"Once bitten, twice shy." - Old saying. Old, old saying. Really old. No idea who said it first.
David and Ace looked at each other as the TARDIS doors closed behind the Doctor and Tegan.
"Now what?" David asked, lounging casually against the wall. "I don't know about you, but I'm
not tired." And he wasn't, either; in spite of the fact that it had been a good 18 hours or more
since he'd last slept. Since any of them had. The adrenaline was still flowing from their recent
Transylvanian mission to rescue a kidnapped Tegan Jovanka, former traveling companion of the
Doctor. "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. 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 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.
Part One: Reunion
"Look, I said I was sorry." David had a distinct feeling of deja vu as the TARDIS re-
materialized, a few frantic minutes later. "I should've known better than to get that close to the
console. But it was your fault too."
Ace glared at him, then sighed in reluctant agreement. "I suppose so. At least we got back. It's a
good thing the Professor put in that recall button!" She patted the now-quiescent console
gingerly, keeping her hands well away from any buttons, levers, or other gadgets. "Let's just go
to the house and explain."
"But the Doctor told us to wait here," David objected from his position near the interior door of
the TARDIS. He'd moved there the minute he realized what he'd done, wisely letting Ace be the
one to push the recall button. He was beginning to think he was jinxed. He and Ace were left
alone in the TARDIS for five minutes, and what happened? David messed up the controls.
Again. After everything that had happened to them, after escaping a vampire and witch, after
bringing Tegan and her baby to safety, how could he be so stupid?
The Doctor had brought them to London. Not wanting to disturb his doctor friend, Harry
Sullivan, at such an ungodly hour of the morning with too many people, the Doctor had asked
Ace and David to stay on the TARDIS at least until full daylight. The rest, as the saying went,
was history. And history, as David was beginning to understand, had an all-too-unfortunate habit
of repeating itself, at least where he and the TARDIS were concerned.
"You think he didn't notice that the TARDIS disappeared?" Ace interrupted David's guilty
musings. "It's too noisy to miss. No, we'd better just go inside and take our lumps."
David nodded as Ace opened the door, then trudged out after her. It was full daylight, so they'd
lost some time; the sun had still been well below the horizon before their accidental trip. Par for
the course, as far as David was concerned. Ace didn't seem worried, just annoyed that it had
been longer than they'd thought. Also par for the course.
Once outside the TARDIS, the two of them had a brief, intense conference--David's word; Ace
called it a row--about which door to try, which ended with the two of them trooping around to
the front of the house and ringing the buzzer there. It was answered by a sleepy-eyed teenager
who looked a few years younger than them. His face--gray eyes, a few freckles scattered about
the snub nose, wide mouth, and stubborn-looking chin--was vaguely familiar, although neither
Ace nor David could say why. "Can I help you?" he asked with the polite tone people use when
they suspect that they are facing someone who wants to sell them something they don't want to
"Hi," David said hesitantly. "Is this the Sullivan residence?" The Doctor hadn't said anything
about his friend having any kids, but then, he had other things on his mind. And there was
always the possibility that they'd landed in the wrong backyard. You never knew with the
TARDIS. The young man's nod laid that fear to rest, although he still looked puzzled. "Good,"
David said with a relieved smile. "We're supposed to meet the Doctor and Tegan here. I'm
David and this is Ace."
At those words, the stranger's mouth dropped open in an expression of shocked surprise, and the
two facing him involuntarily looked over their shoulders to see if perhaps something horrifying
was coming up the street.
"Oi, there!" Ace piped up. "What's wrong?"
The teen continued to gape at them for a moment, then transferred his gaze from David to Ace
and shook his head rapidly. "Mom!" he yelled over his shoulder, never removing his eyes from
the two people in front of him. His expression had changed from shock to intense excitement.
"Mom! You're never gonna believe who's here!" He reached up with one hand to brush
impatiently at a swath of dark brown hair that had fallen across his eyes, which remained glued
to a thoroughly confused David and Ace.
"Who is it, Jason?" came a woman's muffled voice from the interior of the house. "Who on
earth could be calling at this hour of the morning?" The voice became clearer, and with the final,
irritated words, the person it belonged to appeared.
It was David and Ace's turn to gape. The woman standing behind Jason was Tegan Jovanka, but
a Tegan Jovanka several years older than the woman they'd left only a short time ago. Or had it
been that short a time?
The suspicion that was forming in both Ace and David's minds was confirmed by Tegan's
reaction. Her face blanched as she recognized them and she stumbled back a step, clutching
desperately at the door as if to keep herself from collapsing. She recovered quickly, however,
pushing the door further open and gesturing vaguely for them to come inside. "I suppose it was
inevitable," she muttered, as if to herself, then seemed to notice that her two visitors were still
hesitating on the front steps. "Come inside, you two," she snapped. "You can't stand outside
there all day. The Doctor will want to see you. The Doctor ?" Her eyes closed briefly, as if in
pain, then she shook her head and turned, practically running up the front stairs, not bothering to
see if David and Ace had actually entered the house.
Jason took care of that, tugging impatiently on David's arm, practically pulling him into the
house in his excitement. Once they were fully inside, he allowed the door to slam shut behind
them, causing an already jumpy David to nearly come out of his skin. "Come into the parlor,"
Jason urged, his words coming in an excited rush. "Wow! Dad said you'd show up, but I don't
think Mom ever believed him! Where's the TARDIS? What happened, anyway?" He glanced
back at David, a sly smile curving his lips. "Dad always said you probably hit another wrong
button, and that he hoped to all the Gods of the Universe that Ace could get you back."
Ace rolled her eyes and plopped into the nearest chair. She glared at David. "Great going,
Yank," she said sarcastically. "You know who this is, don't you?" She indicated Jason with an
"Yeah, I figured out he's the baby," David shot back. He pushed nervously at his hair as he sat
heavily on the arm of the sofa opposite Ace. "Exactly how long have we been gone?" he
demanded, turning to look at Jason.
"I turned sixteen last week," Tegan's not-so-little-boy replied promptly. "Don't worry, Dad's not
mad anymore. He stopped muttering your names like curse words under his breath years ago."
He made an impatient motion, as if brushing David's words away. "Where's the TARDIS?" His
eyes shone with eagerness.
Ace waved toward the back of the house. "Same spot it was when we dropped you folks off.
Right out back."
"Great!" Without a backward glance, Jason jumped to his feet and disappeared at a dead run
through the parlor door.
"It's locked!" Ace called after him, then drummed impatient fingers on the arm of her chair and
looked consideringly at David from under her lashes. "You're right; it was my fault, too," she
said after a long, silent moment. She stood up and moved over to sit next to him on the sofa,
laying a comforting hand on his arm. "Sorry."
"I'm sorry I snapped at you too." David grinned weakly and threw his arm around Ace's
shoulders. "I guess we should've moved away from the console before I tried to kiss you."
"I might have known it would be something like that," came a familiar, dry voice from behind
David pulled his arm away from Ace's shoulder and jumped guiltily to his feet. "Doc!" he
exclaimed. Ace turned as well, leaning her arms on the back of the sofa to stare critically at her
former traveling companion.
"You don't look any different," she declared. "Just the clothes."
The Doctor moved further into the room, taking the seat Ace had vacated. He was wearing a pair
of comfortable-looking tweed pants, a rumpled white shirt with his trademark question marks on
the lapels, and a baggy gray sweater. It was the quietest Ace had ever seen him dressed. "Sit
back down, David," he told the nervous young man. "You look like you need to. And I believe
we have a few things to discuss."
"Like the fact that I screwed up again and landed sixteen years in my own future?" David
muttered, but did as the Doctor asked and re-seated himself next to Ace.
"Well, that wasn't necessarily your fault," was the Doctor's surprising reply. He cleared his
throat uncomfortably, before confessing, "Actually, it's mine. I'm afraid I was rather rushed
when I installed the recall button; I had it set to send the TARDIS here in case of emergency, but
I accidentally set the time coordinates to the wrong date. We're lucky it was only sixteen years;
it could have been worse. Much worse," he added grimly. "I ran some experiments, tried to
remember exactly what I did when I programmed the recall button, and estimated that I'd
thrown off the coordinates by approximately fifteen years. And here you are," he added with
Identical looks of relief flashed across Ace and David's at these words. Although it was still
their own fault for activating the TARDIS in the first place, at least it wasn't their fault they
came back at the wrong time. "So," Ace said after a pause, "what have you been up to with us
gone so long?"
"Oh, I've managed to keep busy," the Doctor replied. "I renewed my ties with UNIT; they were
more than happy to reacquire their 'unofficial scientific advisor.' It gave me something to do
while I was waiting." His expression clouded. "But I'm afraid I have some rather distressing
news for you, David." His voice was subdued and sympathetic. David braced himself; whatever
the Doctor was about to tell him, it wasn't something he wanted to say. "David, I--that is we,
UNIT and I--tried to explain what happened to you to your father, but I'm afraid he refused to so
much as listen to us, much less believe what we were trying to tell him."
"You mean you tried to tell him that I was stuck in a time machine?" David asked incredulously.
"My father?" He laughed, a short, humorless bark. "I wish I'd been a fly on the wall for that
The Doctor scowled slightly. "It did not go well," he conceded. "He continued to insist that you
had run off with, how did he put it, 'some Australian bimbo', simply to aggravate him. We gave
up after a while." He paused before adding gently, "I gather your relationship with your father
has been less than ideal."
"That's what I'd call a major understatement, Doc," David replied. He shook his head, still
somewhat dazed by the fact that he was sixteen years out of sync. Irrelevantly, Bertie Hall, his
Australian girlfriend, flashed into his mind; she would be in her thirties now. He wondered if she
were married, if she ever thought about him anymore. "So he probably cut me out of his will and
wouldn't believe me even if I showed up on his doorstep tomorrow," David murmured. He
didn't need to see the Doctor's sympathetic nod to know he was right; he knew his father too
The Doctor began to speak once it was clear that David had nothing further to add. "When I
realized what must have happened, my first action--"
"After cursing us roundly?" Ace interrupted, recalling Jason's words with an impish grin. Being
out of time didn't perturb her; she'd long since severed her ties to Earth and Perivale. She felt a
little bad for stranding the Professor for so long--even if it was mostly his own fault--but he
seemed to have made out all right; he always landed on his feet, that one did.
The Doctor turned a stern eye on her. "Well, yes," he admitted after a moment. "But my first
action after that was to make arrangements with Harry and his wife Sarah Jane to stay here. So
we would be here when you showed back up again."
"What if the recall button had been set into the past, or a lot farther into the future?" Ace asked
The Doctor shrugged. "Then I'd have been an alien stranded on Earth--a situation with which I
am not unfamiliar--at least until I could create some sort of signaling device to send for help
from Gallifrey. I've been saving that as a last resort, though," he added, wincing unconsciously
at the thought of how the High Council would have reacted to his losing the TARDIS. Again.
"Which is a moot point, since here you are."
He studied them. David still looked shaken, but not irretrievably upset. Ace looked perfectly
calm; well, she'd been out of her own time more than once in her life. They'd both adjust, he
decided, although he felt a tremor of doubt for David. So much had happened to him in so short
a time... He'd do well to keep an eye on that young man, and not just because he was
dismayingly accident-prone on the TARDIS. Not unlike a certain UNIT physician whose house
they had taken over "Well." The two youngsters looked up expectantly. "What shall we do
David shook his head. "Geez, Doc, I don't know. I mean, I was going to ask if I could stick
around and travel with you some more; this kind of makes it inevitable, doesn't it? I mean, face
it; my old man wouldn't believe it was me even if I showed him dental records and fingerprints
and told him about the mole on his butt."
Ace bit back a snort of laughter while the Doctor nodded, careful not to let the concern he felt at
David's words--spoken lightly, but with an undertone of old pain the Time Lord didn't miss--
show in either his face or his voice. "I suppose so." He glanced over his shoulder toward the
front hall. David's problems were purely hypothetical at this point; unfortunately, right now he
had to deal with some problems he knew were all too real. "Until we have everything sorted out,
Ace can have the spare bedroom, and you can bunk with Jason. You'll understand if I ask you to
sleep here instead of in the TARDIS," he added dryly. David turned red to the tips of his ears,
while Ace merely wrinkled her nose impudently. "Jason can show you where the kitchen and
other amenities are located, once you pry him away from the TARDIS," he continued, glancing
once again toward the front hall. "If you'll excuse me, I need to speak to my wife." He rose from
"Wife?!?" Ace and David exclaimed at the same time. It occurred to David that they had
completely missed the significance of the way Jason had called Tegan "Mom" and the Doctor
"Dad." He felt a trace of jealously, but sternly suppressed it. Jason deserved a mother and father
that loved him, no matter how complicated those relationships might be. And he most
emphatically did not deserve to be envied for having those loving parents. David angrily wiped
thoughts of his uncaring father out of his mind, just as he wiped thoughts of his mother and
grandfather away--people who had loved him, only to die way, way too soon. It was getting
easier, to keep his mind off them and the pain all three had caused him, in different ways; soon,
he hoped, he'd be able to think about them without wanting to cry like a stupid baby.
The Doctor nodded, unfazed by their reaction. "Yes. Once we realized what had happened, and
that it might be some time before you returned...well, suffice it to say that Tegan and I worked
things out between us, things that have long needed airing. I trust," he added with a twinkle in
his eyes, "that this meets with your approval?"
Ace's astounded expression was replaced instantly by an ear-to-ear grin. "Way to go, professor!"
she exclaimed. "We were right, Davey!" She punched him gleefully in the arm while the Doctor
raised an eyebrow and shook his head ruefully. It was difficult to keep things from Ace; he'd
been right when he told her she was getting too perceptive for his own good.
David merely nodded and absently rubbed his arm. He still looked somewhat overwhelmed, and
the Doctor hoped that was all he was feeling. "There is one other thing," he added, pausing at
the foot of the front stairs. "Please don't say anything to Jason regarding the circumstances of his
birth. He knows that Dracula kidnapped his mother, but he thinks she was already pregnant when
it happened, I'm his father. He also knows you disappeared afterwards, but he doesn't know he
was born yet. Tegan and I decided it would be best for all concerned if the true story remained
our secret." He waited for their nods of agreement--and Ace's cheery "Righty-oh, Professor!"--
before continuing up the stairs to face his wife.
* * *
David sank back into his abandoned seat, moodily gnawing on one knuckle. It wasn't fair, and
he wasn't being fair if he thought the world was supposed to be fair, but nobody said he had to
be reasonable all the time. And since the world had proven itself to be pretty unreasonable lately,
what with witches and vampires and time-traveling aliens popping up all over the place, it
seemed perfectly reasonable to be unreasonable. There was something wrong with the logic of
that argument, but David didn't feel like analyzing it just now. All he felt like doing was sitting
where he was and brooding.
Ace, however, had different plans. "Come on, Yank, up and at 'em," she said cheerfully, pulling
at his hand. "Let's go."
David raised his eyes to hers. "Go? Go where?" He glanced around the parlor. "Where do we
have to go? Where could we possibly have to go?"
Ace glared down at him in exasperation. "Anywhere we want, mate. Outside to talk to Jason
about the TARDIS, around the block, down to the shops...where do you want to go?" She
wrinkled her nose. "Or do you just want to sit around here for the rest of the day?"
David shrugged, avoiding her eyes. "The world's waited for us for sixteen years; I think it can
wait another day."
Ace plopped down next to him, concern in her eyes. "Hey, that's not the kind of attitude I
expected from you! Think of it as an adventure, that's all. The Doctor'll take care of us."
David sighed. Ace wasn't going to just let this drop, so he may as well give in. Besides, she was
right. He had no right to complain if an adventure he volunteered for didn't turn out the way he
expected. He turned and smiled a lopsided grin. "I guess you're right," he said, hauling himself
to his feet and holding out his hand to Ace. "If I wanted my life to stay the same, I never would
have gone to that hospital in Sydney, and I definitely wouldn't have got on the TARDIS. Change
is good, right?"
"Right!" Ace agreed, taking his hand and jumping up enthusiastically. "So try not to worry about
things. Not right now, anyway. Let's see if there's a shop around here that sells a newspaper,
shall we? And do some catching up? I'm sure Jason knows if there's one nearby."
"Let's go--uh, but all I have is a little American money, and some Australian pounds," David
said, checking his pockets as they headed for the door. "Shouldn't we tell the Doctor where
Ace rolled her eyes, but nodded. "We'll tell Jason when we ask him where the nearest shop is.
It's not like we're on a strange planet, after all; how much trouble can we get into just going to
fetch a newspaper?"
David opened his mouth, then closed it without saying anything. They both already knew the
answer. He could tell by the mischievous glint in Ace's eye that she'd asked the question on
purpose. "All right, let's get this over with," was all David finally said. "It'll wake me up." The
lack of sleep was finally catching up with him, that and all the emotional upheavals. He followed
Ace out of the parlor.