“The Doctor said that was the whole point of this activity,” Nyssa said reasonably.
“We've been lost for three hours.”
Nyssa gave a thoughtful hum before pulling out their compass and what looked like some sort of piece of scrap from the TARDIS. Holding both of them very still and flat on her palms, she turned slowly until she was facing due North and frowned at the scrap metal.
“Two hours and forty-five Earth minutes,” she finally announced, looking very pleased with herself. “Assuming my calculations were correct.”
“...Is that a portable sundial—? Why not just bring a watch?”
Nyssa's eyes sparked mischievously as she looked up at Tegan through her eyelashes. “What would be the fun in that?” Tucking the little piece of stone into a pocket, she shook out their information leaflet. “Now. The nice man at the entrance said the average time for completing this maze was four hours. Realistically it could take us a much shorter or a much longer amount of time, but we're in no hurry.”
“Stop being sensible at me,” Tegan complained.
Making an admirable effort to contain her laughter, Nyssa looped her arm through her companion's. “I don't know about you, but I'm enjoying myself,” she said with a warm smile. “I've always been rather fascinated by your species' pastimes. We didn't have... corn , on Traken. So I can't say we've ever had anything like a corn maze. Turning the harvest season into a community festival is fairly universal, of course,” she added as an afterthought. “But turning the harvest itself into recreation is a wonderful idea! Humans are such inventive creatures. I can see why the Doctor likes them.”
“Thanks,” said Tegan. “I think.”
Nyssa squeezed her hand. “I like humans for other reasons,” she said warmly, briefly standing on tiptoe to kiss the side of Tegan's neck, making her blush. The Trakenite tugged lightly at her sleeve and Tegan rolled her eyes good-naturedly, slipping her arm around Nyssa's waist as they started picking their way around the corn field again. A family complete with two children and a little Golden Retriever puppy on a leash passed them going the opposite direction, and Tegan tensed; but it turned out the Doctor had been right when he said that at this period in Earth's history (future?) nobody would care or even think twice about the two of them, even without having to pretend she and Nyssa were just 'friends'.
They spent several minutes talking with the cheerful little family, in which the children chased each other and laughed while their parents and Tegan compared descriptions of the portion of endless corn maze they'd just come from with nearly identical descriptions of the portion of endless corn maze she and Nyssa had just come from. Nyssa offered much more useful insights, when she wasn't cooing over Buddy the Golden Retriever. Apparently they didn't have puppies on Traken either.
“Well, it was nice meeting you both,” the father said eventually. They all wished each other good luck in finding the exit, and continued on their respective aimless wanderings.
“They seemed nice,” Nyssa remarked. “Now, which way should we go?”
Well, Tegan thought to herself. Straight ahead, there was corn. Or they could turn slightly to the left, where there was more corn. The path to their right led exactly where they wanted to go, except—
“Rabbits. Dead end.”
“The exit is... southwest, I believe?” Nyssa peered as far down the straight-ahead path as she could see. “This one turns east.”
“They all turn,” griped Tegan. “It's a maze.” Nyssa gave her a reproachful look that said clearly Behave. She sighed. “I vote left, then.”
Nyssa's smile was dazzling. “Left it is.”
Tegan was forced to admit, if never out loud, that this really wasn't as bad as she was making it out to be. The sun was out but it was a nice, cool day—not cold but not hot, either, with just enough of a breeze to be refreshing and not a cloud in the sky. And the shifting green of the rustling corn stalks was actually kind of pretty. Calming, even. She couldn't help grinning watching Nyssa hopping to try to see over the tops, attempting to navigate using a compass they'd bought in a souvenir shop on Midnight. The company, at least, couldn't be better. They'd even managed to lose—
Nyssa looked up with a pleased smile. “Hello again, Adric.”
Tegan managed not to grumble. “See you haven't found your way out either.”
“Not yet,” he explained with exaggerated patience. “But I will. I did research.”
“Still haven't moved off that left wall?” Tegan couldn't help a little amusement. Adric was physically running his hand over every single stalk, and had apparently been winding his way through the entire maze on the logic that even if it took several days, sticking to the left wall would, eventually, lead him to freedom. They'd run into him twice already, stubbornly refusing to change his methods in the slightest.
“It's the most reliable technique,” Adric informed her. “Otherwise you just wander about lost.”
Tegan was absolutely positive Nyssa smirked at that, and chose to ignore her.
“Well, good luck with that. If you find the Doctor anywhere tell him we'll all meet at the exit, won't you?”
Adric looked scandalized. “You lost the Doctor again?”
“We turned around and he was gone! It's not my fault, you little—”
Yes, dear, Tegan thought acidly. Nyssa wasn't actually a powerful enough telepath to project an answer from ten feet away, but the mockingly-dignified toss of her curls said she'd heard.
Adric dared to take his hand off the wall of corn stalks long enough to turn around. “Nyssa,” he said, “Are you sure you don't want to come with me? It is more reliable.”
“Thank you, Adric.” Nyssa really was good at suppressing laughter. “We're perfectly fine. You're welcome to join us, however.” To neither of their surprise, Adric turned them down and continued on his way after only a brief moment of panic in which he tried to remember which wall his hand had been on.
“It'll take him days to get out at this rate,” Tegan commented.
Nyssa sighed. “Well, at least he won't starve.”
“Get awfully tired of corn, though,” said Tegan with a grin. “Come to think of it, I'm getting tired of corn. Have you got any idea where we are?”
“Closer to the exit than we were when we started,” Nyssa replied promptly. “And the right-hand path is our best bet.”
Nyssa didn't bother trying not to laugh this time. “Look on the bright side, Tegan,” she said kindly, linking their arms again and rubbing Tegan's shoulder reassuringly. “The weather is lovely, the people are friendly, and there's no alien invasion to spoil the afternoon.”
A woman screamed from somewhere in the corn.
“You had to say it, didn't you.”
“We're terribly sorry—”
“Thought you were in trouble—”
Nyssa's ears were bright red as they beat a hasty retreat from the dead-end tryst they had so rudely interrupted; Tegan thought they might actually be burning more than hers were, which was quite an accomplishment.
“That was...” Nyssa gave an embarrassed laugh. “Is that common in this sort of setting?”
“I wouldn't know, I've never been in one before. Probably. Most humans haven't got what you'd call a sense of propriety. Hope none of the kids walk in on those two.” She thought about it for a minute. “Can't be that comfortable, though, with all those dead corn husks. That has to hurt. Unless they're into that sort of thing.”
Nyssa turned pink again, burying her face in Tegan's arm and laughing helplessly. The boredom and frustration of the maze having definitely been broken, Tegan was quite utterly happy when she dropped a kiss down onto Nyssa's head, running her fingers through the girl's hair and laughing with her.
“Let's keep moving, shall we?” Nyssa's eyes were sparkling, but a little bit of happiness never stopped her from focusing on the task at hand. “We just need to keep moving in that general—Doctor!”
Looking up at the surprised exclamation, Tegan found that it was indeed the Doctor, celery and all, walking toward them with his hands in his pockets and as cliché a picnic basket as she could ever have imagined slung over his arm, whistling happily. He was eating a caramel apple on a stick.
“Ah! Nyssa! And Tegan, lovely.” He peered around them in mild confusion. “Where's Adric?”
“The left wall,” Nyssa said helpfully.
“Oh dear.” The Doctor sighed. “Still? Well, I'm sure he'll find his way out eventually. Caramel apple?”
Nyssa's face lit up as the Doctor opened up his picnic basket—complete with red-and-white-checked blanket—to reveal several roasted cobs of corn and a plastic container with three caramel apples.
“Yes, please,” she said gratefully.
“Where'd you get that?” Tegan demanded.
“Oh, there's a buffet at the exit,” the Doctor said with a cheerful smile. “I just took a doggy bag, so to speak.”
“You got out?”
Sensing a disaster in the works, Nyssa interjected quickly. “Doctor, do you remember the way to the exit?”
“Oh.” His face fell. “Yes, it's... somewhere in that direction,” he said, gesturing vaguely behind him.
“Doctor!” cried Tegan with something approaching despair.
“Here you are,” he said quickly, shoving the picnic basket into her arms before he was throttled by an angry Australian. “Best of luck to you both, I should go and find Adric—” and then he'd backpedaled and was gone much faster than a tall blonde man in cricket gear should reasonably be able to disappear among emerald-green corn stalks.
“Rabbits,” Tegan said emphatically.
Nyssa patted her shoulder, jabbed one of the caramel apples with a stick, and took a bite.
“All right then,” she muttered around a mouthful of sticky apple. “Left, or right?”
Tegan glared for a few seconds at the maddeningly unhelpful, infuriatingly identical walls of corn. Finally, though, even she had to surrender. She picked up a caramel apple.
“I vote left,” she sighed.
Nyssa smiled and kissed her.
“Left it is.”