with a major his father
would find useless. A petty form of revenge, granted, but it wasn't as if his father couldn't afford
it. If there was one thing he had, it was money.

David felt a wave of bitterness pass over him at that thought. A pragmatist, his father always called
himself. A hard-headed businessman. A cold-hearted bastard, was how David secretly termed him.
He'd always been distant, but had gotten worse over the years, especially when David's mother
Anika died in a car accident the week before her son's 10th birthday. The fact that David survived
the same crash didn't help; he always got the feeling his father resented him because of that.
Resented him enough to ship David off to live with Grampa Stef in the wilds of Arizona, although
he said it was because he was far too busy to bring up a child alone. David knew the truth, though,
and so did Grampa Stef.

David's initial resentment had faded once he arrived and really got to know and love his mother's
father. Grampa Stef had been the only living relative on either side of the family, and even he was
gone now, had been dead for over two years. David still missed the old man, but knew that he would
definitely not miss his father. He'd only seen him on Christmas, anyway, never at any other time of
the year, although he always sent money; tons and tons of money. Guilt money, Grampa Stef called
it, and his grandson wholeheartedly agreed.

These bitter thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the time rotor stopping and the Doctor's
terse, "We're here." Ace had already shrugged into her backpack and silently handed David his.

"I'm ready," David announced, pushing thoughts of his father aside as the Doctor opened the doors.
Time to deal with his own problems later.

* * *

It was dark. Electricity had never been run to these remote cellars. David and the Doctor clicked on
their flashlights, David running his experimentally over the walls. The TARDIS had materialized
within a cell, with an unlocked door gaping partially open and piles of what looked like long-disused
cleaning equipment scattered around the floor and along the walls. He jumped and uttered a quickly
stifled yelp when someone clutched his arm.

"Stop that!" Ace hissed angrily. Then, before David could even begin to enjoy the idea of having
Ace clinging to his arm, she added, "I don't have a bleedin' torch, so I'm sticking with you, Yank.
All right?"

"Yeah, sure," David whispered back. He willed his rapid heartbeat to slow itself back to normal and
took a deep breath. "Where to?" he asked quietly as the Doctor headed for the door, peeked out and
motioned the other two to follow.

"You take the left and I'll take the right," the Doctor replied in a normal tone of voice. Then, as
David started to walk off: "Not that way! With me!" the Doctor hissed, waving his flashlight in the
opposite direction. "You take the left wall, I'll take the right. This is no place for us to split up!" He
snorted in exasperation and began walking down the hall.

"How was I supposed to know that?" David mumbled, but stopped griping at Ace's impatient hand
on his arm.

"Come on!" she urged. "We've got a lot of ground to cover!" They hurried to catch up with the
Doctor.

"It's unlikely that we'll find anything here in the hall," the Time Lord said in a low voice as they
met up with him. "We'll do this quickly, then go back and search the walls and especially the floors
of the cells."

"Don't you have any gadgets that could do this for us?" David whispered. "I thought you said no one
had found this secret entrance because they didn't have our resources."

"They didn't," the Doctor agreed calmly. "They didn't have our knowledge that a secret entrance
exists, which is why no one ever bothered to search down here; they didn't have a superior alien
being helping them; and they certainly didn't have my instincts. Now do be quiet and start feeling
for loose stones, unusually deep cracks, or anything that seems to be out of the ordinary!" David
jumped to obey at the sharpness that entered the Doctor's voice at the end of this speech.

* * *

What felt like endless ages later, David shined his light on his wristwatch. Four hours had gone by
and he was ready to give up in disgust. They'd found plenty of dust, spiders and bugs; lots of rusting
chains and moldy piles of what might once have been straw, but no secret entrance. Now they were
right back where they started, in the cell-turned-broom closet. "We're never gonna find anything,"
he groused. The dark was beginning to get to him, just a little; he felt like a six-year-old, listening
for monsters outside the circle of his flashlight.

"We can't just give up," Ace replied grimly. She moved away from the spot David was occupying
in the far corner of the cell. "Maybe there's something on the level above." She turned to look
inquiringly at the Doctor. "Could that be it?"

The Gallifreyan shrugged. "That's a possibility," he agreed listlessly. "But I was certain it would
be on the lowest level!"

David leaned wearily against the wall in the center of the faded outline of some long-since-removed
piece of furniture. "Maybe we just overlooked something " his voice turned into a startled yelp as
the wall swung silently open behind him. Ace and the Doctor simply stood for a moment, gaping
at the spot the American had recently occupied, then hurried over to see what had happened.

The Doctor shone his torch down a short flight of stairs. David was just picking himself up off the
floor. He squinted as the light hit him, then shrugged and rubbed the side of his head. "I guess I
found it," he announced, bending over to retrieve his own light.

"I guess you did," the Doctor murmured in agreement, moving his torch back to shine it around the
edges of the cleverly hidden door. He gave a satisfied "ah-ha" as he found the mechanism that
operated it and wedged it open with his umbrella. "After you, my dear," he said courteously to Ace,
following her down the stairs to join David.

* * *

It was less than half an hour later when they trudged down another short flight of stairs and nearly
stumbled into a well-lit area. The Doctor, who was now in the lead, came to a dead halt when he
rounded a corner and came upon the unexpected sight of a naked electric bulb hanging from the low
ceiling. Shushing the other two when they bumped into him and demanded to know why he'd
stopped, he snapped off his torch and took a cautious step forward into the new tunnel. He stopped
again as it abruptly opened up.

The three of them stared wonderingly into the large, naturally formed cavern. It was larger than a
ballroom, murkily lit by strings of lightbulbs straggling randomly along the wall. It was completely
empty, except for one item in the far corner.

The TARDIS.

"But we just left it !" David whispered in protest. He looked up at the Doctor, who was staring at
the innocent-looking blue box through thoughtfully narrowed eyes. He whirled suddenly to face
David.

"Tell me about the man Dracula turned into," he snapped. "What did he look like? What was he
wearing?"

"Uh, he was a blonde," David replied, wondering why the sudden desire for information the Doctor
hadn't thought important before. He racked his memory for details. "He was tallish, dressed in a
cream-colored jacket and striped pants. He sounded British." Memory suddenly provided him with
one incongruous detail. "He had a stick of celery on his lapel."

"I've been a bloody fool," the Doctor said, smacking his forehead with the heel of his hand. He
looked pale, David noticed, as he glanced over at Ace in confusion.

Ace looked as thunderstruck as the Doctor. "Professor," she said, her voice strained, "he's got
himself made up to look like you!"

The Doctor was nodding. "I know," he said grimly. "But I'm afraid that doesn't help make his plans
any clearer to me."

"I'm not very clear myself," David interrupted testily. "I never said he looked like you!"

"Time Lords regenerate," Ace whispered hurriedly as the Doctor, ignoring David, stepped cautiously
into the main cavern. "When they die, they sort of regrow new bodies. You just described the way
the Doctor looked when Tegan was traveling with him. And the Count's somehow made a fake
TARDIS to go along with his fake Doctor."

David gaped at her as she whirled and ran to catch up with the Doctor. He hurried up to them as
well, deciding that he and Ace needed to have a long talk when they got back to the real TARDIS.

When they reached the far corner of the cavern, looking around cautiously the entire time, it became
more and more obvious that the blue box they were facing was not the real time machine. It looked,
David decided, more like a cheap prop from a low-budget TV show. The Doctor reached forward
and gently pushed the door. It was open, and swung inward silently. The Doctor pressed a finger
against his lips, then gestured for them to follow as he entered the box.

Once inside, David stared around in wonder and suspicion. "Are you sure this is a fake?" he asked
quietly. It looked genuine enough; maybe it was the dim lighting in the cavern that made the exterior
look so cheesy.

"This most certainly is not my TARDIS," the Doctor replied in an affronted tone. "It's nothing more
than an extremely detailed mock-up. You should pay more attention, David; didn't you notice that
the entrance was different? That box outside is covering a natural opening of some sort, which leads
to this section." His gaze moved to the interior door. "Let's just see where this goes, shall we?" He
moved purposefully forward, yanked the door open and stepped through.

When David followed, hard on Ace's heels, he half-expected to see the corridor of the TARDIS
stretching before them, in spite of the Doctor's words. The other half of him expected to see yet
another rocky tunnel, lit by a bare bulb and leading further into the caverns that apparently riddled
the cliffs beneath the castle.

What he saw instead was a curious, dream-like mixture of both. There was a bare stone ceiling and
bare, rocky walls. But stuck up on the walls at random were what looked like fragments of the
circular indentations from the TARDIS, while the floor was an excellent replica of the TARDIS
flooring. The lighting came from somewhere in the top of the walls, near the ceiling. It was eerie.
Ace was looking around with an expression of distaste, reaching hesitantly to touch one of the
plastic-looking circles.

"It feels real," she whispered, snatching her hand back. "Just like the walls back on our TARDIS."

The Doctor nodded. "I'm beginning to understand," he murmured, absently tapping the edge of
another circle. "He's masquerading as me and has convinced Tegan that they're on the TARDIS.
For some reason," he mused, more thinking out loud than talking to either of his companions, "he's
not relying completely on his own mesmeric powers. Instead, he's using her memories to trigger the
belief that what she sees is real, rather than controlling her thoughts completely. That's why this is
all so fragmented. All he needs is the suggestion of the TARDIS corridor, and Tegan's mind
provides the rest."

He paused, pulling his hand away from the wall and moving cautiously forward once again. "The
console room is one she'd be extremely familiar with. We spent quite a bit of time there, so he
needed to build it in more detail. I'd guess that somewhere in here is Tegan's room, equally as
detailed." He turned a corner and passed through an open door. David was right behind, while Ace
lingered behind, taking a last, fascinated look at the TARDIS "wall".

"I applaud your cleverness, Doctor," an unexpected voice from behind them said in cultured British
accents. "Please continue; this is all very fascinating. What else have you deduced?"

David spun to face the speaker, gripping his flashlight in one hand like a dagger, while he fumbled
with his other hand for the silver cross in his jacket pocket. The Count, wearing the face and form
the American had glimpsed in Tabina's cellar a seeming lifetime ago minus the coat with its as-yet-
unexplained celery stalk was leaning casually against the doorway. Equally as casual was the hand
he had wrapped around Ace's throat. David noticed with growing alarm that her eyes were wide and
staring and that she stood still as a statue, not even trying to escape.

"Ace!" David shouted. His heart leapt into his throat as he took a step toward them, stopped only
by the Doctor's surprisingly strong grip on his shoulder.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," the Time Lord said. His voice was icily calm as he gazed at his
feet and moved his hand to force David's own head towards the floor. "I wouldn't look him directly
in the eyes, either, unless you want to be as fully under his power as Ace is at the moment." The
thought of Ace under the vampire's control gave David a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach; she
was usually so independent, so self-assured

"You may raise your eyes, Doctor, Van Helsing yes, I know who you are," the Count added as
David started in surprise. "It's perfectly safe. I already have enough hostages for your good
behavior." David raised his eyes cautiously, to look at the Doctor rather than the vampire. The
Doctor had raised his own eyes and was now staring directly toward the door, apparently without
fear and without the glassiness that indicated he was under their antagonist's control. David risked
a look forward as the Doctor courteously asked if he might see who he was really facing, then
blinked as Dracula shimmered, and reverted to his true form.

"I am willing to oblige you in this matter, Doctor," he said agreeably. "Especially since you have
arrived too late."

David felt the Doctor tense beside him as he removed his hand from the young man's shoulder.
"Too late for what?" the Time Lord demanded.

"Too late to rescue your Miss Jovanka, of course," Dracula replied. The hand on Ace's neck moved
in a caressing motion, and David ground his teeth in frustration, knowing full well that if he were
to charge across the room, the vampire could snap that neck before he reached them, and probably
snap David's as well. "Not to worry; she's still human, still herself. For now." The tone was
mocking, as mocking as the half-smile that hovered around the vampire's full lips. "But you never
answered my question, Doctor. What else have you deduced?"

"If you merely wanted to kill Tegan, or turn her into one of your kind," the Doctor said, apparently
willing for whatever reason to play the vampire's game for the moment, "then you would already
have done so by now. You would have done it the night of that first attack in Brisbane, or when you
first took her away from her parent's ranch."

Dracula nodded. "Very true. Pray continue."

The Doctor shifted his position subtly, just enough to make it plain he was mimicking the vampire's
casual stance. "I know you plan to somehow replace Tegan's consciousness with that of Mina
Harker; young David here brought us that information. I was intrigued as to how exactly you
intended to do it, and I wondered what made you so certain that Tegan and Mina were one and the
same person in the first place.

"So I checked into the computer files and discovered the interesting fact Tegan's family is actually
descended from Jonathan Quincey Harker. Son of Willhemina and Jonathan Harker. So I conducted
a little research of my own, and discovered an interesting and little-known fact about reincarnation:
souls tend to be reborn within the same bloodline. It was possible that your plan would work."

"A trail of logic worthy of Sherlock Holmes," Dracula applauded. "So you know what I planned.
What then?" David thought he sounded truly interested.

"Then I ran out of inspiration," the Doctor admitted. "I knew what you planned, but not how you
intended to carry out that plan. When I saw your version of the TARDIS, I remembered what David
had said about you using a spell to change your form. You made yourself up to look like me, and
created your mock-TARDIS so that Tegan would believe she was with me. I assume that's because
I'm someone she trusted," he added, but this time, David thought, he didn't sound so sure of
himself.

"You are correct as far as you go," Dracula replied, stroking Ace's throat in a possessive manner
that set David' teeth on edge. "But you're not taking it far enough. Why wouldn't I simply make
myself into the image of Tegan's father? She trusts him, don't you think?" His voice was taunting.

The Doctor's eyes narrowed slightly, his nostrils flaring indignantly. "Tegan would have no need
to go away with her father," he pointed out coolly. "For some reason you seem to be unwilling to
simply use your own powers to make her do what you want. Why?"

His question hung challengingly in the air between them for a moment before the Count finally
replied. "To control her mind to such an extent would be...harmful. I needed her cooperation, rather
than her coerced help. If I had simply mesmerized her and ordered her to do as I asked, some small
part of her would continue to resist. I could not risk any damage to her...or to the child."

A gasp escaped David's lips at that revelation, and he swung around to stare in shock at the Doctor.
The Time Lord looked more than slightly pale. "Of course," he breathed. "The anchor. You're going
to use the baby to anchor Mina's soul. But you had to take the appearance of someone
Tegan someone Tegan had feelings for. You knew she was in love with me," he accused, color
returning to his cheeks in a heated flush.

Dracula nodded regally. "Of course. That love was the key to my entire plan. Not that your identity
mattered," he added with a careless shrug. "If she had loved someone else, I would have taken that
person's form instead. But she loves you, Time Lord. She believes she is having your child. When
I appear to her, after she has given birth and the spell Tabina has prepared has fully awakened Mina,
then Tegan Jovanka will no longer exist." He smiled with immense satisfaction.

"And you feel no regret for simply erasing one person's life, their entire personality and existence,
just for your selfish pleasure?" the Doctor asked cuttingly. "Is that the honorable way, Count?"

"My honor is not to be questioned by the likes of you," Dracula snarled, the veneer of civility falling
away. His fangs gleamed in the darkness as his hand tightened fractionally on Ace's throat. "I have
waited a hundred years for this moment, and you can do nothing to stop it. You've made your way
back sooner that we expected, but not soon enough."

Something in his tone alerted the Doctor. "She's already pregnant no, already in labor, isn't she?"

The Count nodded once again, showing the same gloating satisfaction. "Your presence here has
actually been a pleasant diversion, while I await Tabina's summons. But do not mistake me; I have
no intention of allowing you to interfere with this in any way." His voice turned deadly. "If you try
to stop me, I will show no mercy to either you or your companions." He shook Ace slightly, as if to
fully demonstrate his power, and David felt his fists clenching in helpless frustration. "Leave now,
Doctor, and I will release Ace once Mina has been reborn. If you stay..." His voice trailed off, but
his meaning was frighteningly clear to the young American.

"You're asking me to choose between people I care for," the Doctor replied softly, his own voice
as implacable as the Count's. "You say you will brook no interference; well, let me tell you that I
will not tolerate being forced into choosing between my friend's lives. I will stop your plans." His
eyes bored into those of the vampire, his voice a deadly promise. "All of your plans."

"I warn you again; leave now, and I will allow you to live." The vampire raised one eyebrow
questioningly; the Doctor's reply was a deliberate, negative shake of the head. The Count nodded
slightly, as if he had expected as much. "So be it then," he said softly, and pulled his hand away
from Ace's throat with another caressing motion. Then, before either of the two men facing him
could so much as blink, he yanked her head back and darted his own forward with lightning
swiftness to sink his fangs into her throat.

David cried out and ran forward, brandishing his cross, heedless of the consequences. The Count's
free hand shot out with the same deadly speed to knock the cross contemptuously from David's
grasp before fastening on the young American's throat with a grip of pure steel, cutting off his
breath and stopping him in his tracks. The vampire's teeth were still sunk into Ace's jugular, one
hand wrapped in her hair, and his eyes glared warningly at the Doctor. The Time Lord had taken a
single abortive step forward before freezing in his tracks. The threat was clear; he could hear
David's breath choking in his throat and saw the boy's hands trying ineffectually to remove the
vampire's inhumanly strong grip, while Ace merely stood with a dreamy look in her eyes and a
smile hovering about her half-open lips.

"Vladimir!" A woman's voice called out over an unseen intercom system, breaking the silence with
a note of urgency. "Come quickly! It's time!"

The vampire shoved David away at the sound of that voice, then removed his fangs from Ace's
throat. Blood ran down into the collar of her blouse, matching the blood dripping down the Count's
chin. He wiped himself with a negligible hand, then turned to go. "Leave now, and take your little
girl with you, Doctor," he ordered contemptuously. "But remember; she's mine now, whenever I
want her. If you do not go, I promise you, she will suffer for it." His eyes briefly raked David's
wheezing, coughing form, still huddled where he'd landed against the doorframe. "You will all
suffer for it. Consider whether you'd rather lose one friend...or all of them." He vanished down the
corridor with the same inhuman speed as the Doctor rushed to Ace's side.

"Are you all right?" the Time Lord asked David as he pulled the scarf from his coat and wrapped
it gently around Ace's still-bleeding neck. He noted with satisfaction that the glazed look was fading
from her eyes before she slumped into his arms, unconscious.

David merely nodded, gasping heavily, and pulled himself to his feet, dizzily clutching the edge of
the door. "What do we do now, Doc?" His voice was a harsh croak, but held a note of determination.
"We can't let him get away with this!"

"We won't," came the equally determined reply as the Doctor turned his attention back to his other
companion. "Ace," he called softly. "Can you hear me?" He held out a hand imperiously to David,
who stared at it in confusion before fumbling in his backpack for his water bottle. The Doctor took
it and dribbled some of the cool liquid between Ace's lips. He was rewarded by a fluttering of her
eyelids. He continued to call her name until she fully opened her eyes and pushed irritably at the
water bottle.

"What's up, Professor?" she asked, raising a hesitant hand to her throat. "What happened to me?"
The hand moved to her head as she looked around the room, a frown furrowing her brow. "I feel so
dizzy! Last thing I remember, I was looking at the walls..." Her voice trailed off in confusion.

"We had a slight run-in with the Count. I'll explain later," the Doctor replied evasively. "Right now,
I have a spell to foil. I meant what I said," he added, looking steadily at David. "I won't allow his
plans to be completed. We've no time to waste." He pushed Ace into the younger man's
unsuspecting embrace, staggering them briefly. "Take Ace back to the TARDIS. If I'm not back in
an hour, press the recall button. It'll take you to friends." He turned as if to follow the vampire.

"No way, Professor," came Ace's indignant voice. "We're all in this together, remember?" David
nodded his agreement as she continued. "If you leave us behind, we'll just follow."

The Doctor hesitated a moment, gauging the determination in their voices and faces, then nodded
abruptly. "All right then. But be careful." They headed down the corridor, Ace and David supporting
each other, the Doctor striding anxiously ahead.

* * *

The hours since labor started passed with a blur for Tegan. Pain became the center of her being. She
and Tabina had decided not to use drugs unless an emergency occurred, but now she found herself
desperately wishing, when she could form a coherent thought, that she had opted for some sort of
painkiller after all.

To make matters worse, Tegan found herself plagued with an eerie sense of deja vu; even though
she knew that she'd never given birth, she was plagued by an inexplicable sense of familiarity. Race
memory, she thought blearily. Gran's stories about the six times she gave birth. All the times I
helped out at lambing...

Tegan cried out at a particularly sharp contraction. Tabina's voice murmured encouragement as the
young Australian wondered blearily why the Doctor wasn't there. After all, men weren't kept out
of the delivery room anymore, not like when little Quincey was born...

Where had that thought come from? Tegan wondered as the contraction finally peaked and died.
Who was little Quincey? Her brow wrinkled as unfamiliar images drifted through her mind, flashes
of a dark-haired child and a prematurely gray man for whom she felt a passing fondness, and a
demon lover whom she'd given up for the staid predictability of mortal life. The frown on Tegan's
face deepened; she'd never heard anyone say they'd experienced hallucinations while in labor, not
without having been given some sort of drug, anyway. That's what those peculiar pictures in her
mind had to be; they weren't her own memories...or were they? Even as her mind struggled with this
question, her lips framed a single whispered word. "Vladimir."

Tabina stared down at Tegan's exhausted, sweaty face. The girl had been in second-stage labor for
over six hours now, and the spell had been cast when it began. As time passed, it became more and
more obvious that the transformation was beginning. Mina Harker's memories had been freed to
mingle with those of the other woman, and the pain of labor seemed to actually be helping the
process, rather than hindering it. Perhaps, Tabina thought distractedly, it was because Mina had gone
through this before, where Tegan hadn't and was therefore less likely to be able to cope with it. Plus
there was the fact that the waking soul would be more interested in achieving consciousness, while
all Tegan would want to do was rest. The Count's choice of anchor was exceedingly well-adapted
to this spell; she'd have to remember that, if she ever needed to use it in the future.

It wouldn't be long now; Tabina hoped the Count had dealt with their unexpected and
unwanted visitors and was on his way back to the surgery. They'd both been too busy to notice
when the spell indicating interest in their activities had been tripped, but the blaring claxon warning
of actual, physical intruders was impossible to ignore. The Count knew instantly who it was and had
gone off to deal with the Doctor and his two companions.

They had chosen a particularly bad time to stage their return, Tabina thought resentfully, watching
as the gypsy woman whom Dracula had brought to assist with the birth bathed Tegan's brow with
a cool cloth and clucked soothingly to the laboring woman in her crooning Romany voice. If the
Time Lord ruined her chances at immortality, she would make him pay...unless, of course, Dracula
had already done so.

Another contraction. Tabina glanced back at the monitor, then down at Tegan's strained face.
"Doctor," the younger woman breathed. "Doctor, I have to push, I can feel it " she broke off with
a groan, clenching her eyes tightly shut. "Jonathan," she whispered. "Vladimir."

Tabina smiled triumphantly. As she spoke the second name, Tegan's nasal Australian accent had
suddenly changed to more genteel British tones. Patting the laboring woman's hand reassuringly,
the witch stepped away from the bed to push the intercom button. "Vladimir!" she called urgently,
hoping he was close enough to reach them soon. "Come quickly! It's time!" She returned to the bed.

* * *

Dracula paused on the threshold, darting a nervous glance at the birthing bed. The gypsy midwife
was holding Tegan's hand, or rather, was allowing Tegan to clench her hand as she strained to eject
the baby. Tabina was at the foot of the bed, calling encouragement to Tegan, but carefully not
speaking the Australian girl's name. "Come on, you can do it," she coaxed, her eyes on the emerging
head. "You're crowning; the hard part is almost over. Give me one good push, you can do it. Come
on, there's a good girl."

Dracula stood uneasily by the door. He had no doubt that the Time Lord and the others would follow
him, but felt no worry about that. It was too late for their presence to affect his plans. Tabina had
cast the spell; either it was working or it wasn't. As soon as the baby was born, he would step into
view. If Mina recognized him, it would all be over. Tegan Jovanka would die.

"That's my girl, just one more push," Tabina was saying. "Then we'll have the shoulders clear. You
can do it."

Vladimir moved forward, glancing briefly at the foot of the bed to see if his child was the son he
wanted. No matter the sex, he knew he would cherish it, as the sign of his eternal love for Mina, and
hers for him. It was too soon to tell, and the child was at best a secondary concern. His attention was
fully focused on the woman before him. Come to me, my Mina, he thought urgently. Come to me.
Forever.

* * *

The Doctor and his two companions raced down the corridor. The walls still contained fragmented
sections of TARDIS, growing more complete the further they went. Finally, after several long,
anxious minutes, the corridor ended in a pair of swinging doors with small, round windows centered
at head height. "Something tells me this must be the place," David muttered. Ace squeezed his arm
encouragingly, and they sprinted the final yards to catch up with the Doctor. He'd been ahead of
them the entire way, and only stopped when he reached the doors to peer through them cautiously.
Whatever he saw there caused him to charge through the entrance, heedless of the consequences.

"Tegan!" Dracula turned, a vicious snarl on his face at the sound of that invading voice. The Doctor
burst into the room, skidded to a halt at the sight of the vampire and the witch standing triumphantly
by the bed on which an obviously exhausted, but smiling, Tegan was lying. In her arms was a baby.
She turned to look as well, frowning anxiously at the invaders.

"Tegan?" the Doctor repeated, his voice questioning as he moved hesitantly towards the bed.
Neither Tabina nor Dracula moved to stop his approach, and the triumph in the vampire's eyes
warned him that he was too late.

"Tegan, it's me, it's the Doctor," he said hopefully, coming to a stop on the opposite side of the bed
as the others. "Do you know me?"

"Doctor?" Tegan's voice sounded uncertain. He nodded encouragingly, but his hopes were dashed
at her next words. "Dr. DeLancey? I'm afraid I've managed to have the baby already, Doctor. I do
hope you aren't disappointed." Her accent was pure upper-class British, with no hint of her usual
Australian twang. She held the baby up slightly, turned her eyes to face the Count. "Perhaps it's just
as well," she murmured, reaching up to clasp the vampire's hand in her own. "I know you're
Jonathan's friend, and I know he must have sent you. But I've left him, and he has to realize that.
My ties to Vladimir are far stronger than my ties to him." She smiled back down at the baby, a
tender, maternal smile. "After all, I've borne his son."

"Yes, Doctor, she's borne my son," Dracula echoed, his voice exultant. "You no longer have any
claim to Mina. She's mine."

The Doctor ignored Dracula, focusing his attention entirely on the woman and baby before him.
"Mina Mrs. Harker," he corrected himself as he continued softly, desperately, "do you understand
what's happened? Take a good look at me," he urged. "I'm not Dr. DeLancey, am I?"

She looked up at him again, then back at Dracula in confusion. "No," she agreed uncertainly,
placing both arms around the baby in a protective gesture. "No, you're not. I'm terribly sorry; I just
thought "

"You thought I was, because you thought you were somewhere else," the Doctor interrupted. "Take
a look around you; do you know where you are? Do you recognize this place?"

David wondered why Dracula was allowing the Doctor to question her like this, but figured it out
almost instantly. It was clear by the contemptuous half-smile on the vampire's face that he thought
the Doctor was wasting his time. The Count was just toying with them, before...before what?
David's mind refused to speculate on the answer to that question; instead, he concentrated on the
scene before him.

Ace was also concentrating on the scene, but with a curious sense of detachment. She still felt
awfully dizzy; whatever whammy the vampire'd put on her with his hypnosis hadn't quite worn off.
But she, too, wondered just what the Doctor was up to, and why Dracula was letting him talk to
Tegan/Mina the way he was. Maybe he was testing her, trying to see if she would hold up. Like
David, she was content to stand near the door, at least for the moment, although she'd unobtrusively
slipped her rucksack off her shoulder and placed it near her feet. If the Count tried to get nasty, he'd
see what a charge of nitro-nine could do to him!

"Vladimir, where are we?" Mina was asking her lover, her brow knitting in confusion as her gaze
traveled around the room. "Why do I feel so strange? I'm afraid I can't...I can't even remember how
we arrived."

Dracula smiled down at her tenderly, reaching forward to brush a strand of hair from her forehead.
"We're in Transylvania, my love," he replied. "We're home."

"Why don't you tell her how she arrived here?" the Doctor asked harshly. He moved closer to the
table as Tabina stepped around to the side and glared at him threateningly. She started to mutter
what sounded to David's untrained ears like some kind of spell, only to be stopped by Dracula
shaking his head "no" sharply. She glared up at him, then lowered her eyes sullenly, transferring her
glare back to the Doctor, who continued to ignore her.

The vampire dismissed her as well and shrugged in response to the Doctor's question. "What does
it matter? She's here, and she's here to stay. Nothing you can do or say will change that, Time
Lord." He glanced over at the witch warningly. "Right, Tabina?"

She nodded confidently, but David thought he saw a flash of uncertainty in her eyes as the Doctor
continued: "Mrs. Harker, what exactly is the last thing you remember? Before having the baby, I
mean."

Mina frowned abstractly. "I believe yes, I was on a train," she murmured. Her eyes widened as
memory came flooding back. "Dear God," she murmured, "there was an accident, the train
overturned." She turned frightened eyes on her vampire lover. "Vladimir, what's happened?"

Dracula's eyes shot daggers at the Doctor as he bent over to soothe the agitated woman. "Mina, I
would not have selected this particular moment to explain things to you, but it appears I no longer
have a choice. My love," he continued painfully, "you died in that train crash. It's taken me a very
long time, but I've finally managed to find you once again. Now that I have, nothing shall ever come
between us." He glanced back at the Doctor significantly. "Nothing."

"But at what price, Mrs. Harker?" the Doctor countered desperately. "Do you really think it's right
to live at the expense of another?" The vampire took a threatening step forward at that question,
only to be stopped by the gentle pressure of his lover's hand on his.

"I have no idea who you are, sir," Mina said icily, "or why you feel it necessary to bombard me with
questions at such an inappropriate moment. If you could behave like a gentleman and wait until a
more congenial time to engage us in conversation, perhaps we could address your concerns." She
looked back down at the baby tenderly. "Whatever else has happened in my life or death " her
voice faltered briefly, then continued on a firmer note, "I have a baby that needs me right now."
Dracula relaxed as she continued speaking, and the triumph returned to his eyes. Mina was
remaining herself; the Doctor's questions and accusations were having no effect.

"No," the Doctor countered desperately. If he allowed this moment to pass, Tegan would be gone
forever, if she wasn't already. He couldn't allow himself to think about that right now. "The baby
needs its real mother, Tegan Jovanka. The woman whose body you are currently occupying. I ask
you again, Mrs. Harker; is it right for you to live at someone else's expense? If you think about it,
you'll realize that I'm right."

"Doctor, I believe the lady has asked you to leave," Tabina cut in smoothly as the expression on the
other woman's face became concerned. "Surely she's entitled to some rest "

She stopped abruptly. The Doctor wasn't looking at her or Dracula, wasn't paying the least bit of
attention to them. He was staring down at Tegan/Mina with a puzzled frown. Tabina and Dracula
followed the Time Lord's gaze. "What is it, Mina?" the vampire asked, dread seizing his heart as
he saw the confusion on her face, confusion that had nothing to do with the interfering alien's
words.

The woman on the bed had laid her head on the baby's chest in a loving gesture, but now appeared
to be listening intently. She frowned in concentration, then moved her head slightly before looking
up uncertainly. "Two?" she murmured, lowering her head once again. "He has two heartbeats," she
said after another moment, her eyes wide and wondering. "Two heartbeats..."

At those words, and the Australian accents overriding the British tones, it was the Doctor's turn to
smile in triumph. "You've lost, Count," the Time Lord said, then quickly turned his attention back
to Tegan. "What is your name, my dear?"

"My name?" The voice was puzzled, hesitant. "My name...my name is Tegan Jovanka," came the
soft reply as she raised a hand to her head and frowned in confusion. "Doctor, is that you?"

"No!" Tabina and the Doctor whirled to face Dracula as he snarled that denial. "This cannot be
happening! Not now!" He turned accusing eyes on the witch, who faltered back a step in fear. "What
has gone wrong?" His eyes flickered briefly to the Doctor, and David shivered at the promise of
murder he saw there.

"I, I don't know," Tabina was stammering as she raised her stethoscope and moved hurriedly to
listen to the baby's chest. Frowning in concentration, she moved the stethoscope to the other side
of his chest, then paled, straightened and backed a further step. "I don't understand it," she
whispered in a frightened voice. "There are two heartbeats! It's impossible!"

"Actually, it's quite simple," the Doctor replied. All eyes in the room focused on his calm face and
the quiet smile that hovered about his lips. "You fathered this child while wearing my form.
Although I doubt the spell was meant to work this way, it didn't just change your appearance.
Somehow, it actually turned you into me. Perhaps it bonded with your natural shape-shifting
abilities; I don't know. What I do know, is that I, being a Time Lord, have a double circulatory
system. Therefore, that is my child; Mina didn't understand the double heartbeat, but Tegan did, and
that was all she needed to retain her hold on her identity. You've lost." His own arguments had not
had any effect on the formidable Mrs. Harker, but the contradictory physical evidence had confused
her enough for Tegan to regain control, somehow. He regretted the fact that he was sending Mina
Harker back to relative oblivion, but not that much. She'd already lived her life, after all.

Dracula's angry eyes returned to Tabina. "You said it would change my appearance only," he
snarled, stalking after the witch. "This is your fault."

"I also told you I had no idea how the spell would affect a vampire," she reminded him desperately,
moving to keep the bed between them. "It must have bonded with your own natural shape-shifting
abilities somehow, as the Doctor suggested. You can't blame me!" It was her turn to shoot daggers
at the Doctor with her icy blue eyes.

A frightened wail rose from the bed. "Stop it!" Tegan cried. "Just stop it!" She cuddled the crying
infant closer to her. "Whatever's going on here can go on somewhere else. Please."

Both the Doctor and Dracula responded to the desperate weariness in her voice. The vampire
stopped moving, turned instead to look down at her with thoughtful eyes. Then he looked back at
Tabina, jerking his head at her and the silent gypsy woman standing in the corner. "Go. Both of you.
Tabina, we will...discuss...this later." He spoke a few words in Romany, pressed some coins into the
other woman's hand as she passed him, then watched as the two of them left the room.

The Doctor motioned Ace and David forward. They moved reluctantly, standing huddled close
together behind the relative safety of his body. "What happens next?" David asked in subdued tones,
grabbing Ace's hand in his own.

"Yes, what happens next, Count?" the Doctor repeated. "You've lost your chance at retrieving Mina.
What happens next?"

The vampire held his gaze for a moment, then dropped his eyes. "That is a very good question
indeed, Time Lord," he replied softly. "It seems that I have only two choices. I can kill you and your
companions, keep Tegan, and try again. Of course," he added, "the spell won't work as well if she's
aware of what's being attempted. She'll fight, even if only on a subconscious level, and I have no
guarantee that Mina would even be willing or able to come forward again. Or," he mused, "I
could...let you go."

"All of us?" the Doctor countered in a hard, disbelieving voice.

The vampire inclined his head regally. "All. I could allow you to walk out of here right now, and
give my word that I shall never interfere in your lives again. My word, as you know, is good."

The Doctor nodded silent agreement. "You would release your hold on Tegan and her parents?" He
indicated the Australian woman's neck. "And Ace?" He yanked his surprised companion forward
with one hand, tearing the scarf away with the other to reveal the ragged edges of the wound there.

It was the vampire's turn to nod. "I would release them."

"Sounds like you've already made up your mind," David said suspiciously as Ace pulled her hand
away from his and gingerly poked at her neck, starting at the feel of the sticky wounds she found
at the base of her neck. David glanced over at her, then back at the vampire. He was giving in way
too easily, but David couldn't for the life of him figure out why.

Dracula nodded again. "As the Doctor has said, I have lost. Revenge would be...pointless." He
smiled mirthlessly, then abruptly spun away. "Take her," he ordered, leaning his hands heavily
against the instrument table. "Get out of here. Before I regret this decision enough to change my
mind."

"It'll be all right, Tegan," the Doctor murmured soothingly as he gently but easily lifted both mother
and child in his arms and headed for the door. She simply nodded and continued to hold the baby
close to her, laying her head on the Doctor's shoulder as they headed out of the room without a
backward glance.

David and Ace both risked a look over their shoulders as they followed the others out of the room.
Dracula hadn't moved, but he seemed to feel their eyes upon him, because he moved his head slowly
to look at them in return. Both teenagers shuddered and looked away, hurrying through the door
hand in hand. Dracula smiled.

EPILOGUE I

Sunrise was approaching. Tabina was still pacing the corridors down below, waiting. Waiting for
him, waiting for his decision. He admired the fact that she hadn't run away, although he knew she'd
considered it. He could tell she was terrified; terrified of what he might do to her for her failure.

He would do nothing, of course. She hadn't deliberately failed him he'd risen above that petty level
of expectation years ago and a witch was still a useful ally. Especially one who so desperately
craved immortality. And who was in his debt, which she was, if only for concealing the fact that she
had initially dismissed the double heartbeat as an echo in the sonogram machine his people had
procured for her. Not that it would have changed anything, but it was still... disappointing. But in
spite of that disappointment, there was always the possibility that he would have need of her in the
future.

If he even had a future.

He was standing in the highest tower of the castle, contemplating the pre-dawn sky. Mina was lost
to him once again; all he had to look forward to was a lonely existence on the fringes of reality. His
existence had never seemed empty to him in the past, until he was unexpectedly given the
opportunity to share that existence with someone he truly cared for.

An opportunity that had slipped through his fingers, possibly never to return.

He grimaced at the thought. As he had told the Doctor, revenge would be pointless. It would do
nothing to retrieve Mina. Now, it was simply a matter of deciding if he wanted to wait for another
opportunity to find her again or to...exercise certain other options available to him. He returned his
attention to the darkened sky. Soon, very soon, the sun would emerge. If he were still standing at
this open, curtainless window, he would die. Finally, completely. He contemplated the east, and
wondered if he was up to the challenge he had refused to face so many long centuries ago.

It would be interesting to find out.

EPILOGUE II

The TARDIS was on its way to London. "We're going to see an old friend of mine," the Doctor
explained as he set the coordinates. "He's a doctor, name of Harry Sullivan. I want Tegan and the
baby looked at right away. There don't seem to be any harmful aftereffects," he'd added, "but better
safe than sorry." Then he'd carried Tegan and the baby to her old room, talking all the while.

"I think I rather like this regeneration," was the last thing David heard as the door shut behind them.

David had never been to London, and found the idea of exploring the city especially with Ace, who
had promised to show him around extremely interesting. Almost as interesting as Ace herself, once
she got over sulking about getting bit by a vampire and not even remembering it. She'd been upset
with the Doctor for not letting her go back and nitro-nine the castle. Even Bertie had faded to a
pleasant memory in light of recent events in the young American's life; movie dates and college
parties couldn't even begin to compare to the exhilaration he was feeling now, having been allowed
to play squire to an intergalactic Knight in Shining Armor. And Ace had more than enough
personality to interest him, more than Roberta Dawson ever had. However long the Doctor intended
to stay in London would have to be enough time, David decided, to see if Ace felt the same way
about him.

It was still dark when the TARDIS materialized in the back yard of Harry Sullivan's small house,
setting neighboring dogs to barking and causing a light to go on in the house itself. The Doctor
helped a shaky Tegan to the entrance after David handed the older woman her baby.

"I'll be back to fetch you later on in the morning," the Doctor said as he gently guided Tegan to the
door. "I think it'll be easier if we don't all descend upon Harry at once." Then they were gone.

David and Ace looked at each other as the TARDIS doors closed. "Now what?" David asked,
lounging casually against the wall. "I don't know about you, but I'm not tired. Want to do anything
in particular?"

Ace glanced at him sidelong, catching her lower lip between her teeth and smiling. "What do you
suggest?" she asked, leaning back against the console with her elbows. "Ever since we got away
from Transylvania, you've looked like you've had something on your mind." She looked down, then
back up again, the smile still hovering on her lips. "Give!"

David walked with feigned nonchalance to stand by her side, facing the console and plopping his
own elbows down next to hers. "I was just wondering what you do for fun? Save the universe?"

"Nah, that's work," Ace replied, turning her head so that she was looking directly at him, their faces
only inches apart. "It's sort of our job." Her lips curved in another small smile. "It's just been me
and the Professor for a long time. There hasn't been much time for...fun."

If that wasn't an answer to his unspoken question, David thought, nothing was. He took a deep
breath and leaned closer. If he was wrong, she was probably going to punch him right in the nose.
But if he was right...

Their lips met hesitantly, and Ace was definitely not pushing him away. David noted this with a
feeling of relief, then closed his eyes and concentrated instead on the kiss.

They should have known. Especially with David's track record. Maneuvering his body closer to
hers, reaching for her arm, his hand skidded on the console...and activated the Time Rotor. "Oh no!
Not again!" he yelled in dismay as they dematerialized.

* * *

The Doctor ran out of the house, shouting inarticulately as the TARDIS vanished before his very
eyes. Not off the ship five minutes, and it was gone. "I should've known better," he muttered, then
shook his head in exasperation. It shouldn't take Ace and David long to remember the recall button;
they'd better bloody well hit it soon.

He waited on the back stoop for almost an hour before giving up in disgust. He had other things to
attend to right at the moment; it would probably take them a while to remember the recall button,
especially if they panicked. His mind resolutely refused to dwell on David's past history; if the lad
had done something that Ace couldn't fix, well, there was absolutely nothing the Doctor could do
about it from here. Worrying wouldn't accomplish anything. Right now, Tegan needed him, Tegan and the baby.

One crisis at a time, thank you very much, he thought wearily as he turned to re-enter the house. One
crisis at a time.

The End
(For now...)