Charactes are copyright 2001 BBC Enterprises - the story is copyright 1998 myself. If you like this, please feel free to let me know - e-mail me at GordonDym@bigfoot.com. Thanks for reading!
So close,_ Ace thought _and I *still* couldn't get away._
Slowly, the Doctor and Ace turned to face whatever had screeched Ace's name. They had just finished saving Perivale, and were looking forward to just bumming around. Maybe enjoying a little vacation before doing what they usually did: defend the universe from assorted nasties, travel through space and time, maybe make sure the morning paper was delivered. Slipping the TARDIS key back in his pocket, the Doctor girded himself, and Ace summoned up the courage to face the one evil that they probably *couldn't* defeat.
"I said, come back here!" Ace's mother said. "We've waited _too_ long to have you disappear on us again, Dorothy!"
Ace's mother was a rather short, plump woman wearing a plain green housedress. Her face wore the ravages of time, and the hair tied into a tight bun in the back poorly attempted to smooth the wrinkles from her face. She looked like Ace might have looked had she never left Earth - in fact, they could be confused for sisters. In fact, Ace's mother looked like the kind of woman who could pinpoint *precisely* when and where each of her gray hairs turned color.
Pushing Ace aside, the Doctor extended his hand and said, "Hello, I'm the Doctor, and you must be Audrey..."
"I *know* who she is," Audrey said melodramatically. "I just wish I knew your intentions with *my* daughter."
"Purely honorable, my good lady," the Doctor countered. "I...specialize in dealing with troubled youth. Personal experience, you might say..."
Ignoring the Doctor, Audrey approached Ace, complaining, "We had you listed as a missing person, and now you show up with this...this *Scotsman*, of all people..."
Ace glanced at the Doctor, who seemed nonchalant. She then turned to her mother and responded defensively, "It's not like that - the Professor's a right bloke, and we..."
"I know about the kind of company *you* keep," Audrey scolded, grabbing Ace's arm. "All these years, and you have the nerve to show your face again... this time, you're *not* running away again..."
"I don't *want* to go! We have work to do!" Ace shouted as she was being dragged off.
"I'll *not* have *my* daughter in the skin trade!" Audrey announced.
Ace turned towards the TARDIS and yelled, "Doctor!"
He jumped slightly - after all, Ace *rarely* called him the Doctor except in times of deep distress - but kept his poker face. He gave her a knowing glance...and a slight nod.
_He's got a plan_ Ace thought as she paced behind her mother _He almost always does_
_Almost_ she thought.
Ace felt a doubt she had literally not felt in years.
Clanging. The sound of silverware on porcelain made a harsh, clanging sound that Ace always hated. The silence of the small apartment didn't help - give her the comforting, almost organic hum of the TARDIS any time.
It was a small, lonely kitchenette, with Ace, her mother, and father sitting at an old kitchen table used twenty years out of date. In this kitchen, modern conveniences sat side by side with their more antiquated cousins. A pile of dishes awaited washing in the sink. The once white floor tile was now a sickly gray. In Ace's eyes, Cybermen had a more warm, loving environment than this.
Avoiding her mother's gaze, Ace shared at her father. He was a slender, drawn faced man, who reminded Ace of that comedian friend of the Doctor's, Buster...Keating? Kelton? Who knew? Her father, however, seemed to have no humor about him, even in the way the juices from the beef whatever-it-was they were eating mixed in with the petrol stains on his shirt. A red-and-white embroidered patch, sewn over the left pocket, announced that his name was "Reg". Ace still felt raw after the going-over her parents gave her. Luckily, though, she had packed some things and snuck them outside to take back when she got out. She always did.
"Don't mix your peas with your mashed potatoes," Reg scolded through a mouth full of food.
Ace disregarded him, and realized _why_ she left Perivale, and never wanted to come back. All she wanted to do was check up on friends, not visit family. Give her the TARDIS, where you could go anywhere, do anything - hell, sometimes being _inside_ the TARDIS was an adventure in itself. This just felt like being in a box. A small box inside a bigger, brick box.
"Wish I had some nitro," Ace muttered.
Both her parents ignored her, and so Ace wondered what the hell she did to deserve her parents. Her dad, well, at least she got some interesting chemistry lessons. Her dad could rebuild a car's engine, and showed her some of the more mechanical aspects. She couldn't put together a nitro-9 canister without his expertise. Her mother, however....there was *too* much of Ace's future there. Passersby once remarked that the two of them could be sisters. Ace never *wanted* to be like her mother. She wanted to travel the universe, not sit in some cramped little space in a small nowhere town...why be a house wife when you can rid the universe of evil? Pay's not as good, but the job satisfaction is incredible.
"Young lady," Audrey began. "You are in _enough_ trouble as it is. You ran away, we had to declare you missing, and now you come back with that, that _man_...why can't you settle down. You won't be 16 forever, you know..."
"I'm _18_ now, Mum," Ace asserted. Or was she older than 18? Time travel can really confuse a person....
"With all that's going on, cats being killed, that Midge boy found dead," Reg interrupted, emphasizing each word by pointing with his fork. "We're not letting you go again. You must be on drugs - cat people riding on horses, indeed..."
"You are more trouble than you're worth," Audrey finished.
"Don't put this all on _me_," Ace snarled. "Don't blame _me_ because you got a naff bunch of rubbers at Woolworth's..."
"Watch _your_ mouth," Adurey scolded. "Maybe that Doctor tolerates it, but I won't."
"I'm tired of this," Ace said, shifting in her seat. "Being treated like one of those porcelain dolls in the living room..."
Audrey looked past Ace, through the doorway that led into the living room. All of the furniture - love seat, recliner, television, record player, even bookshelves full of never-read books - were covered with clutter. Sunlight struggled through a small window, barely illuminating the room. It looked more like a storage room than a living room, Ace thought to herself.
Having rehearsed the speech in her head, Audrey began, "You can _never_ understand how truly lucky you are, Dorothy..."
"Don't call me _that_," Ace said again, her voice tinted with anger.
"My father died in the war, when I was a baby. I never knew him. My mother fled from Yorkshire, from a navy base, with me..."
"...'and was sent to your father's parents thanks to the kindness of some young lady, whom my mother rarely talked about, and who she never saw after that...'". Ace parroted, then added, "I know the story, Mum."
As Reg sat watching, Audrey spat, "Well, you'll hear it again because you _need_ to hear it..."
"No, I don't, Mum. I was there. I know all about it!" Ace blurted.
"Do _not_ patronise me, young lady," Audrey scolded.
"It's true!" Ace said in a little girl's voice. "I sent Kathleen and her baby to Gramp's, thinking it would be safe. Hell, I didn't even *think*, it just...when he told me you _were_ the baby...I was so bloody stupid."
"Don't lie, Dorothy," Reg said. "Don't make it harder on y'self. You're already in enough trouble."
"Can't you see?" Ace said, more to herself than her parents. "_I'm_ responsible for all this...if I hadn't...and that house...I mucked things up."
"Dorothy," Audrey said in a comforting yet threatening voice. "We _can_ get you some help. You need it."
"I don't _need_ your bloody help!" Ace said, storming out of the room.
Grabbing the bags from her bedroom, she left through her window, and out of her house.
While the other cafe patrons measured out their lives in coffee spoons, the Doctor silently sipped his chamomile-lemon tea, and contemplated his surroundings.
"Perivale is a perfect place to raise a family," the Doctor thought aloud. "Or a vegetable garden."
Taking another sip, the Doctor thought to himself that, current events notwithstanding, Ace was right - *nothing* happened in Perivale. The postal clerk didn't even bat an eyelash when the Doctor presented various letters to be sent to various exotic locales: Brisbane, Cambridge, the Amazon, South Croydon....it was, for the Doctor, a very productive afternoon. Visit Perivale, defeat the Master, mail off letters to old friends, and enjoy a nice cup of chamomile-lemon tea.
Snapshots of human existence played themselves out before the Doctor. Two elderly men played chess in another corner of the cafe. The Doctor silently calculated checkmate in six moves. A woman wiped her baby's mouth as they left a half-eaten bowl of hummus and several pita squares on the table. Several interestingly clad teenagers discussed the state of the world, and the American vice-president who considered a television character an improper role model. It was times like this that remind the Doctor why he went into exile: he had a fondness for the smaller details. After living on a planet of broad strokes, of dimensional transcendence and remote stellar manipulators, he enjoyed being able to enjoy sitting and drinking tea. Perhaps that's why so many of his kind went renegade - too much broad thinking and not enough attention to the smaller picture.
Sipping his tea, he watched as the sites and sounds before him played out in a slightly bittersweet symphony. As the chamomile and lemon tastes swirled on his tongue, he remembered when he first had this tea, oh so long ago...in his youth. It was tempting to go back to simpler times, but the Laws of Time forbade it without some grand cosmic crisis. It was tempting to go back, give his third incarnation the secret of TARDIS travel, to bail out his second before the trial, or even before the first, when....but "what if" is not a game played by Time Lords. Better to accept where you're at than where you've been.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a brown-haired black-bodied blur storming through the streets. Focusing on it, he saw that it was an angry and upset Ace, carrying two bags and heading towards the TARDIS. Quicking checking his pocket watch, the Doctor noticed the time as if he had a schedule to meet, and gulped down the rest of his tea. Finding the proper coins to pay for his tea, he then left the cafe, following Ace.
Having unearthed her father's footlocker from beneath the dirty laundry, Audrey began rifling through it for the treasures of the past. Making her way past the shoeboxes of letters and the envelopes of report cards, she lovingly gazed through old photos, as if they held the secret to time travel. Which, in a way, they did. She then came upon her most valued posession: a leather-bound scrapbook with yellow newsprint bursting through the edges. Audrey hadn't seen this since Dorothy was a little girl...
She'd been eight years old, just before Kathleen - Gramma, as Dorothy called her - died. Kathleen had been sick, old, sick with age and the tyranny of time. Audrey had heard the story for years, about the mysterious girl and the doctor - was it Doctor? - who helped her. As Dorothy helped serve her grandmother, Kathleen would send out her wrinkled hand, and patting the child's head, say, "You have a remarkable destiny, my dear....I know who you are now. I thank you, and hope you become the woman I know you to be..."
Audrey had written it off to senility - after all, Kathleen *had* been getting on in years. She then turned to the yearbook, and paged through, looking at snapshots of the past. First, her father, whom she never knew, in all his glory while in the Merchant Marines. Audrey never *liked* her stepfather, who always seemed to sit around the house. The drinking and the fighting didn't help much either. Reg was a trusted friend, almost more like a husband than a father, but when accidents happen, you take charge and do the right think. Dorothy was more of a burden than she was worth, but Audrey couldn't understand her at times. Her life was no piece of cake, but *she* never blew up classrooms, or burned down houses....not like her daughter.
Audrey then saw a picture of herself and Reg on their wedding day. Could I be *that* close to fifty? she asked herself. Was I *ever* that young?
Suddenly, a small, folded square of paper fell from out of the book. Placing the scrapbook on top of the laundry that had been on the footlocker, she carefully unfolded the yellow paper. She remembered how her mother loved to draw, how she often did sketches in her spare time...but that was neither here nor there.
As she opened the picture, Audrey noted that the date meant it was drawn slightly after her own birth. Probably right after her mother left Yorkshire, at some hush-hush military base. About 1944. What amazed her, though, was of the subject of the picture.
It was a sketch of Dorothy, about a year younger than she was. She was dressed in 1940's era clothing. A note - in Kathleen's writing - said, "Ace. Helped out in 1943. See if I can track down."
Audrey searched for the words Dorothy had said during their last argument.
*I was _there_, Mum. I know all about it!*
Audrey sprang to her feet, outrage flooding through her body.
There was no way she was getting away with *this*, she decided, and stormed out of the house, deciding to hunt down her daughter.
"Ace," the Doctor asked indignantly. "What do you think you're doing?"
She was perched on tiptoe, sliding her fingers along the top of the police box. Usually, the Doctor kept a small key there - he had told her of this right after they left Iceworld. He had given her the usual speech, the "I am a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, this is my TARDIS, do not pass go, do not collect 200 pounds, and do _not_ eat my chocolate gelato" speech. Unfortunately - or fortunately, as the Doctor thought to himself - he had not had the time to reset the metabolism detector for Ace. The special key compartment would *not* open for her, and she would _never_ get access to the key that way.
"I want to go home!" Ace said, resuming a normal position and facing the Doctor. "I want to leave here!"
Firmly grasping her arms, the Doctor said, "What is *wrong*? What happened?"
"Leave me alone!" Ace snarled inhumanly as she pushed the Doctor away.
As she did, her eyes began glowing an eerie, almost catlike green color. The Doctor shuddered instinctively, and took one step back.
In that moment, all Ace knew was that she was on the hunt, the smell of blood was in the wind. All this nice, warm prey, and with such a lovely, delicious sense of fear right in front of her. All sorts of information came in, and she knew that today would be a *good* day to hunt. Thermal patterns danced in front of her eyes, and she could hear the dual beating of heartbeats. This would be easy prey to hunt, and the kill would be quick and painless. But it would still be a kill.
"Fight it, Ace," the Doctor pleased. "The Cheetah influence is still there, but it's weakening. Fight it! Assert yourself!"
Suddenly, through all the information streaming through her mind, a voice came into her head. _I'm Ace_, it asserted. _I'm the most wicked of them all. I watch the Doctor's back. I've always hated clowns. Daleks, Cybermen, even an evil from the dawn of time - they're knackered in my presence. I've held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water. Perivale Two, Rest of the Universe nil..._
With that, Ace staggered somewhat, and the Doctor gently helped her down onto the stress. Using the TARDIS as a prop, the Doctor placed Ace into a sitting position, and began pressing certain points in her shoulder. Hopefully, the Doctor could promote endorphin production, and help Ace recover quickly.
As Ace came to, she began to withdraw.
"It's my fault, Professor," she said. "I mucked things up. I've messed up my own life, made my mother who she is. Leave me here. Lock me up and throw away the key. All I need to know is...why?"
"The weave of time bears bitter truth," the Doctor remarked off-handedly.
"I'm _not_ bloody kidding!" Ace said with steel in her voice. "I saved her, and yet...I didn't know it. That baby...turned into her, and I could have stopped it!"
"Ace," the Doctor said, consoling her. "Every event that happens - everything - falls into a grander tapestry. Had you not saved Kathleen, you would not be the person you are..."
"Bullocks!" Ace snapped. "_You_ wouldn't understand! You're the guy who destroyed the Dalek's sun! You play the Great Galactic Defender! My parents are nothing but mere specks to you!"
"Ace," the Doctor said. "Everything fits. Your mother's experiences influenced the way she brought you up - how you reacted, and turned out - and made you the person who _saved_ Kathleen's life."
"I guess," Ace mumbled.
"Did I ever tell you about how I once...had the chance to stop the Daleks?" Ace looked at him through teary eyes.
"The Time Lords sent me on a mission to affect history on a truly cosmic scale. Stop the Daleks _before_ they started. I failed...yet, in a way, I didn't. I *did* affect them, and now, they're much less powerful than they were before. I could do all sorts of things: stop the technorganic research on Mondas, pull an old companion from a freighter, even revise some of the messier bits from my _own_ timeline..."
"Which ones?" Ace asked daringly.
Ignoring her, the Doctor continued, "What matters is that my battles have never been truly cosmic ones. I've tended to focus on the smaller battles. Through a large rock in a stream, and all you do is create a big splash. Throw a pebble, and the ripples reach out far and wide..."
"_There_ you are," Audrey's voice screeched as she approached the TARDIS.
The Doctor and Ace rose to meet her, as she menacingly clutched a piece of paper in her hand.
"_You," she sneered at Ace, pointing the paper accusingly. "How _dare_ you pull a stunt like this..."
Ace and the Doctor said nothing.
"You've hurt me for the _last_ time, young lady," Audrey scolded. "You are officially out of our family. How _dare_ you take my mother's dying memories and use them against me?"
"I didn't *do* anything, Mum," Ace said. "It happened. Get over it."
"Get over it? After all that *my* life has been? You expect _me_ to get over it?" Audrey moaned, and then, girding herself, said. "You are officially out of our lives. Your father's and mine. Do what you want."
"What does Dad say?" Ace asked.
"Your father...does not matter. I am your mother. You will do what _I_ say," Audrey countered, and with that, she turned on her heel and walked away.
"Good riddance," Ace muttered. She then turned to the Doctor and buried her head in his shoulder.
As Ace sobbed, the Doctor said, "I wanted to give you closure. I wanted you to see that everything fits together. Gabriel Chase...the base in Yorkshire...even here, I wanted you to see how everything fit. I wanted you to say goodbye to your mother, but not like _this_...."
After a pause, Ace regained her composure, and said, "You wanted me to run _to_ something rather than _from_ something. And you didn't want me to be tempted to go back and fix things."
"Some things," the Doctor said. "Are best left broken. And unresolved. In you, Ace, you are one of the first of those I've traveled with in whom I see....potential."
"Potential for what?" Ace asked.
The Doctor never answered her. He snapped his fingers, and drew forth a key to the TARDIS.
As he unlocked the door, the Doctor asked. "Where would you like to go now?"
"Someplace...anyplace else," Ace said, joining him. "Cities of smoke and people of song. We have work to do, remember?"
"Humans," the Doctor sneered. "No sense of poetry."
The door closed behind them.
Suddenly, the streets of Perivale reverbrated with the sound of great cosmic engines cleaving normal spacetime. Nobody noticed the police box fading from view.
After that, nothing ever happened in Perivale again.