Peri’s brain fought through the sluggishness in an attempt to wake up. Her body steadfastly refused to agree. She didn’t want to move. She couldn’t move. She was awake enough to try to wiggle her toes, but could feel nothing in response. Her brain said they were moving, but she couldn’t feel the socks against them, she couldn’t feel one toe against another. Oddly, she felt almost warm; her body began to agree with her brain and she began to wonder why. She tried to wake up.
She opened her eyes slightly and was greeted with a streak of teal against brown. She felt a weight around her, like she was wrapped in a cocoon. Peri shifted her head slightly and looked to her left. She saw a slash of bright yellow and closed her eyes against it. Now that her body fully agreed with her brain, she recognized the weight around her as the Doctor’s arm. He had wrapped his arms around her as she slept, and the thought suddenly paralyzed her with fear. It vanished in a flash and was replaced with a surge of gratitude. She was obviously cold and she had tucked as closely to his body as she could. He had even opened his coat, and wrapped her up in it with him. She opened her eyes again and shifted her head to look up at the Doctor.
“Good morning,” he said cheerily.
Peri closed her eyes again. “Is it necessary to speak that loudly this early in the morning?” All gratitude had vanished.
“Yes. It is.” He paused. “Feeling better?” he asked softly.
She looked up at him. “I can’t feel my toes, or actually anything below my knees. My fingers have fallen asleep, and I think I have ice crystals on my eyelashes.”
“Oh well, if that’s all,” the Doctor replied dryly. “You’ve been using my arm as a pillow for nearly five hours, and I lost sensation in it a long time ago. I didn’t know your head was so heavy.”
She suddenly propped her self up on her elbow. “That was rude.”
The Doctor pulled his arm back from under her, shaking out his fingers. “Thanks.”
With a sigh, Peri lay back down, tucking her own arm under her head. “It’s too cold to get up.”
“The sun’s been up for just over an hour, and we need to get moving. We need to warn the King about Mr. Weeun and his associates. We’ll have some breakfast, and get the blood circulating again.” He looked down and Peri, and saw that her eyes had closed again. “Peri.” When she didn’t respond he grabbed her shoulder. “Peri?” He shook it, slightly.
Peri mumbled something and the Doctor peered into her face. She was asleep. Again. The Doctor had hoped that the drugs would have worked their way out of her system by now. It seemed not. He wanted to let her sleep, knowing that it was the best way for her body to deal with the alien drug. He also knew that sleep was the worst thing for someone who was exhibiting the first signs of hypothermia. He shook her strongly. “Peri? Wake up, Peri.”
She looked at him. “What?”
“We need to get moving.”
“OK.” She closed her eyes again.
The Doctor sighed, and decided that he should at least get up. If nothing else, the absence of his body heat would encourage her towards action. He crawled out of the sleeping bag, leaving Peri huddled in the evaporating warmth. He pulled on his snow pants, boots and coat. “I’m going to find something to burn.”
Peri said nothing. Frustrated, the Doctor bent over her, and pulled her up into a sitting position. Sleepily, she looked up into his face. There in his eyes was a flash of murderous intent. Or was it her imagination? She didn’t want to find out. Suddenly alert, she scrambled out of the bag and crouched several feet away from him. “What are you doing?” she asked accusingly.
“I was trying to wake you up.”
“You succeeded. I’m awake.”
“Good.” He walked towards the entrance of the cave, pulling his woolen hat down over his ears. “I’m going to find something to burn,” he repeated. Pushing aside the rocks he had piled at the entrance the night before, he crawled out.
Daylight streamed into the cavern, and Peri could see that it extended quite a way back into the mountain. She stood up, put her coat on, and made her way to the back of the cavern to find a place to relieve herself. When she returned, she pulled the sleeping bags apart and managed to roll them up and put them back in the packs. She also put the sleeping mats away and then she sat and shivered waiting for the Doctor to return.
Peri thought about the night before. She couldn’t remember most of it; although it seemed that the Doctor did his best to keep her warm. Images of the fire danced in her mind, as well as images of her stepfather. She didn’t know why her mind connected the two, but it did. At some point she must have tucked herself into the Doctor’s body to keep warm. She shivered, and it wasn’t the cold. She didn’t trust him. But he kept you warm. He was simply trying to keep himself warm. The fact that Peri was kept warm was peripheral. But he slept further from the fire. He has alien physiology; he didn’t need the heat. But he wrapped his arms around you to keep you warm. No matter what face he had, the Doctor was still a man. The thought stuck in Peri’s mind, and she couldn’t shake it. Her Doctor would never do such a thing. She wasn’t so sure about this one. The more she thought about it, the more she realized she wanted to go home. She should go home. The Doctor was more interested in saving the King from the rebellion than he was in saving her from freezing. Peri’s mind was made up.
She wiggled her toes again, trying to get feeling back into them. She took off one of her boots, and peeled off the three socks she was wearing. The outermost pair was thoroughly soaked. Her toes were deep red and taking off her gloves, she began to rub them between her hands. She remembered that she had another pair in her pack. She leaned over and dragged it towards her. Peri dug through it, and after taking out the sleeping mat, a book, a journal, her mug, a second pair of gloves, and a piece of fruit she had forgotten about, she found the socks. Pulling a dry one onto her foot, she relaxed slightly; it felt so warm. She continued to rub it between her hands, and feeling began to slowly return.
Peri heard a shuffling and looked up to see the Doctor crawl into the cave and stand up. He had found a few twigs and logs and immediately set about making another fire. He cast a glance at her feet, but didn’t say anything. Peri took off her left boot and her socks, and began the same ministrations she had given her right foot.
After a few minutes, the Doctor had the fire going. Peri gazed at it appreciatively. She began to scoot towards it, and put her feet directly in front of the burning logs. The Doctor cracked some ice off the wall and dropped them into a small metal pan he had pulled from his pack. Putting a small piece in his mouth, he sucked contemplatively. He eventually nodded and dropped in some more ice chips. He put the pan on top off the logs and sat back. He fished something out of his pocket and held it out to Peri.
“I found this in another cave.”
She looked at it. “What is it?”
“Tea,” he replied. “I think. It certainly looks like tea.”
“I’d rather have coffee,” Peri complained drowsily.
He opened the leather pouch, licked his finger, and stuck it in. He pulled it out and looked at the few leaves that stuck. He put them to his tongue, and the same contemplative expression crossed his face. “It’s tea.” He stared into the small bag. “Rather a mild blend, but it does contain stimulants.” He looked up at Peri and saw that her eyes had drifted closed. “Peri?”
“Yes?” she said tersely.
“Just making sure you were still awake.” He looked back at the pan and saw that the ice had melted, and was beginning to boil.
Peri sat up and grabbed her feet again. They felt much better, and she pulled on the other two pairs of socks followed by her boots. She tucked her feet under her and scooted as close as she could to the fire. She had the fruit from her bag in her hands, and after biting through the skin she began to peel it. It was a lot like an orange, but it was purple and not nearly as sweet. She took half of it and held it out to the Doctor. She may not entirely trust him, but he needed to eat, too.
He shook his head slightly. “You need it more than I do. I’ll be fine.” Perhaps he wasn’t that hungry, Peri thought. He’s trying to help you.
He took the pan from the fire and emptied the bag into it. The Doctor fished a pen from his pocket and used it to stir the tea. He reached into his pack, found a mug, filled it and handed it to Peri.
She took it with a little apprehension, and blew on it. The Doctor raised his eyebrow at her. “Yes, I get the irony, Doctor, but I’d rather not burn my tongue.”
The Doctor took a small chip of ice and leaned towards her. He dropped it into her mug with a wink. He sat back, sipping at his own drink. Peri wrapped her fingers around the mug, willing the warmth into them. She sipped at the hot liquid, and felt it slide down her throat. It felt wonderful. She closed her eyes, took another sip and moaned appreciatively. Staring into the dying flames she sipped again, and sighed. He’s concerned about you. He has his own cup of tea. It would have been rude to make it and not share it.
“I take it you approve?” the Doctor said, a small grin on his face.
Peri looked at him sternly. “It’s warm. So yes, I do.”
The Doctor hid his smile by taking another sip. Peri seemed to be doing better. She had packed up the sleeping bags on her own, and had found something to eat. Peri had even tried to warm up her feet. Perhaps she wasn’t doing as poorly as he thought. Perhaps the drugs had worked their way out of her system. Peri had closed her eyes again, and the Doctor took the opportunity to look closer at her. She still looked tired and her skin was pale. He had also seen her feet when she had her socks off. They were definitely suffering from frostbite, and he was worried that she might actually lose some of her toes. Yes, she was still ill, although the Doctor doubted she knew it.
Peri got the feeling that someone was watching her and she opened her eyes. The Doctor was looking intently at her. She could see the concern etched on his face, and the compassion in his eyes. For a brief moment, she saw her Doctor reflected in his face. Then the moment was gone, and she tore her gaze from him. He’s worried about you.
They finished their tea in silence, and packed their mugs away. The fire had died down, and the Doctor stood, picking up his pack.
“The snow has stopped, and the sun is up, but the temperature has dropped by at least 10 degrees.”
He looked at her like she’d just asked the world’s stupidest question. “Centigrade.”
“That means nothing to me, Doctor,” Peri said, shouldering her own pack. Her muscles screamed out at the abuse. She felt too tired to carry it.
It must have shown on her face, because the Doctor’s tone suddenly changed. “You can leave the pack here, if it’s too much.”
Peri straightened her shoulders. She wasn’t about to have him think she was so weak that she couldn’t take care of herself. “I’ll be fine.”
The Doctor nodded, not believing her at all. “In Fahrenheit, I’d say it’s about 30 below.”
Peri dropped her pack. “You can’t be serious.”
“I’m afraid I am. The sun may be shining, but there is no cloud cover. The warmer air is escaping into the atmosphere. Plus the amount of snow that fell yesterday is keeping the air closer to the ground rather frigid.”
“So what is it in Celsius?”
“That would be 34 below.”
“Sounds better in Fahrenheit,” Peri mumbled. Picking up her pack again, she crawled out of the cave as the Doctor watched.
“That it does,” he said under his breath, and followed her out into the sunny, frigid air.
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