It was three weeks before Friga would even contemplate the idea of Tegan leaving. Tegan complained the whole time, of course. “It’s nothing personal,” she’d reassured Nyssa unnecessarily, more than once. “I like having the chance to spend time with you and the Doctor. But I’ve got a life I’m more than ready to get back to, and Michael.”
For the first two weeks, when she was not even allowed out of bed except for in instances of absolute necessity, Nyssa, the Doctor and Nica kept up a regular rotation of visits so Tegan wouldn’t go too mad with boredom. Once she was finally up and about, Nyssa gave her the same tour of the station and its many improvements that she’d given the Doctor and introduced her to nearly everyone on board.
It amused Nyssa no end how quickly Tegan became a favourite. Her dry humour and brusque manner seemed to fit in amongst the hard-working people of Terminus possibly better than she herself ever had. If she hadn’t known better, she might’ve considered asking her to stay.
Tegan even took up visiting the other patients once her own term of confinement came to an end. She made some laugh, others angry. Almost without exception, though, she left them feeling stronger and more proactive about their fate than they had before.
It was a gift Tegan had possessed as long as Nyssa had known her. One either loved her or hated her, there was no in between. But she left no one unaffected.
The Doctor had loved her once. Watching them interact, Nyssa suspected he still did, though he would never say so. She thought it no chance either that Tegan’s recovery coincided with the Doctor’s choice to add a spot of colour to his wardrobe. It wasn’t much colour, but the dark blue, deep burgundy and forest green jumpers were still a welcome contrast to the stark black of the rest.
Perhaps if her relationship with the Doctor had been less honest than it was, Nyssa might’ve been jealous, but she’d always known no one could ever truly hold all of him. Besides, it was Tegan, probably her dearest friend in the universe. There was little aside from Nica that she wouldn’t be willing to give her if she wanted it.
All Tegan wanted, though, was to go home, and Nyssa could understand that. If she’d still had Lasarti waiting for her, she would have hated equally to be kept away so long.
When the day of departure finally arrived, it seemed that everyone on the station who wasn’t working or too ill to move turned out to see the Doctor and Tegan off. Nica had wanted to give them some sort of formal, ceremonial send-off; Nyssa had laughed and suggested that if they even considered such a thing, the Doctor was likely to sneak Tegan out and disappear in the middle of the night. That would give them no chance to say goodbye at all.
Even the spontaneous crowd made him uncomfortable enough. Nyssa could tell by how quickly his temper deteriorated whilst Tegan said goodbye to the new friends she’d made.
“Are you coming or aren’t you?” the Doctor groused. “I haven’t got all day, y’know, let alone time enough for you to hug every single person on the station.”
“Blow it out your ear, Doc,” Tegan answered cheerfully. “You’ve all the time in the world, and I know it.”
Nyssa laughed as her old friend pulled her in for a hug. “God, I’m going to miss you,” Tegan informed her wistfully. “That’s the downside, I guess, to reuniting with old friends–sooner or later, you’ve got to say goodbye again. I wish there was some way to keep in touch.”
“So do I,” Nyssa agreed.
“There is,” the Doctor interrupted them, looking at Tegan. “You got a mobile?”
Tegan frowned back at him. “Yeah, of course–“
“Give it here.” He gestured impatiently with one hand. Tegan looked puzzled but pulled out something resembling a small “telephone” and gave it to the Doctor. He tinkered with it for a moment, then tossed it to Nyssa. Not expecting the device to come sailing her way, Nyssa fumbled and nearly dropped it. The Doctor didn’t appear to notice.
“There you are. Bit of jiggery-pokery and it’s better than new, will get service anywhere or anywhen.” He turned back to Tegan. “And lucky you, you don’t even have to memorise the number.”
“That’s all well and good, but what am I supposed to do for a phone, then?” Tegan asked, a hint of the old exasperation coming into her voice.
“You can get a new one; Nyssa can’t,” he pointed out. “Tell your carrier you lost it. They’ll replace it, and never need know it’s still working out there somewhere.”
The two women looked at each other for a moment, then Nyssa smiled. “I think you’d best ring me first, Tegan. I’m not sure I remember how to use one of these.” She glanced down at the phone in her hands. “I also seem to recall them being a good deal larger.”
“They used to be, twenty years ago,” Tegan chuckled. “Nyssa, listen…” She looked uncomfortable, but in true Tegan fashion, persevered nonetheless. “You gave me a leg up, a second chance when I needed one, so it’s high time I did the same. You know I had a chance to talk to Nica a little while I was recuperating and–well, do you remember how you once told me that the worst part about losing Traken was knowing after you were gone, there’d be no one left to remember it?” Tegan glanced over to where Nica was waiting with the rest of the station’s personnel. “You should tell her. Because you’re not the last anymore, not really. She is. And she has a right to know her heritage.”
Nyssa nodded, pushing aside a swell of shame. “I always meant to. The time just never seemed right.”
“No time like the present,” Tegan told her with a pointed look and a wry smile.
Nyssa returned the hug. “You’re right. Thank you.”
Together, the two of them walked over to where the Doctor waited impatiently by the TARDIS door. “Now, Doctor,” Nyssa chided him gently. “Remember, you promised to take her directly home, no convenient ‘detours.'”
“You could come along and see to it,” he suggested hopefully.
Nyssa smiled, but shook her head. “I’ve found the centre of my universe, Doctor: I can’t be yours. Besides, I think you need someone younger than I. Someone who still has a sense of wonder.” She smiled ruefully. “I’m not twenty anymore. I haven’t been for a very long time.”
His eyes drifted for a moment and she didn’t have to follow them to know where they came to rest. Nyssa sighed. “No, Doctor.”
“Hmm?” He looked at her with an expression of such innocence that she didn’t believe it for a moment.
The look she gave him in return was stern enough to be almost scolding. “Find some other nineteen year old to lure away from her life if you must, but not my daughter.”
He had the grace to look sheepish, at least. “Right.” A long pause lingered between them, then he asked, “You’re sure? I could bring you back, between trips, if it helps.”
“I’m sure.” She cupped his cheek fondly and shivered when his hand covered her own. “You’ll find someone willing to follow you, someone you can show all the wonders and terrors of the universe to. You always do.”
“And what if I decide I need you? Not just someone to follow me, but you specifically?”
“Then you’ll know exactly where to find me.”
His voice was dry but his eyes were warm. “At the centre of the universe?”
Nyssa smiled. “Where else?”
She leaned in, intending to give him a kiss on the cheek just as she had the last time they’d said goodbye here. The Doctor had other ideas. He captured her face in his hands and gave her a kiss that, though infinitely tender, was far from chaste.
“Bloody hell!” Nyssa heard Tegan exclaim in surprise from somewhere behind them. “Now that’s one I’d never have seen coming!”
The Doctor held her tightly for a long moment. Then he let go, turned away, and disappeared into the TARDIS without once looking back. Tegan shook her head in amazement and wagged a finger in Nyssa’s direction. “Looks like I’ll be putting that phone to good use when I get back. This I’ve got to hear.”
Nyssa laughed. She was still laughing when Tegan followed the Doctor into the TARDIS and closed the door behind her.
She sensed more than saw Nica move to fill the empty space at her side. “He’ll be back, Mum,” she stated in what was surely meant to be reassurance.
Nyssa smiled at her, but nevertheless shook her head. “No, he won’t.”
“How can you know?”
A bittersweet smile crossed Nyssa’s face as the TARDIS dematerialised. “I know the Doctor.”
She turned to her daughter and for the first time saw not just herself and Lasarti in Nica’s face, but also Tremas. Nica might never have seen Traken, but it was in her blood and Tegan was right: she deserved to know. “Now, why don’t we take the rest of the afternoon just for ourselves? There’s a story I need to tell you–one I ought to have shared a long time ago…”