Beta: spammypod and hhertzof
Summary: When Ian is lost on a cold, empty planet, it's up to Barbara to save him.
"It's a bit nippy out there," Ian said from where he stood by the doors.
As she peered over his shoulder Barbara discovered that was an understatement. Outside the landscape was uninviting; bare, aside from the odd leafless tree dotted around and the wind swirled around the Ship. She folded her arms around herself and shivered in the breeze blowing through the open doors. "I'll get my coat," she said. Once she took a few steps the heat of the console room warmed her up.
"I'll get them," Vicki promised.
Barbara smiled at the girl as she went off to fetch their coats. Ian, however, wasn't waiting and he stepped outside, even though he only had a cardigan to protect him from the cold. Barbara shook her head. If he wanted to prove he was a man by freezing that was up to him, as long as he didn't expect her to admire him doing so. She wasn't sure what was worth going out there for, but since they'd landed they might as well investigate their surroundings. You never knew what you might find.
"What is this?" The Doctor was puttering about the console, pressing buttons. The readings the scanner gave about this planet suggested it was summer. It should be sunny and hot out there but it wasn't and the Doctor was vexed that it was wrong. Mind you, Barbara was happy for them to stay while he fixed it if it meant not getting the wrong information when they landed somewhere deadly.
As Vicki returned, their coats in her arms, Barbara heard a noise. She turned round to see the doors closing. "Ian!" He looked back at her shout, but he'd wandered too far and couldn't get inside before the doors shut completely. "Doctor, what did you do that for?"
"I didn't. The Ship did it all by itself." He frowned at the console.
Back when they'd first come aboard, Barbara wouldn't have believed him, but that was a long time ago. Now he and Ian were friends and they hadn't argued recently. The Doctor had no reason to shut him outside. "So open them again," she snapped.
"They won't!" He flapped at the console, pulling levers and flicking switches. Nothing happened for a moment, then Ian's thumping on the door gave way to the familiar sound of the Ship taking off.
"Doctor!" Barbara and Vicki shouted at the same time.
"I'm sorry." He looked first at Barbara, then Vicki. "I can't stop it." He sounded defeated.
Barbara couldn't speak as her heart thudded and a lump formed in her throat. Ian was going to be stuck on that planet and they had no way of getting back to him. She had to hope there were friendly people nearby, otherwise Ian would freeze to death on his own. Or starve to death, she wasn't sure which would come first.
"You must be able to do something," Vicki pleaded.
Barbara looked hopefully at the Doctor, hand to her mouth as she tried not to think about Ian's fate.
"Well, maybe... It's just a possibility, mind..." He didn't tell them what he was trying, instead flicking a switch. The sound of taking off immediately gave way to one of landing and Barbara began to hope that maybe just this once, he'd been able to control their destination.
When the Doctor opened the doors Barbara rushed over to them. The view she had was the same as the one she'd seen moments ago. Except this time there was no sign of Ian. She called his name, but heard nothing in response. Worried, she asked the Doctor, "When are we?"
He shook his head. "I don't know." He tapped at a read-out, but presumably it didn't tell him anything.
The trouble with time travel was that just because they'd left a minute ago, it didn't mean that only a minute had gone by. It could be hours or years, or they could have arrived before they left. However long it was, Ian would have to assume that they might not be coming back for him. In this cold, he couldn't wait forever. But she hated to think he'd died waiting, so she had to assume that he was out there somewhere. She couldn't just give up on him.
Without waiting for the Doctor, she stepped out of the Ship, looking at the ground for clues as to which direction Ian went. But she'd never had to track anything in the wild before and didn't know what to look for. This wasn't sand or snow; there were no footprints.
"We'll all look for him." The Doctor came up behind her and put her coat over her shoulders.
Barbara smiled at him as she put her arms through the sleeves and buttoned it up. Of course she wasn't on her own. "We should split up," she suggested. With nothing on the horizon, Ian could have gone anywhere.
The Doctor nodded. "Meet back here in half an hour." He closed the door behind him and at Barbara's nod, he strode off with Vicki, imploring her to stay close. Vicki seemed happy to oblige.
The landscape was eerie, but Barbara had other things to be scared of, so she started out in the opposite direction. As she walked she reminded herself that Ian was resourceful. She'd seen him make fire without matches or a lighter and there was no reason he couldn't do the same here, even if she couldn't see any smoke.
Something caught her eye as she passed a tree and she stopped to look at it. It was faint, but there was an 'IC' carved into it. Even if the straight line of the 'I' was a coincidence, the 'C' couldn't be. She breathed a sigh of relief. She almost called the Doctor and Vicki back, but she didn't know how long ago Ian had made the mark and it was possible he'd gone the other way some time later.
Now she picked up her pace, checking the trees as she passed. Whenever she couldn't see Ian's initials on one, she changed direction and was soon rewarded with another sign. After a few minutes, when she was starting to get warm from the exercise, she trod on something hard at the base of a tree. She almost ignored it in her rush, but it wasn't a familiar feeling underfoot, so she stopped in case it was something important. It was Ian's penknife.
She pulled her hands out of her pockets to pick it up, then looked around. If Ian had dropped it on purpose there would be other clues, but there was nothing she could see. The 'IC' on this tree was complete, so he hadn't been disturbed while he was carving. There were no signs that anything or anyone was here now, but Barbara still gripped the penknife tightly as she cautiously carried on.
The next tree still had an 'IC' on it, but it looked different as if it had been made by another hand. She ran her fingers along the initials, sure they were created by the same blade. But how could Ian have carved into the tree with a penknife he no longer had? She found his initials on two more trees along the route too.
After a few more minutes she heard the footsteps of someone running. Although they came from somewhere in front of her, she could see nothing and the barren landscape around wasn't enough to hide a person. With trembling hands, she pulled out a blade from the penknife and held it out in front of her. Whoever it was, would be able to see she had a weapon, even if it wasn't much use.
Whoever it was cried out. He had to be close by, but she still couldn't see him. The next thing she heard was the thump of someone hitting the ground. Then, out of nowhere, Ian appeared on the floor by her feet. "Ian!" Barbara dropped the penknife as she bent down to him. He lifted his head, but whatever he was about to say was subsumed in a coughing fit. Barbara helped him sit up so he could breathe and eventually his coughing gave way to deep breaths.
"I knew you'd come back for me," he said, as he smiled and hugged her.
She realised, as she held him close, relieved to find him alive, that he smelt of smoke and his clothes were damp. But she hadn't seen any smoke and neither could she smell any elsewhere. He was shivering too, so she let go of him. "I found your initials," she said, unbuttoning her coat.
He frowned. "Where?"
She took her coat off and draped it over his shoulders. He wouldn't be able to get it done up, but it might stop him freezing to death. He smiled and pulled it around himself. "Carved on the trees," she said, picking up the penknife, with the blade still sticking out.
He shook his head. "I didn't do that."
If Ian didn't do it then someone must have. But there was still no one around here, other than Ian. "I'll show you." He must have done it and he had just forgotten, that was the only explanation.
There weren't many trees on the path back to the TARDIS, so she was sure she could remember which ones his initials were on. But when they reached the first, the carving had gone. "It was here." She ran her fingers over the area just below her eye line.
"You must have been mistaken," he said good-naturedly.
"No!" She resented the suggestion she was making it up, even if that hadn't been what he meant. He put an hand on her shoulder and she sighed, recognising that she'd overreacted. "Why do you smell of smoke?" she asked instead.
"I started a fire for warmth," he said. "But I feel asleep and it spread. For a moment I didn't think I was going to get out of there alive, but someone threw water on the fire near me and half on me." They both looked back in the direction he'd come from. There was no fire there now and no sign there had ever been one. "Funny thing is, I thought I heard Vicki's voice."
"The Doctor and Vicki didn't come in this direction." It wasn't unreasonable that he had imagined her voice, but what with the other strange things going on, perhaps Vicki really was there. When their eyes met, Barbara took his hand. It was cold in hers. This planet had gone from eerie to spooky and she was glad Ian was with her. "Let's get back to the TARDIS," she suggested. Perhaps the Doctor would be able to solve this mystery. "I have to meet the Doctor and Vicki back there in..." She trailed off as she looked at her watch. "When I left the TARDIS it was ten past two," she said, at Ian's questioning look. "Now it's five past."
He inclined his head and she held her arm up so he could see the time. "That can't be right."
It couldn't, but her watch was still ticking and even if it had lost time, it couldn't go backwards on its own. However, it gave her an idea. "What if the carvings aren't here because no one has made them yet?" It was a crazy suggestion, but she had been to places before she was born. They just usually involved travelling in the TARDIS, not walking across a deserted planet.
He sighed. "I don't know."
Sure she was right, she dug the blade of the penknife into the wood and dragged it down to make an 'I'. The 'C' was harder, but when it came out, it looked just like she remembered. She looked up at Ian afterwards, but he didn't say anything, just shook his head.
She led him to the next tree to carve his initials and the next. The silence in the absence of birds and insects, along with the cold made her hand shake and she dropped the penknife after she finished the third one.
Ian took her hands and rubbed them with his thumbs. "I'll do it," he said, although his hands were no warmer than hers. When he put his hand in his trouser pocket, he pulled out an identical penknife. Barbara's eyes widened when she saw it. "I think you were right," he said. "This wasn't here earlier."
Barbara nodded, but the knowledge didn't comfort her now.
Having to stop to initial the trees meant their journey back to the Ship took longer than Barbara's trip out. They were both shivering by the time they reached it. Fortunately the Doctor hadn't locked the door and they entered the warmth within with matching sighs of relief.
Barbara looked at her watch. It hadn't yet been half an hour, but the Doctor and Vicki must have been back here. A hose was stretched across the console room and there were patches of water on the floor. Barbara couldn't tell what any of it might have been for, so she didn't worry about it for now and resolved to ask when she saw the others. In the meantime she fetched some blankets from the cupboard. Ian smiled as he took one from her and wrapped it around himself. Barbara took her coat back and did the same, but she still shivered, only partly from the cold.
"Come here," Ian said, opening his blanket.
Barbara stepped into his arms. He was no warmer than she was, but she rested her head against his shoulder. His cardigan felt icy beneath her cheek. Now they were both safe she could give in to her fears about never seeing him again. She wasn't sure how cold you had to be to get hypothermia, or just how cold it was out there, but she didn't think Ian had been far off it. Even though the Doctor got them back to the planet, if she hadn't found him when she did, it might have been too late for him. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying not to think about it and refused to cry. He was safe now and that was all that mattered. After a few minutes she stopped shivering, although Ian didn't.
She was just starting to feel comfortable when the doors burst open. As she sprang away from Ian she wrapped the blanket more securely around herself. The smell of smoke wafted in along with the Doctor and Vicki. They both looked unharmed, if a little sooty. "What happened?" she asked them.
"We put out a fire," Vicki said, sounding excited. "Although I don't know why it didn't go out on its own, there's hardly anything out there to burn."
"You don't know that." The Doctor pointed a finger at her. "Just because you can't see it doesn't mean there's nothing there."
Ian smiled at their familiar bickering and hugged Vicki hello.
Barbara stepped closer to the Doctor. "There's something wrong with time," she said.
"Oh, you noticed that, did you?" the Doctor said, as if it was obvious. "Time swirls about on this planet, the same way the wind does on Earth. That's why the Ship took off. We'd caught up with ourselves." He pulled a lever, the doors closed and the Ship took off, just as it had before.
"It's like in the Space Museum," Ian said, understanding dawning on him.
Ian appearing out of nowhere was certainly similar, Barbara thought.
"No, nothing like that." The Doctor sounded cross. "It's perfectly simple."
Barbara rolled her eyes at Ian, who smiled. Vicki giggled.
The Doctor made a "Hmph," noise and gave them up as a lost cause. "Now, I suggest we all go somewhere warm next, hmm?"
That would be nice, if only the Doctor could control where they went.
"And you, young man will remember not to wander off in future." Despite his stern tone, there was a hint of a smile on his face. He was clearly pleased to see Ian unharmed, even if he wasn't going to admit it.
"Of course, Doctor." Ian gave Barbara a conspiratorial smile. "As long as I have you to save me, I'll be all right," he whispered to her.