Her feet were numb, as were her fingers and her face. The wind kept blowing snow into her eyes and she had to squint to see the Doctor ahead of her. The snow was deep and she was exhausted. Although Peri really wanted to stop moving, she knew that if she stopped moving, she would freeze. This thought kept hovering near the front of her mind. It was the only thought that kept her walking. She turned her eyes back to the ground and continued her cursing of their so-called guide.
As soon as she met him, she knew he couldn’t be trusted, but the Doctor said that they would be just fine, and away they went. They had left the warmth of the palace the day before for the arduous trek over the frozen tundra and snow-capped mountains for the TARDIS. When they arrived on Ewin 9, it was warm and inviting. They found a caravan making its annual pilgrimage to the palace and hitched a lift. Now, three weeks later, the temperature had turned inhospitable. And the TARDIS was out there somewhere, buried under two feet of snow. And in the shape of a pyramid, which meant it was easier to miss. The Doctor had been told that the weather was going to get much worse before it would get better and he decided that this would be the best time to get to the TARDIS and leave. The guide that had been so highly recommended had indeed led them away from the palace and in the general direction of the TARDIS, but last night had left them to freeze to death. He was working for the rebellion, and fully believed that the Doctor was instrumental to the king’s plans.
Peri continued her cursing and her stomping. The wind was getting worse, and she was getting very hungry. She wanted to stop moving, if just for a moment. Whenever she thought about it, the idea of freezing to death would jump into her mind, and she managed to pick up her feet for another few minutes. She kept her eyes to the ground, looking for the Doctor’s footprints in the snow. The sun was setting and it was becoming difficult to see them amongst the shadows from the rocks and boulders that edged their path. This was not what she had signed up for. Peri knew it would be dangerous, sure, but she wasn’t expecting to freeze on some god-forsaken planet no one had ever heard of. Her internal ranting distracted her and she stomped right into the back of the Doctor. She looked up at him.
He turned to her and pointed up the side of the mountain. “I think I see shelter. Come on.”
She looked up to where he was pointing, but didn’t see anything. Sighing loudly, she followed him up the slope to an outcropping of rock. He disappeared under it and a moment later his head appeared, “Come on, Peri.” She followed him under the rock and after crawling along a bit she found herself in a rather spacious cavern. The Doctor had his penlight out and was shining it around at the walls. They reflected the light and looked wet. Peri realized that they were actually covered in a thick layer of ice, as was the ground.
She dropped the pack she was carrying, relief swelling into her tired and achy joints. “You’re not serious.”
He stared back. “Do you have any better ideas?”
“The ground is solid ice, Doctor. How am I supposed to sleep?”
“Coldly, I should imagine.” She stared at him as he lowered his own pack to the floor. “I think we’ve got about another three hours to go. We obviously won’t make it tonight, and this is the best I can do.”
“Great,” she muttered to herself.
The Doctor looked up at her from where he was opening his pack on the icy ground. His voice dripped with sarcasm. “I know it’s not the Ritz, but we’re out of the wind and snow.” As if on cue a gust of wind blew through the cavern carrying with it a few snowflakes. She stared hard at him. “Well. We’re out of the snow,” he said under his breath.
She sat down, grateful that at least her pants were waterproof. She closed her eyes, and wanted desperately to sleep. Her empty stomach had been gnawing at her for the past several hours, and it was the only thing keeping her awake. Finding what he was looking for in his pack, the Doctor held out a piece of fruit and something resembling a granola bar. “Supper.”
She opened her eyes slowly, and looked at it with a frown. Hunger won out. She ate them both, and it didn’t occur to her to ask if the Doctor wanted any. It didn’t matter; halfway through her fruit the Doctor found another one in his pack and sat back on his haunches to eat.
After supper, what there was of it, she sat back against one of the walls. Peri closed her eyes again. It was becoming difficult to keep them open. She said softly, “Remind me again, why are we not going towards the TARDIS, but back to the palace?”
He sighed, “Because the palace is closer by about half a day’s walk.”
“And you’re sure you’re leading us in the right direction?”
“Yes,” he said testily.
Peri made a face at him, and closed her eyes again. She wanted to blame the Doctor for their current predicament. Alas they were both equally to blame. He was out getting more firewood the night before, and Peri slept. Their guide, the duplicitous Mr. Weeun, had taken that opportunity to take everything he and his horses could carry. Including the food. The Doctor woke her rudely when he returned and Peri was just as upset. He shouldn’t have gone wandering off, leaving her at the mercy of this stranger. The Doctor then pointed out that she was awake when he left and fully expected her to take care of herself — and to watch their guide. Neither one suspected that Mr. Weeun would drug her.
And now here they were, alone together in an icy cave, and would probably freeze to death.
She opened her eyes when she heard him shuffling around. He pulled a pickaxe from his pack and began cracking away at the ice on the wall near to where she sat. The ice came away relatively easily and he brushed it back into a pile. Peri shifted further away and saw that he was removing the ice from a small hole in the wall. It was really nothing more than an indentation, but he was intent on clearing it from the ice.
“Yes?” he said, between cracks of the ice.
“I want you to take me home.”
The briefest of hesitations was all that signaled his acceptance of her statement. After a few moments he spoke. “Oh?”
“Yes.” She said it so softly that it was almost inaudible, but he heard.
After another few moments of silent working the Doctor put down his pickaxe. “I’m going to try to find something to burn.” He pulled the woolen cap back on his head and crawled out.
Peri sat back and looked at the axe lying on the ground. She picked it up and began hacking away at the ice that covered the floor. She wanted to sleep, but the activity would keep her warm. She did want to go home. This wasn’t her Doctor anymore. She allowed her mind to float back. She remembered her Doctor. He was so kind, and sweet. He seemed so young, that most of the time she forgot how old he actually was. Especially when Erimem was with them. The two of them had such a wonderful time teasing (flirting?) with the Doctor. Erimem was gone, though, and so was her Doctor. He died, and now she was stuck with this cosmic clown, who actually frightened her.
She continued to chip away at the ice, letting her anger and fear flow through her, giving her strength. He tried to kill her. That was a fact. And it still haunted her dreams sometimes. He would sometimes appear over her, and he would begin throttling her until she woke in a cold sweat. She should have told him to take her home as soon as they left Jaconda, but he seemed to stabilize. Peri began to wonder if she had overreacted. After they left Telos she began to think that she really should be taken home. He settled into a blue funk, and she grew tired of it. There were moments she thought she saw him look at her with that same murderous intent. Now that they were trapped in the snow and ice, she finally made her decision. She wanted to go home.
? ? ? ? ?
The Doctor crawled out of the cave and made his way up the side of the mountain. He kept peering into crevices in the rock and under outcroppings, looking for something — anything - to burn. He found some roots and he pulled at them, hoping they weren’t too wet to catch fire. He found another cave, smaller, but with a larger entrance, and he ducked inside. He walked the twenty feet to the back of the cave and there he found a handful of logs. Someone had obviously been trapped up here before. It wasn’t very surprising, though. The way climates changed on this planet he was surprised there weren’t more people who got trapped up here.
He left that cave and found his way along the slope to another. This one was barely more than an indentation in the rock, but he sat down there and thought as he pulled at another root system. Peri wanted to go home. He knew the time would come when his companions would want to leave, it always did, but this felt different. It felt wrong. She had seemed so happy to travel with him, but since his regeneration she seemed distant. She told him that he had tried to kill her, and he wouldn’t believe it. That is, until he saw it in his own mind, several days later. He couldn’t blame her; in fact he was surprised she hadn’t asked earlier. It just didn’t feel right. He hated to leave his friends when they were upset with him; it always left him a little unbalanced. When Tegan left he was depressed for weeks. They hadn’t separated on good terms, and he felt, or rather he knew, it was his fault. Now Peri wanted to leave, and again he felt it was his fault. At least now he had the opportunity to convince her to stay.
The Doctor also knew something that Peri wasn’t fully aware of. The drugs that Mr. Weeun had put in her food were still in her system. She was exhausted, and he could see it on her face. He suspected that she really didn’t want to go home, but she wasn’t well. He couldn’t be certain though. The drugs had lowered her defenses, and perhaps going home was what she really wanted. If she hadn’t been drugged, she may not have said anything, merely stuck it out. As it was, she wanted to leave.
He stood up and, brushing the snow from his pants, he made his way back to the cave and Peri.
? ? ? ? ?
When the Doctor crawled back into the cave, he saw that Peri had been busy. She had chipped away at the icy floor and had created a relatively dry spot where they could at least lie down. He dropped his wood next to the hole in the wall and sat down. He couldn’t be certain but it seemed that Peri deliberately sat further away from him. He set about making a fire.
Once it was hot, Peri moved closer, holding out her frozen fingers. They had seemed to thaw while she chipped away at the ice, but once she stopped moving they froze again. She stared into the dancing flames and allowed her mind to wander. She thought of Erimem and of their time together. She thought of that terrifying moment when her Doctor collapsed in her arms and died. She tried not to think of the moment when she was trapped beneath this new Doctor, terrified of what he might do to her. She heard him moving about next to her and turned her head away from him.
“You should sleep,” she heard him say.
Sleep sounded wonderful. “It’s too cold, I’ll never sleep.”
The fire cast his shadow along the opposite wall as he made his way to the front of the cave. The sounds of shifting rocks and digging filtered back to her. She heard him return and sit down behind her. “That should keep the wind to a minimum.” Again, as if on cue, a blast of cold air whipped through the cave and the fire almost went out. “It should,” he said again. Peri couldn’t stop the little grin that crept onto her face.
She listened to him untie his waterproof sleeping mat from his kit and lay it out on the ground. He then turned to hers and laid it out next to his. He pulled at the zippered sleeping bags and with numb fingers managed to zip them together. She finally turned to look at what he was doing and the shock on her face must have been evident.
“We need to keep warm,” he said matter-of-factly.
She stared at him, uncertain of his meaning. She had a brief flash of looking up at his angry face as he pinned her to the floor of the console room. She watched him take off his boots and his outermost coat. He even stepped out of his snow pants and folded them neatly at the head of the makeshift bed. He crawled in to the side farthest from the fire and lay down. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply.
The body temperature of the average Gallifreyan was lower than a human. However it was still warmer than the air in the cave. Still, Peri needed all the warmth she could get. The Doctor slowed his breathing, and did his best to raise his body temperature. The warmer he got, the colder the room felt. When he reached human body temperature, he realized just how cold it felt to Peri. He continued to breathe slowly and deeply. He knew that if he appeared relaxed, Peri would soon follow suit, and try to sleep herself.
After a few minutes of watching the Doctor sleep, Peri felt somewhat reassured and after taking off her own boots and coat (leaving her snow pants on) she crawled in next to him. She lay on her right side staring into the fire that was just a foot away. She tried to lie as far as possible from the Doctor, but there just wasn’t room. She felt him roll onto his side and for one brief and horrifying moment she thought he was going to put his arm around her. He didn’t.
She stared into the dying flames and soon drifted off to sleep.
The Doctor watched Peri fall asleep; he could feel her body relax against him. He knew he probably wouldn’t sleep, he didn’t really need it, but he should at least rest. Gallifrey was definitely a hostile climate, but compared to what was blowing up outside the cave, even he had to watch himself. He could hear Peri’s breathing deepen, and though she still shivered occasionally, she seemed momentarily content. He watched as the fire began to slowly die. The cave darkened and finally he decided that he should put the last log on the fire. It wouldn’t last long, but it would at least provide a few more minutes of warmth.
Peri dreamt. She was home, in her own bed. She was sleeping peacefully, although she was cold. She shivered and pulled her arms closer around her. She felt movement behind her and turned her head to see her stepfather crawling into the bed with her. He had that horrible leer on his face, the one that stared at her from the dark corners of her mind. Her mother didn’t know about Howard and what he did to Peri on a regular basis. She suspected that Howard saw that as some sort of permission granting. He snuggled up next to her and tucked an arm around her.
As slowly as he could, the Doctor propped himself up on his elbow and reached around Peri for the log. He couldn’t quite reach it, and he leaned into her. He looked down at her face, mere inches from his own, and was surprised to see that her eyes were wide open in shock and fear. She bolted from the bag and cowered several feet away. What had she been dreaming about to cause such a reaction, he wondered. He looked at her with a shocked expression. “Peri? Are you all right?”
“What were you doing?” she asked, the panic obvious in her voice.
“I was reaching over to put another log on the fire,” he said slowly. “Is that all right?” he asked softly.
Peri relaxed a little bit. The ice from the wall was melting and dripped down her neck. She let out a squeak and shivered. The Doctor sat up, put the log in question on the fire and Peri watched the flames lick at it eagerly. She returned to the sleeping bag and crawled in next to the Doctor. He could tell that she was trying to keep her distance. She was afraid of him. He pulled the cover over her gently and lay back down behind her. She watched the dancing flames and thought about her dream.
“How long until morning?” she asked.
“A long while yet. You only slept for about an hour.” She had to quell the instinct to move away from him, his voice was so close to her ear as to be uncomfortable. “Close your eyes. Go back to sleep.” His voice was soft, calm, reassuring. Peri could almost hear the voice of her Doctor in her ear. She closed her eyes and imagined that it was he who was tucked behind her, not the one that was there now. Peri listened to the crack of the small fire and the steady breathing of her companion. Eventually exhaustion overtook her and she slept.
The Doctor looked at the back of Peri’s head. She was truly terrified of something. He knew that she was uncomfortable with him, ever since he tried to kill her, but he had explained. His regeneration hadn’t stabilized. The spetrox toxemia had caused an imbalance in his body chemistry, and even the regeneration couldn’t purge all of it from his system. Eventually his immune system did its job and the virus was completely destroyed. But now he was stuck with the consequences of his actions. His friend, someone whom he had known for a long time, was now scared of him. But it was more than that. The way she looked at him just now, she was seeing someone else.
He thought back to what Peri had told him about her life before they met. She told him about traveling with her mother and going on archaeological digs. She found them intensely boring, but it was educational. She told him about school, and some of her friends. She even told him about a boy she had a crush on when she was ten years old. What hadn’t she mentioned? What was she hiding? The Doctor closed his eyes and allowed his subconscious to deal with the problem while he rested.
Twenty-seven minutes later his eyes snapped open. He knew. He knew what had happened to Peri, and he suspected that it wasn’t just a one-time occurrence. He would never ask her directly, but it had to be the truth. And it explained so much. She was terrified of stronger men. She wasn’t scared of his previous incarnation, perhaps because his body didn’t seem threatening. But now… Just after regenerating he had actually tried to kill her. He had demonstrated his strength and she no longer felt comfortable. He looked at her in the fading firelight and was filled with pity and sorrow. He wanted to profusely apologize, but she wanted to leave him. How could he convince her that he wasn’t going to harm her?
The fire had gone out and there were just a few hot coals still glowing. They provided no actual light, but the Doctor could see well enough. He knew he wasn’t going to sleep, and thought about getting up, to go find something else to burn. If he did it would wake Peri, and she needed her sleep. Mr. Weeun had drugged both of them, but his physiology had absorbed it and dispersed it without him even knowing. However, with Peri it was dangerous. She slept for a long time the night before, and he could see it on her face all day. She was exhausted. Who knew what the drug was doing to her body now? She needed all her energy to fight off hypothermia, and the Doctor seriously doubted that she would actually make it to the palace tomorrow. Whatever Mr. Weeun had put in her food, it was still in her system.
Peri shivered; the fire had gone out, and dawn was still four hours away at least. The Doctor had crossed his arms in front of his chest as a means of maintaining body-heat. He opened his eyes when Peri began to move, and he worried that she was awake. She rolled over to face him, but she was sound asleep. Her arms were crossed in front of her, like his were, and her hair had fallen into her face. She shivered again. The Doctor pushed her hair out of her face and brushed his fingertips down her cheek. Her nose was red and her cheeks felt like ice. He looked at her sleeping face for another minute before finally giving in. She could be angry with him tomorrow, but now he had to save her life. He unfolded his arms and wrapped them around his companion. Peri rested her head on his right arm and his left was wrapped tightly around her. She shivered again. Instinctively she tucked herself into the warmth of his body and lay unmoving for the rest of the night.
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