“These worlds are as alien to me as they are to you.”
Tegan glanced at her friend, and conceded to herself that she did have a point, even so she said, “Didn’t Traken have interstellar flight?”
Nyssa nodded. “The Traken Union extended across several systems.” A smiled touched Tegan’s lips. From anyone else, that might have sounded like a boast.
“So the idea of going to other worlds isn’t quite so strange to you as it is to me,” she concluded.
“But I’ve never seen snow before. The climate on Traken was controlled by the Source.”
“Eternal summers?” asked Tegan.
“Oh no, we had seasons,” Nyssa told her. “But there were no extremes of weather. And we certainly never had frozen precipitation; it would have destroyed the crops.”
“It is quite breathtaking, isn’t it?” That was the Doctor, finally leaving the TARDIS. “I’ve tracked the signal to within five meters, and this,” he held up a small electronic scanner, “will guide us to the exact location. It isn’t far.”
Nyssa turned back to the snow, now heavier than before. Flakes danced in front of her eyes, covering her coat with its soft whiteness. She watched as the flakes were caught in the Doctor’s hair and Tegan’s eyelashes, and could not help but smile.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
“It’s freezing,” muttered Tegan, winding a long scarf around her neck.
The Doctor smiled. “Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of toast and tea when we get back to the TARDIS.” He glanced down at the device which was now emitting a loud beep every few seconds. After waving it in front of him, he pointed towards what could have been a clump of rocks. “This way.”
Dutifully Tegan and Nyssa followed, each huddling into their warm coats.
“Does it snow often on Earth?” Nyssa asked her friend.
“Not in Australia,” Tegan told her with a grin. “And in Britain you’re more likely to get rain. But I’ve seen a few white Christmases. Snowball fights, sledging, building snowmen...”
“Snowmen?” Nyssa frowned.
“I can show you later,” said Tegan. “And I bet there’s a sledge in the TARDIS too.”
“Oh there is,” the Doctor told her. “But I’m afraid it’s not in very good condition...there was a, ah, small accident last time it was used.”
“I’m not going to ask, Doc,” said Tegan before sticking out her tongue and letting a few snowflakes land on it.
Presently, the trio found that they had lost sight of the TARDIS. Tegan was the first to notice, and she immediately called out to the Doctor. It seemed to take a moment for him to realise he was being spoken to, as he was intent on following the signal.
“This snow’s becoming thicker too,” Nyssa added when they had all stopped. The gentle flakes had become a swirling torrent, and the footsteps they had crunched into the snow were lost in blizzard.
The Doctor nodded. “Right, keep a hold of each other. We don’t want to lose anyone is this weather.”
“Doctor, is this safe?” asked Tegan, as the Time Lord linked arms with her. “I feel like I’m breathing in ice.”
“Perhaps we should go back.”
But the Doctor shook his head. “We can’t. Not until this storm lifts, we’d get hopelessly lost.”
“We are hopelessly lost,” muttered Tegan.
“Not at all!” replied the Doctor. “We’re following that signal, and we’re getting close.”
“How far?” asked Nyssa. Her voice was tight and quiet and Tegan look at her with some concern, suspecting that the cold was affecting the Trakenite more than either herself or the Doctor.
“Just over this ridge. Come on...I think I can see...yes! Come on, you two!”
Obviously the Doctor had spotted something, but Tegan couldn’t see a thing through the snow, and neither could Nyssa. They looked at one another as they clung together for warmth.
“We’d better go after him,” Tegan said.
“And be careful,” Nyssa told her. “That’s a steep slope. The Doctor will be lucky if he makes it down in one piece at the speed he was running.”
“I’d rather worry about us,” said Tegan, edging slowly forward. It really was very steep and there was no way to tell how deep the snow was. “Right,” she said. “Better try and follow the Doctor’s footprints. Don’t let go of me!”
Slowly the pair made their way down the slope. More than once Nyssa slipped, only to have Tegan catch her before she could fall. By the time they reached the bottom both were frozen, the exposed skin of their faces was numb and their once warm coats were soaking with melted snow.
“Doctor!” called Tegan. “Doctor, where are you!”
“Over here!” came the muffled reply.
“Look,” said Nyssa pointing. “There are his tracks.”
They found the Doctor in the midst of what might once have been a campsite. Tegan could make out three tents, half-hidden in the snow. And the Doctor was poking out of one of them.
“Is this where the signal was coming from?” asked Tegan looking at the sorry sight of the buried tents.
“Yes. Yes, I’ve turned it off,” the Doctor told her, standing up. He nodded to a second tent. “That one’s empty. We might want to wait out the storm there.”
“What about the signal?” asked Nyssa.
“We were too late,” the Doctor told her. “Come on.” He guided the two of them across to the second tent and let them go inside first.
“It’s pretty much as cold in here as it is out there, Doctor,” Tegan said, taking off her gloves and rubbing her hand together.
“It’ll give us a chance to dry off, Tegan. And we’ll head back to the TARDIS as soon as it’s over.”
“Are there no survivors?” asked Nyssa.
The Doctor seemed to be trying to avoid her eyes, but Tegan was determined to have an answer.
“Doctor,” she asked. “What did you find?”
“Several bodies,” he said finally. “The condition that they are in would suggest they have been frozen and defrosted several times. It’s not at all pleasant.”
“Then they froze to death?” Nyssa asked him.
“It would appear so, yes.”
When they made it back to the TARDIS, Tegan was in no mood to show Nyssa what they did with snow on Earth. She wanted nothing more than to curl up in her bed with a hot drink. The Doctor, meanwhile, had gone back to repairing the recent damage to the console.
Nyssa entered Tegan’s room quietly and joined her sitting on the bed. Tegan’s hands were wrapped around a steaming mug, and she tried to smile as Nyssa sat down.
“I really thought we were going to have a nice fun day,” she told Nyssa, before sipping from the mug and putting it on the bedside table.
“So did I,” Nyssa said. “There will be others.”
Tegan nodded, pulling the blanket closer. “You’re still cold?” asked Nyssa.
“Frozen. Aren’t you? Here.” Tegan unwrapped a blanket and threw it to Nyssa. “It’s all a bit silly, isn’t it?” Tegan said as they leaned against each other. She rested her head on Nyssa’s shoulder. “I mean with everything we’ve seen, and I get choked up about a couple of people I never even knew.”
“It’s not silly, Tegan. Compassion is never silly.”
Tegan looked up at Nyssa, her features were still, her voice even, but Tegan guessed she was thinking of Traken. She pulled her into a hug. “You’re not alone, Nyssa.”
Tegan could hear the smile in her voice. “I know,” she said, returning the embrace, her small hands pressing against Tegan’s back, pulling her close. “But sometimes I’m afraid.”
Nyssa sat up, resting her hands on Tegan’s shoulders. Tegan looked into her eyes. Her face was close; she could feel Nyssa’s warm breath against her cheek. Nyssa leaned forward, gently kissing her cheek.
Smiling, Tegan rested her back against the pillows and Nyssa settled herself against her body, and the soft curves of her arms. Her skin was cooler than a human’s, but still warm compared to the memory of snow. She lay still, listening to Nyssa’s soft breathing, her hands playing with the gentle curls of her hair, and rubbing the tense muscles of her neck.
Nyssa sighed and tilted her head up. Her hand reached up behind Tegan’s neck and gently pulled her into a kiss. Her lips were warmer than she expected, and the kiss was tentative, almost shy. As Nyssa pulled away, Tegan turned her head slightly, brushing her cheek against Nyssa’s: a gentle, reassuring gesture.
Their lips met again. And it was the silky warm meeting of skin against skin, tender and soothing. Each kiss was a consoling caress.
They held each other as they slept. It was not a new occurrence. Holding and kissing and taking what comfort they could from each other, and not feeling quite so alone anymore.
It was Tegan who woke first. She looked down to see Nyssa’s arms still wrapped around her, her features calm and dignified in her rest. Gently, oh so gently, Tegan untangled herself from her and stood up. She knelt by the bed and briefly kissed Nyssa on the forehead before draping a blanket over her, keeping her warm, keeping her safe, for just as long as she could.