Peri lay still in the darkness, the Doctor’s words echoing in her mind. He loved her. But it was more than that. He died for her. She had taken enough psychology classes to know that survivor’s guilt was a terrible thing to live with. But what about when the person you’re surviving isn’t really dead? Laying there, listening to the crackle of the fire, Peri realized that the Doctor had sacrificed his life for her. He died to save her life. Oh, she knew that, but she had never really thought about it. He cared about her so much that he died to keep her safe. Suddenly she felt terribly guilty. He saved her life and she was repaying him by asking to leave. The tears rolled down her cheeks and she cried into her pillow, exhaustion overtaking her an hour later.
When she finally woke, long after dawn, she had a breakfast of hot porridge and sweet tea, as Yenna told her about where the Doctor had gone. Then she helped Peri to the bathroom and into a hot bath. She sank into the water, the bubbles deep and fragrant. Leaning back against the edge of the tub, Peri listened to the maids changing the linens on her bed. It was rather luxurious, she thought. She was fed regularly, helped to undress, tended to, and she even had maids to clean her room. She could get used to a life like this, being waited on hand and foot. She should ask the Doctor to take her somewhere glamorous. Perhaps somewhere in Earth’s past, like a royal ball or something.
Thoughts of the Doctor stopped her reverie. Guilt began to fight its way to the surface, and Peri fought it down. Picking up the soap and a small cloth, Peri began to scrub at her skin. She scrubbed until it turned red and tingled. She dropped the cloth back into the water and sat back. She decided to stay with the Doctor. It seemed like the least she could do. For a moment she thought that the Doctor was guilting her into staying, but that didn’t make sense. He was allowing her to come to a decision on her own. Apart from his brief reaction in the cave when she said she wanted to go home, he hadn’t said a single thing about it. Granted, she had spent most of the time since then unconscious.
It was what he said last night that stuck with her. He couldn’t have known she was awake when he said those things. I do love Peri. I would do anything to make her happy. He loved her, and she just couldn’t leave him. But that sounded like guilt. But he could only be guilting her if he knew she was awake and listening to him. Peri shook her head. She was thinking too much into it.
Yeena came in and helped her out of the tub. She handed some clothes to Peri, and she was comforted to see that they were her own. Her jeans and sweater had been cleaned and returned. She slid into them gratefully, and went to sit in front of the fire to dry her hair. Yeena brought a blanket over, laying it across her knees. Peri smiled at her, and watched her sit on the settee with her needlework.
She turned her eyes back to the fire. After a long silence, she spoke. “When will the Doctor be back, again?”
“In a few hours.”
Peri raked her fingers through her hair and tucked her legs under her. She pulled the blanket up around her and slowly drifted to sleep. Yeena watched Peri drift off, and after making sure she wasn’t going to fall out of her chair, she returned to her needlework.
Everything was dark, and Peri looked around her, squinting. She was wearing the red shorts and cream top that she wore on Androzani. She looked down at herself, and saw that her legs were covered in blisters and she was filthy.
She turned at the voice and saw the Doctor. Not the new one, but her Doctor. He was there, covered in mud, with blisters on his hands and dirt smeared across his face. He looked just like he did when he died.
“Doctor?” She approached him cautiously. “But you died.”
He nodded. “I’m not really here, Peri. You just think you’re seeing me.”
“Because you want to.”
She stood directly in front of him and looked into his eyes. “I miss you.”
“I’m still me, Peri. I’m still there.”
“But you’re not! You can’t be!”
Peri hung her head and closed her eyes.
“Peri, please, it’s still me.”
She looked up at him. “It’s just hard to accept, hard to get used to.”
He smiled at her, then opened his arms and pulled her toward him. She wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly. A sob escaped and he held her tighter. “It’s still me,” he said again.
She pressed her ear against his chest and listened to his hearts beat. It was comforting. She looked up into his face and smiled at him. “I know.” Impulsively, she stood up on her toes and pressed her lips to his cheek. She held her cheek against his and whispered, “Good-bye.”
“Going somewhere?” asked the new Doctor.
Peri woke with a start and found that she had dropped the blanket on the floor. Yeena came towards her.
“Are you all right?”
Peri looked around the room, as if trying to remember where she was. “Yes,” she said a moment later. “Just a strange dream.”
Yena picked up the blanket and folded it. “Are you hungry? They brought some lunch, if you think you could eat.”
Peri nodded and Yeena set a plate on the table next to her. Actually, Peri wasn’t hungry, but she knew she had to eat something. She took a few small bites, enough to keep Yeena from complaining, and sat back in the chair.
“How long did I sleep?”
“About an hour.”
Peri nodded and looked back at the fire. She held out her stocking feet to it and wiggled her toes. “A couple of my toes are still numb. They’re tingling.”
“I was worried that you might actually lose them to the winter burn. You will probably have permanent feeling loss in a couple of your toes, but if they’re tingling, that can be a good sign.”
“We call it frostbite.”
Yeena thought about this and after a moment she smiled. “I like that.”
“Tell me, how did I get this bruise on my cheek? I don’t remember.”
Yeena recounted what the Doctor had told her about the makeshift sled and the crash. She told Peri about her brother, the sentry, seeing someone struggling through the snow carrying a body. She even told Peri about the Doctor sitting by her bed for a full day.
When Yeena fell silent, Peri sat back in her chair. “He saved my life. Again.”
“He has before?”
He saved her life more than she cared to remember. Even before he regenerated, he was always risking himself for her or Erimem or both. The guilt came back and Peri tried to push it away. “Yes. Several times. And never with a thought for himself.”
“He sounds like a good friend,” she said softly.
Peri almost told Yeena that she had heard the Doctor the night before, but kept it to herself. It wouldn’t have changed anything. It didn’t matter to Yeena. Peri stood up and went to the window, pushing back the heavy curtains. Staring out at the snow-covered garden, she remembered why the Doctor brought her here in the first place. It was for her. It was always for her. After the mess on Jaconda he took her back to Earth, back home. For her. The fact that they ended up on Telos was just an annoyance. He promised her somewhere relaxing. The frigid air seeping through the windows caused her to shiver. Somewhere warm. Definitely.
She drew the curtains and returned to the fire, to see that Yeena had added a few logs.
“That garden must be beautiful during warmer weather.”
Yeena nodded. “It is. Each King has added his own distinctive touches to it. Our current King added a beautiful bird sanctuary.”
“I wish I could see it in full bloom.”
“Why can’t you? You can stay for a while, at least until the blooming season. It’s only six months away.”
“The Doctor doesn’t like to stay in any one place for very long.”
“He’s a wanderer.” She said it like a fact rather than a question.
“That he is.”
“Can I ask you something personal?”
Peri looked up. After a moment she nodded.
“Why do you wander with him?”
Sitting back in her chair, Peri tried to formulate an answer. “When I first started traveling with him, I was on vacation from my schooling. I had some time, and I really wanted to travel, to see the world. I got more than I bargained for. We saw everything. We did … everything.” Peri paused, lost in thought. “I’ve seen so much.” She looked back at Yeena. “There is so much out there. Stuff you wouldn’t believe. And I’ve seen it. I’m the only human to have seen some of these things. I can’t just give that up.”
“He’s your friend.”
Peri was struck by Yeena’s question and realized that she hadn’t answered the way Yeena was expecting.
“Do you love him?”
Peri knew that Yeena had asked the Doctor this same question about her; she heard him last night give his answer. She didn’t know what to say. “I did once.”
“You don’t anymore?”
“I don’t know. He’s so different.”
“How can someone change so much?”
Peri looked up, with a knowing smile. “It’s a long story.”
“And one we don’t have time for.”
Peri turned to the voice and saw the Doctor standing in the doorway. How long had he been standing there, she wondered. She felt suddenly embarrassed.
The Doctor entered the room and marched over to Peri. “You look much better.”
“Except for this bruise on my cheek.”
The Doctor snorted. “That’s gratitude for you.”
Yeena smiled at the bickering pair. They reminded her of her parents.
Peri stood up to face the Doctor and could feel the cold emanate from him. She reached up her hand and brushed it quickly across his shoulders and over his hair. “You’re covered in snow.”
The Doctor sighed dramatically. “The things I do to save you from a long walk!”
“Oh, thanks,” Peri said, somewhat sarcastically.
He turned to Yeena. He caught her wink and returned it. Yeena had seen the Doctor enter the room several minutes ago. She knew what he wanted to know, and led the conversation in that direction.
The Doctor extended his hand. Yeena placed hers in it, and found that it was cool to the touch. “Thank you,” he said. “For everything.”
She smiled. Peri embraced Yeena and whispered her own thanks into her ear.
Peri let the Doctor lead her from the room and out to the stables where the TARDIS had materialized. It was still in the shape of a pyramid and Peri stood looking at it.
“What?” the Doctor asked, affronted.
“You said you fixed the chameleon circuit.”
“Doctor, an Egyptian pyramid on Ewin IX is not camouflage!”
The Doctor made a noise implying he didn’t care.
“Could you at least fix it? Make it a police box again?”
The Doctor stared. Did this mean she wanted to stay?
She continued, “Knowing how awful it is at picking disguises it would probably materialize as a forest in the middle of New York City!”
“You’ve been to Central Park, surely.”
Peri rolled her eyes at him and entered the TARDIS, leaving him wondering if she actually wanted to go home. He followed her into the TARDIS and a moment later the grinding engines trumpeted through the stables, leaving only a brief indentation in the straw.
The Doctor stood at the console flicking switches and pressing buttons. He wasn’t going to set the co-ordinates until he knew for sure what Peri wanted. He looked up at the inner door and knew he had to ask.
Upon entering the TARDIS, Peri went straight to her room. She didn’t even wait until they had dematerialized. She changed her clothes, and heard the hum of the TARDIS change when they were in flight. She idly wondered where they were going. Sitting at the mirror, Peri brushed her hair. She looked at her bruise, and wished it would heal faster. It went from jaw to eye, ear to mouth. In fact, it looked like it was getting worse. She lightly touched her hand to it. The knock on the door made her jump.
The Doctor entered, carrying a small tube. He held it out to her. “This should help speed the healing process,” he said, gesturing to her face.
“Thanks.” She took the cap off and put a dab on her finger. She gingerly rubbed it into her skin but rubbing a bruise always hurts. She tried not to react, but she did grimace a few times. When she had rubbed it in thoroughly she flexed her jaw and noticed that it didn’t hurt as much. She turned back to the Doctor who was leaning against the doorjamb. “Thank you. It does feel better.”
He nodded. Silence filled the room, and both felt it. Both knew what needed to be said, but neither was comfortable with it.
Finally the Doctor spoke. “I thought we could go somewhere warm for you to relax and recuperate. I know of some lovely beaches on some outer planets. What do you think?”
There it was. The Doctor was allowing her to make the decision. She could either stay or go. She stared into his face and for a moment she saw her Doctor in his eyes. She smiled. “That sounds lovely.”
The Doctor broke into a huge smile and turned to leave.
Peri crossed the room to where he stood. “I wanted to say thank you.”
“Even though I bruised your face?” he said with a smirk.
“Not for what you did on Ewin IX. Well, not only for that.” She paused. “For what you did on Androzani. You died. For me.” She looked down at her hands. “No one has ever done anything like that for me before.”
The Doctor said nothing, and after a moment Peri looked back up at him. He looked uncomfortable. He reached out his hand and placed it on her shoulder. “You’re welcome.”
She smiled up at him and impulsively she wrapped her arms around him. He was unsure for a moment, but then returned the hug, holding her tightly.
Peri breathed deep, the scent of the Doctor filling her lungs. It was different than what she remembered. But as she stood there, her head resting against him, she heard the double beat of his hearts. She sighed. Yes, this was her Doctor.
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