Nyssa turned to see a complete stranger run down the corridor towards her. Close-cropped hair, leather jacket, intense blue eyes, and a huge grin.
He skidded to a halt in front of her and clasped her small hand in both his large ones. "Ah, Nyssa, it's so good to see you."
Nyssa wondered how she could extricate both her hand and herself from this very forward stranger. "Do I know you?"
He looked momentarily puzzled, and then his face cleared. "Oh, of course, you don't know this face," he said. "It's me, Nyssa - the Doctor."
Nyssa pulled her hand free with a jerk. "There's a saying on Earth, which I think is most apposite to this situation: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."
His eyes gleamed. "Learned that from Tegan, didn't you? But I'm no Mawdryn," he said. "Would it help if I pointed out that I have two hearts?"
"That would just prove that you were a Time Lord, not the Doctor," Nyssa said.
"Of course, you wouldn't know," he said. His face had gone stony-blank, but she was certain it was hiding a deep-held sorrow.
"What don't I know?"
"No point in telling you, since you don't believe it's me," he said.
"Something terrible happened," Nyssa said, regretting it the moment she spoke. She'd had nightmares months ago, dreams of burning and loss. But it was too dangerous to believe him; it wouldn't be just her life that she'd be risking if she were wrong. If someone wanted to impersonate the Doctor, it could be for no good reason. An enemy of the Doctor, who would not hesitate to kill. She must not make a mistake. What would only the Doctor know?
"Perceptive as ever, Nyssa," he said before she could gather her thoughts together. "Yes, something terrible happened."
She could see fires behind his eyes, and she spoke before she knew what she was going to say. "You burned. They all burned. Gallifrey burned, and you burned it. The universe convulsed, but it survived, because you saved it." She shut her eyes as a wave of dizziness passed over her.
"Nyssa?" Strong, steadying hands were on her shoulders. "I thought we'd cured your psychic sensitivity," he said with concern. "How long has this been happening?"
She opened her eyes and gave a strained laugh. "For about five minutes," she said. She put her hands on his chest and felt the double heartbeat under her fingers. "Doctor," she added with certainty. "It's good to see you."
Nyssa dragged the Doctor to her office as somewhere to talk privately. Not that she didn't trust her colleagues at the university, but they did have a tendency to gossip.
The Doctor paused, pointing to the plaque on the door. "Dr. Traken?"
"It's the custom here to have a last name, and I am the only daughter of my planet, after all," she said.
"Yes," he said bleakly.
She put a hand on his arm and pulled him inside. "The pain does grow less, you know," she said. "Especially if one has something new to build."
He slumped into a comfortable chair on the other side of her desk. "I was surprised you weren't on Terminus. I thought you were building something new there."
Nyssa shrugged, not meeting his eyes. "I wanted growing earth beneath my feet," she said. It was true, as far as it went. She wondered how long she could put off telling him the whole truth. She pulled out a glass teapot and two china mugs. "Tea?" she asked.
He smiled. "I wouldn't say no."
She opened a jar and put a few spoonfuls of leaves in the teapot, and added hot water from a dispenser in the wall. "Red tea," she said as the water filled the pot. "A local blend, I think you'll like it."
"You know I prefer the real thing," he said.
She smiled teasingly. "I thought you wanted to explore the universe. Surely that includes tea?"
"You've got me there."
They talked of her work while waiting for the tea to brew. Toazing was a young enough colony world to appreciate that actions spoke louder than paperwork, but old enough that it had passed from mere agrarian survival to the building of intellectual culture.
Nyssa poured out the tea, a rich burgundy-red as its name proclaimed. She came around the desk to hand him a mug, then sat down next to him, wrapping her hands around her own mug.
The Doctor sipped his mug and shrugged. "Not bad, but it's not tea."
Nyssa rolled her eyes. "Then don't compare it with tea," she said. "Judge it on its own merits."
He studied her face. "You were always so accepting," he said. "Not like-" He broke off.
"Who?" she asked.
He sighed. "You know I've travelled with a lot of people. After... what happened, I... there was nobody... for a while... and then there was this girl in London, so pushy, she wouldn't take no for an answer." He gave half a smile, but his eyes were sad. "Saved my life, she did. I thought, maybe I'll take her with me. She was reluctant at first, but she came."
"And?" Nyssa prompted.
"She left me," he said. "Took her to the year five billion, something spectacular, and she just wanted to go home." He sighed. "Too strange for her. Too much death. Like Tegan."
"Tegan left you?"
He looked down and sighed. "A long time ago, now. It didn't end well." He smiled at her. "But you, you left to do something with your life, not because it was too dangerous."
Nyssa winced. "Not exactly," she admitted. Now or never.
"Oh, I did want to help, I did want to do things..." she said. "But also because it was too dangerous."
She took a deep breath. "Too dangerous for a child. I was pregnant."
"What?!" His jaw dropped. "You were-"
"I didn't think you and Adric-"
She shook her head.
"Turlough? Fast worker, I didn't think he had it in him."
She rolled her eyes. "No, not Turlough. You."
"Me? Impossible! And I should know, I was there. We never-"
"Two hearts are rather distinctive," Nyssa said.
"I've thought and thought about it, and it must have been the wedding feast on Furantsa."
"Where we accidentally got married, and they locked us into the wedding hut all night? But we didn't-"
"We thought nothing had happened because we woke on separate pallets, yes. But don't you remember... dreams?"
His eyebrows climbed. "Rather erotic dreams?"
"Something in the bonding cup, I think," Nyssa said. "Hallucinogen, aphrodisiac, and possibly a fertility enhancer."
"No wonder they were satisfied we'd consummated the marriage - we actually had!" He looked aghast. "I'm sor-"
Nyssa put her hand over his mouth. "Don't," she said. "Elfafra is a joy, when she isn't running me ragged. I wouldn't trade her for all the adventures in time and space."
"Of course not," he said, taking her hand away from his mouth, but still keeping hold of it. "Children should be cherished." He searched her face. "You're sure she's mine?"
A bemused and delighted grin spread over his face. "I have a daughter." His hand tightened in hers. "That's the best news I've heard since... I thought I'd never hear good news again." His eyes unfocused, as if he were doing some rapid calculations. "She's... two years old, yes? Can I see her?"
"Of course," Nyssa said.
"How are you managing?" He shook his head. "Stupid - of course, you would have married."
She raised her eyebrows. "What makes you think that? Fear of scandal? I told them my husband was dead."
"No, I just expected... someone as beautiful as you wouldn't stay unmarried long."
"None of them were good enough for Elfafra," she said lightly, and then she realized with a pang that the reason for that was sitting right in front of her.
Something must have shown in her face, because the Doctor said, "Nyssa, what's the matter?"
"You're going to leave," she burst out. "You're going to leave and I'm never going to see you again." She hadn't expected it to hurt as much as it did. Then again, she had expected her past to stay safely in the past, not come bounding down the hallway calling out her name. His face and form might be different, but it was still the Doctor, and she realized that she was still as much in love with him as ever.
Then, because she had nothing to lose, she took her courage in both hands, stepped up to his chair, leaned forward, and kissed him, full on the lips. His eyes widened in startlement. She pulled back, taking a breath to voice an apology for her forwardness, but before she could speak, his mouth covered hers, and he was kissing her back. His hands tangled in her hair, and he kissed her like a drowning man breathing his first breaths of air.
Her arms went around his neck, and she overbalanced, and ended up sprawled in his lap. She laughed, her heart as light as a cloud, and traced the outline of his lips. "Am I dreaming?" she said. "Did you really kiss me?"
"I was about to ask you the same thing," he said, his arms tightening about her waist. "How could you want me?"
"I love you," she said easily, now that there were no secrets to hide. "I've loved you for a long time."
"I don't deserve-"
She hit him lightly in the chest. "Hush! Love isn't a payment, it's a gift. Accept it graciously."
"Nyssa," he breathed, and kissed her again.
When they broke off, she sighed. "You're still going to leave," she said.
He cocked his head, looking at her. "Why?"
"It's what you do," she said. "Never stay still, always running, restless."
He laid his hand against her cheek. "Maybe I need a rest from all the running."
"For a little while," she said.
"Yes, for a little while," he agreed. Then he grinned. "And it's going to be fantastic."