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Survival (Rebirth)

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Narvin’s sure this Gallifrey is colder. Admittedly, he hadn’t made a habit of sleeping in the Outlands back home, but surely it couldn’t have been this cold.

Romana shivers in her sleep and presses closer to him in search of warmth. Narvin tries not to flinch back at the flash of pain from the burn on his side, where the guard had caught him as he turned the corner. Romana needs all the warmth he can give (he feels as cold as the ground and the night air and endless space so far out of their reach) and besides, there isn’t room in the burrow they’re borrowing from a hopefully absent pigbear. Narvin has his staser if it returns. Leela would have been able to tell them for certain if the pigbear was likely to return, but she is not here. Given a choice between facing the cold and those hunting for them, or the possibility of annoying a pigbear, they opted for the less certain of the evils.

Hide and survive. Survive this night and look for Leela or rather, hope she finds them, because these last months have amply demonstrated that Leela is very hard to find if she does not want to be. Find Leela and head for their hopefully-still-secret laboratory.  Cannibalise the beginnings of their TARDIS and turn it into something spaceworthy as soon as possible, something to get them off this world, if not back to the Axis, somewhere relatively safe where they can continue work. Run away again.

It’s not much of a plan, but it’s more than he had when he was running through the corridors of the Capitol to the Presidential office, his hearts hammering with the fear that he’d be too late. He almost was.  A microspan later and they’d both be in a cell awaiting execution, or shot dead where they stood.

The rhythm of Romana’s breathing changes and her body floods with tension as she wakes.

“Anything?”

“No. There’s still two spans till first sunrise.”

She stretches as best she can, pushing against him, and he can’t hold back a pained gasp.

“What is it?”

“Nothing important.”

Her hands brush lightly over him, seeking what she cannot see, and he grits his teeth.

“Narvin,” and it’s too dark to see, but he knows exactly what frown accompanies his name in that tone, “your robe is burned.”

“Oh, really? I hadn’t noticed.”

She ignores his sarcasm, which is worrying. “How bad is it?”

“It’ll heal. Provided,” he adds pointedly, “it’s left alone.”

“You said you were fine,” she accuses.

“I didn’t know you cared.”

She doesn’t respond to that, instead settling back down.

“This planet deserves President Darkel,” she grumbles.

“They’re not that bad, surely.”

“No,” she grudgingly admits, “no-one is that bad. But I am not disposed to regard them kindly at the moment. I think they deserve all they get.”

“I imagine they hold the same views on us.”

Romana curls a little closer, careful of his injury. “Then they’d be wrong.”

“Well, I’m inclined to agree with you –”

“No,” she interrupts, and there is something strange in her tone, “I don’t deserve you, Narvin. I’m... grateful.”

In the silence, he can hear the wind whistle outside, and tries not to imagine it carries the sounds of those hunting them. “Romana,” he begins, and swallows, his throat is sticky, and breathes, his chest is tight, “... we’re not going to die.”

Her hand is pressed against his chest. It traces a path upwards, over his throat, to the line of his jaw; her thumb strokes over his lips then she leans up and kisses him, soft and heartsfelt. He kisses back, eyes closed, beyond them only darkness: moonlight doesn’t enter the burrow, but he’s seeing more than ever before.

He takes a breath against her mouth, strangely shaky, oddly new.

“We are not,” he repeats, as she curls back against his chest, “going to die.”

Narvin is old enough, cynical enough, experienced enough to know that the universe isn’t just, and doesn’t bend to your whims. But some part of him, some sheltered, wobbly, newborn part of him that he hadn’t been previously aware of, cannot believe that a universe which allows that to have happened, for this to exist, would then take it from them.

A slight scuffling at the entrance sends Narvin’s hand flying to the staser on his hip. A dead pigbear might giveaway their position, but better that chance than to risk being attacked.

“Romana?” Leela calls, very quietly. “Narvin?”

“Leela?” Romana calls back, and it flashes across Narvin’s mind that this might be a trick—does anyone in the Capitol know of Leela?—but it’s already too late if it is.

“This is a good hiding place,” Leela says, “but you are not good at hiding. I could hear you from quite a way off.”

Romana crawls out of the burrow. Narvin follows. Outside, the moonlight seems bright and the wind pulls at their robes, making the night noticeably colder. Leela’s hair whips around her head. She is draped in furs; she looks well.

“That’s not quite fair, Leela,” Romana protests. “The Chancellery Guard don’t have Hound-enhanced senses.”

“It is lucky for you that I do.” Leela divests herself of a few layers of furs, dividing them equally.  “Put these on. They are warm and will help hide your city robes. I was coming to see you when I saw you flee the Capitol. I assume you have a plan? To head for your hidden place where you have been going all these months?”

“Have we no secrets?” Narvin complains.

“No.” Leela grins, and looks between the two of them.

Romana catches Narvin’s eye and smiles.

They are not going to die.