DISCLAIMER: Dr Who in all its incarnations belongs to the mighty BBC and
Russell T Davies. I'm merely a lifelong fan.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have scant knowledge of the Dr Who novels and audio adventures featuring Romana after she left the TARDIS so this story does not cover those. Written for: netgirl_y2k who supplied the prompt "If you go flying back through time and you see somebody else flying forward into the future, it's probably best to avoid eye contact."
SPOILERS: Set between "Time-Flight" and "Arc of Infinity".
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Doctor had been unusually grumpy since they had left Tegan at Heathrow. Nyssa was still trying to process what she had experienced during her communion with the Xeraphim. Encountering the Master again
She sat on her bed in the room she had shared with Tegan. There was more than enough room in the Tardis for the two young women to have had their own quarters but reft from everything in their lives that had been even remotely familiar they had chosen to share. True, they hadn't always got along but now she truly missed Tegan.
Tegan had understood how she felt about the Master. The fear and the hatred. The twisted memory of love. He wore Nyssa's father's face after all. It was an atrocity that this was the last thing she had from her home. And yet he represented everything she hated.
And he was still out there somewhere, the depth of his hatred for the Doctor probably ensuring that he would return again and again to try and thwart the Doctor or kill him if he could. Though he always seemed to hesitate at the crucial moment as if he was not quite willing to so decisively end the game. Tegan had called it a love-hate relationship. How many times could a Time Lord regenerate anyway? Though reading between the lines of what the Doctor had said it seemed as if the Master had found a way around that. He had stolen her father's face, destroyed her world. And it was unlikely that he would ever be made to pay for his crimes. He had tricked her once on Logopolis. It would not happen again.
Nyssa sighed again before finding the strength deep within herself to put all of the hurt and despair she was feeling aside and focus on something positive. The Doctor had promised to show her the rudiments of flying the TARDIS. The ancient machine intrigued her. Some aspects of its construction and mechanism were far beyond the level of technology attained by her homeworld of Traken, others seemed curiously even deliberately archaic.
Perhaps a lesson in TARDIS mechanics would lift both of them out of their depression. She slid off the bed and crossed to the freestanding full length mirror that took up the corner of the room to check her hair and clothing.
The appearance of the mirror was on of the little mysteries that abounded in living on a semi-sentient time/space craft. Tegan had expressed the wish for one in an idle conversation whilst they were getting dressed one morning and the next day it had been there in the corner of the room. The Doctor had denied all knowledge but gruffly reminded them that the TARDIS was entirely capable of altering its internal configuration without any direction from himself.
The surface of the mirror rippled. Nyssa caught her breath, terrified and intrigued at the same time. Her reflection faded, disappeared. The mirror surface was matt silver for a long moment and then she was looking into a dark room with spartan, utilitarian furnishings. Incongruously on the plain metal table in the foreground was an ornate silver three-branched candelabra with three fat candles burning with a steady flame, the orange glow warming the austere room.
The candle flames flickered as if a door had opened somewhere in this other room. There was a shape in the darkness beyond the candlelight. Nyssa held her breath. The figure stepped forward into the light. It was a young woman, slender, no taller it seemed than Nyssa herself. Her long blonde hair was held back from her almost ethereally pale face by a silver filet. She wore a long loose pale blue tunic embroidered with silver thread over dark trousers. Her feet were bare.
At first Nyssa was unsure whether the woman could see her or not, then the woman's light blue eyes fixed on her and she smiled. "I'm sorry, I don't know your name," she said. "You travel with the Doctor?"
"Yes," Nyssa said warily. "Who are you? How did you?"
"The TARDIS and I are old friends," the woman smiled. "My name is Romana."
Romana - the name was familiar. Adric had spoken of her a few times. She had also been a companion of the Doctor and more importantly she was of the same race as he was another Time Lord, or Time Lady, Nyssa supposed.
"I am Nyssa, originally of the planet Traken," Nyssa introduced herself.
"It is very good to meet you, Nyssa of Traken," Romana said. "I don't know how long the phased link will hold. It is difficult to accurately track an object in three dimensions, almost impossible in four "
"I can call the Doctor," Nyssa said. "He's probably in the Control Room. Or maybe the Library. He spends a lot of time there since " She remembered something. This Doctor was not Romana's Doctor. After the events on Logopolis he had regenerated. "He's changed since you travelled with him."
"Ah," Romana said softly. "I'm not surprised. He always took far too many risks. And what of Adric?"
Nyssa bit back tears. "He's no longer with us." She couldn't go into detail. It was still too fresh.
A figure moved behind Romana in the shadows, the candlelight allowing her to glimpse it, humanoid, broad shouldered furry. Romana glanced behind her and smiled. "Don't worry, the Tharil's are friends of mine."
"The Doctor was afraid that you and your friends were killed," Nyssa remembered. "When Logopolis fell and the structure of the Universe began to unravel. The proto-universes of Exo-Space were the first things to disappear."
"We managed to navigate the probability wave ahead of the chaos," Romana told her. "The Tharils are the best at that kind of thing. We came through the Gateway back into N-Space and found a safe haven, somewhere we could rebuild, where the Tharils could be free."
"That's wonderful news," Nyssa smiled. "The Doctor will be so relieved. I should "
"No don't disturb him," Romana smiled. "Truth is, I don't quite know what to say to him it's a problem we Time Lord's have with regenerations sometimes, relationships friendships don't always survive the transition. I know he's the same person but "
"I understand," Nyssa said. "I didn't know the old Doctor for very long before he regenerated, but even though this Doctor is my friend and my protector and I respect him and even, I suppose, love him as such "
"You miss the old model," Romana nodded.
The mirror silvered over for a moment. Romana glanced to the side. "We're at the edge of confluence If we're going to continue this conversation, Nyssa which I would really like to do, we will need to recalculate and I'm not sure how long that will take."
"I'll wait," Nyssa said, sitting down on the floor, her back resting against Tegan's bed.
"No, you don't understand, it could take several "
The mirror completely silvered over and then all Nyssa could see was her own reflection once more.
Nyssa sighed. She had not realised how lonely she had been these last few days since Tegan left. She had always been a solitary person. She had no siblings and there were few others of her age and station. She had always preferred the company of her father but he was often too busy with his studies or with Council business to pay her much attention. Tegan had been her first real friend, even though the first few days it seemed impossible that that would happen.
Tegan was loud, brash, uncultured, a savage almost to Nyssa's eyes. Though in actual years she was not that much older than Nyssa, Nyssa would be the first to admit she had led a very sheltered life. She was very 'young' in experience compared to Tegan.
The young human also had a heart of gold, Nyssa discovered, and a streak of reckless bravery that had got both of them in and out of trouble more times than enough. The two young women had grown closer than Nyssa would have thought possible in a few short months. It had opened up a whole new world for Nyssa.
She pulled Tegan's pillow into her lap, hugging it. It still smelt faintly of her. It had begun tentatively after Tegan's encounter with the Mara. Nyssa wanted very much to comfort the young woman who seemed to have lost a little of her brash self-confidence. She slept badly that night, listening to the little whimpers and cries from Tegan's side of the room as Tegan relived the horrors of the Mara in her dreams. At last she could stand it no more. She slipped out of her own bed, padded across the room and carefully climbed into Tegan's bed, taking the young woman into her arms and soothing her back to a more restful sleep again. After watching over her for a couple of hours Nyssa had fallen asleep as well. She woke to find Tegan gazing at her. Nyssa saw an expression in her dark brown eyes that she could not quite interpret. Before she could explain herself, Tegan leaned in closer and her soft lips brushed against Nyssa's in a delicate kiss.
"Thank you," Tegan whispered. She reached out and untangled one of Nyssa's curls from her cheek, her fingers brushing against Nyssa's skin. Unconsciously Nyssa leaned into the touch. She realised that she very much wanted Tegan to kiss her again.
They spent quiet hours exchanging kisses, touching, exploring, learning each other's rhythms, giving and receiving. Nyssa had rarely known such happiness, such completeness. And she truly believed that Tegan had felt the same.
It had not stopped her leaving though, at the first opportunity. Not that Nyssa blamed her for that, not really. If the Doctor could somehow take her back to before Traken had fallen she would go there without a second thought, even if her father could not be restored, even if everything and everyone still died, at least she would be with them, at least she would not feel this dislocation, this terrible loneliness. One alone. For a bittersweet moment she had wondered if Tegan would ask her to stay on Earth with her, but the other woman had barely given her a second glance in her rush to resume her old life.
The mirror silvered again drawing her attention and Romana's image reappeared. She was wearing a long dark green gown with gold embroidery on the bodice and the edge of the sleeves and her long fair hair was in a braid. Wisps of hair had escaped to frame her oval face. Her right hand was bandaged.
"I'm sorry it's been so long," Romana said. "We ran into a little trouble. Our safe haven turned out to be on disputed ground. We've been fighting a running battle for weeks. It is so good to see you again, Nyssa."
Weeks but it had only been a couple of minutes. Romana had obviously taken in her unchanged appearance. Her expression grew pensive.
"Chronophoretic drift. I thought we'd compensated. How long is it since you last saw me?"
"No more than ten minutes," Nyssa said.
Romana closed her eyes, obviously doing a quick calculation and shook her head. "There's nothing more I can do with our current set-up and power situation. Our main generator took some damage in the last attack." She held up her hand. "Even Time Lord physiology takes time to heal full thickness plasma burns. And to be honest to achieve true continuity, to completely synchronise against the drift you'd need the power output of a singularity and I don't have one handy at the moment." She smiled at Nyssa. "I'm sorry, It really is good to see you again. I know it's only been minutes for you but I've thought about you a lot these last few weeks, Nyssa. It feels so good to connect, I suppose. Would you tell me more about yourself if you don't mind that is."
"There's not much to tell," Nyssa said. "My mother died when I was very small and I had no siblings so there was only my father, Tremas and myself. Up until a few months ago the only home I knew was our house on Traken. My father was Chief Scientist and a member of the ruling council. Everything I know I owe to him " She began to tell Romana about Traken, its history, the house and the grove, her father. Romana copied her position, sitting down in front of the portal, her chin resting on her knees, her bare feet tucked under the hem of her gown.
"We share some commonalities," she said at last. "I grew up in the main citadel on Gallifrey. My parents were both on the Council at one time or another and I had no other ambition but to follow them and do my best for my people." She smiled ruefully. "Things don't always happen the way you planned them. Although I suppose in a way, they did. The Tharils are my people now."
Her image began to blur and smear. "We're drifting out of confluence again. I don't know when "
"It's all right, I'll wait," Nyssa smiled. On impulse, she reached out and touched the glass of the mirror. It tingled beneath her fingers. On her side, Romana reached out and did the same. They stared into each other's eyes. "Be safe," Nyssa whispered.
"You " Abruptly the mirror silvered over again and instead of Romana's blue-green eyes, Nyssa found her own blue-grey ones staring back at her beneath her dark curls.
She sat back and analysed her reactions to the strange woman. It was more than a momentary antidote to her loneliness. Something in her truly had recognised something in Romana, a kindred soul. And she had the strangest feeling that Romana felt it too.
The glass cleared momentarily about five minutes later but this time there was a strange ringing noise, like someone drawing a wet finger around the rim of a glass, a trick Tegan had shown her when they were on Earth in the 1920s. The sonic oscillation was moving from irritating to being painful, Nyssa had her hands over her ears. The image in the mirror was vibrating but it wasn't just the mirror. The ceiling and the back wall of the room abruptly collapsed in a cascade of rubble and dust. Nyssa could not see anyone at first then Romana stumbled into view. Her hair was tied up in a messy bun and her face and bare feet were streaked with dirt. She was still wearing the green dress but it was ripped in a couple of places and stained with oil and dust. The remaining walls of the room were also darkened and pitted. Things were not going well. Romana's tired strained face broke into a smile as she cried out "Nyssa !" and then the image silvered out again.
When Nyssa's reflection returned she was horrified to see that the image was distorted as if the mirror had buckled slightly. Some areas were darker as if tarnished and the surface glass had fine hairline cracks radiating inward from the edges. Whatever had happened at the other side of the portal had damaged this side as well. She scrambled across to 'her' side of the room and picked up a scanner from her workbench. She could detect no unusual radiation in the room or from the mirror and she was certain if there had been anything the TARDIS would have alerted the Doctor and he would have come to investigate.
The main light in her room was getting dimmer, the lights in the sconces on the wall brightening as the TARDIS followed its internal clock and went into 'night' mode. The change in lighting threw up shadows that hadn't been there before, changing her own face. She looked older, she realised. She thought about Romana, about how she had thrown in her lot with the Tharils and wondered if she could ever be that brave, if in her travels with the Doctor they would encounter some one or some thing, a cause she felt so strongly about that she would leave and follow her own destiny. It seemed impossible and yet her life had changed so much in one short year who knew what the next would bring. And travelling with the Doctor changed people, she knew that. The TARDIS was a catalyst for many things. The Doctor might be content to move on to the next planet, the next adventure but Nyssa conceded that it was possible that one day she would decide that enough was enough. Like Tegan had done. And Romana before her and who knew how many before that. The TARDIS held traces of hundreds of people who had travelled in it over the centuries, little mementoes of lives that had intersected for a few hours, a few months, a few years with the Doctor. She smiled to herself for a moment, wondering what she would leave behind of herself to puzzle future travellers.
She sat down in front of the mirror again and cuddled Tegan's pillow to herself, resting her cheek on it. She did not realise that she had fallen asleep until she heard someone call her name.
She opened her eyes and gazed muzzily at the mirror. The damage had spread further. Candlelight blurred through the tarnished glass throwing odd fragments of gold and rose light across the room. Wrapped in a grey gauzy shawl an old woman stared out at her. "Nyssa?"
It was Romana's voice, but a Romana lost to time in more ways than one. The fair hair was spun silver now, back in a braid, the fine porcelain skin webbed with wrinkles, gaunt over cheek and collar bones. The eyes were the same. "Oh my dear girl, look at you. It's been so long."
"What happened?" Nyssa asked.
"We lost the portal. We were forced to retreat and there wasn't time. I tried to get a message to you but we were never sure if the signal got through. They used a weapon against us that destroyed the Tharil's time-sense it was killing them we had to run for our lives. That was years ago. I don't know how many. I hardly dared hope that if we ever found this place again that we would be able to get it working that I would be able to see you again."
Nyssa reckoned that about four hours had passed since the last time the mirror activated. It was a lot to take in.
Romana was still speaking. "Look at you, still so young, so beautiful. I've held an image of you in my heart for so long. I hoped one day I'd be able to see you again, even if it was only to say goodbye. I wish I wish things could have been different."
"You're a Time Lord," Nyssa said. "It isn't over. It might be just beginning. When you regenerate come and find me or I'll find you."
"I would like that," Romana smiled. Nyssa could see how very tired she was. As they had done before, Romana reached out and touched the glass. Nyssa did the same, covering Romana's hand with her own.
"I'll find you," Nyssa promised. "Wherever you are whoever you are. I've lost everyone who ever meant anything to me. I won't lose you as well." She meant it. It might only have been a conversation of minutes over a space of hours but such constraints meant nothing to the heart.
There was an audible cracking sound from the glass, the cracks widening. "The portal's failing," Romana said. "We haven't much time, Nyssa of Traken. I will see you again, one day."
"See me and touch me," Nyssa promised. "Be safe, Romana." The shimmering noise was getting louder, the image silvering. They were running out of time. Romana was saying something but she couldn't hear it above the noise of the glass breaking. At the last moment Nyssa flung herself back and drew the cover from Tegan's bed over herself to protect herself from the hail of glass fragments as the portal exploded.
That was enough to alert the TARDIS and bring the Doctor running.
"What happened?" he asked.
"Erm I was experimenting with sound frequencies and " Nyssa lied. "There must have been a flaw in the glass. I'll clean it up, don't worry."
"You're not hurt," the Doctor asked.
"Not a scratch," Nyssa said.
"Seven years bad luck if you believe in such things," he pushed at the fragments of glass with his shoe.
"You make your own luck," Nyssa said. "Have you decided where we're going next?"
"You think I've spent long enough brooding," the Doctor gave a sad smile. Nyssa didn't grace him with an answer, she didn't need to. "You're probably quite right. Leave that, the TARDIS will take care of it. I did promise you another lesson in setting co-ordinates " He set off back towards the TARDIS control room leaving Nyssa to follow him.
Nyssa had something to work for now. One day she and Romana would meet. It was meant to be, she was convinced of that. And she would have done something with her life by then to make Romana proud of her to make her worthy with or without the Doctor. One day.
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