The Doctor was under the impression that Tegan thought he wasn’t aware of the fact that something was very clearly going on with her and he wasn’t noticing. It chagrined him to admit that his companion thought he wasn’t as observant but he had to concede that with three people aboard the TARDIS and his attention split, it meant he had missed things that he shouldn’t have.
But that didn’t mean he missed everything.
He suspected, deep down, that there was a reason why Tegan had rejoined the TARDIS so willingly, even though she and Turlough didn’t get along well. A little understandable, since the Doctor was well aware that Turlough’s own suffering was transparent for the observant eye and whatever frightened him so much, it seemed harming him was the only option out. The Doctor hoped to one day free Turlough of his burden, so the poor boy would stop living in constant fear.
Right now though, it was Tegan who had him most concerned. She appeared to act no different. Brash, loud, but underneath a wonderfully caring soul and a strong heart. Brave heart indeed, he mused. Yet the Doctor noticed those times when her gaze dropped and a frown formed on her face, those moments where her eyes seemed to cloud and she gazed away from the world, lost in her own thoughts.
No, he suspected that her traumas with the Mara hadn’t healed as much as she claimed they did, and he was immensely worried when she gave the reasons for being in Amsterdam and her rejoining of the crew. He pursed his lips, staring blankly at the TARDIS console and wondering how he could approach her about his concerns.
The irony wasn’t lost on him that despite his supposed approachability, he was truly awful at comforting those who needed him the most now. It was on these moments where he felt his age and considered the other irony of looking so young and being the eldest.
No, he mustn’t feel sorry for himself now. Tegan needed him and that was most important. Straightening his lapels, he mustered up his courage and set off towards her room. The hum of the TARDIS soothing his nerves, and he had arrived shorter than expected. He briefly wondered if the old girl wanted to help Tegan in her own way.
He swallowed, and knocked gently at the door. “Tegan? Are you in?” He waited in silence, lifting his head a little when he heard the shuffling of feet and the door opening.
The first thing that the Doctor noted was her posture. Shuffling her feet awkwardly, more closed in on herself. Tegan frowned at him, raising an eyebrow. “Is something the matter Doctor?”
He cleared his throat, reminding himself that he needed to be there for her. “Yes, I was wondering if we could… talk.” He finished lamely, painfully aware of how stupid he sounded saying that.
Tegan’s frown deepened. “Look, if it’s about how I’ve been treating Turlough-” She blinked in surprise when he cut her off with a shake of the head.
“No, it’s not about that. If I’m to be honest it’s understandable that you aren’t very trusting of him. No I was hoping to talk about something else with you, may I come in?” He watched her think it over for a few minutes before silently stepping back and opening the door wider for him, allowing him to step inside.
It wasn’t as barren as Nyssa and Turlough’s were, which was a bit of relief. Trinkets from their adventures were scattered about the dressers, a few posters hung on the walls and the Doctor noted pictures on one of the dressers, with all of them and Adric. His hearts hurt whenever he thought of Adric too this day, but like Katarina, he had died a hero.
“What did you want to talk about Doctor?” She asked, closing the door behind her as he sat down on her bed, motioning for her to do the same. With a suspicious look in her eye, she complied and sat down.
“I... “ He coughed, and cleared his throat. “I wanted to know if you were doing alright, Tegan.” There. He had said it.
Tegan’s reaction was to be expected. She frowned, folding her arms a little. “I’m doing alright I suppose, nothing out of the ordinary. Why do you ask?”
He hummed a little, glancing down briefly before making sure he was looking right at her as he continued. “I must confess I’m a trifle worried about you Tegan. With, your aunt Vanessa, the Mara, and now your erm, recent unemployment.” She snorted at his attempt to be polite, but he pushed on regardless. “I’m merely concerned about you and your mental health. I realize that we don’t always see eye to eye but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And I do care deeply for you Tegan, so I want to make sure you’re alright.”
Tegan was quiet for a few moments, and he watched her turn her gaze down and frown heavily. Slowly, she reached out and took his hands. “I’ve been a right bitch, haven’t I?” She asked dryly.
The Doctor frowned at her, squeezing her hands a little. “What makes you ask that?” She gave a small, bitter laugh at the response.
“I wasn’t exactly nice to you when I first came on board. Always nagging and moaning about how I wanted to go home, always putting my big foot in my mouth and being a nuisance. I’m amazed you didn’t boot me out first chance you got the second we landed somewhere near my time.” Her lips twitched in a sad smile and the Doctor felt his hearts ache for her.
“No, no, no, it's perfectly understandable, Tegan. Trust me, you aren’t the first person that I have… accidentally taken with me on my travels. I assure that they wanted to go home just as badly as you did.” It was hard not to compare Tegan’s situation to Ian and Barbara’s. He truthfully did try many times to get her back home, but for some reason the TARDIS never seemed to land at exactly the right place. Perhaps his old ship knew better than he did, at that moment.
“That still doesn’t make how I treated you right though.” Tegan moodily added, lips pressed in a thin line. “I jumped back as soon as I could when I saw you next, right? Kind of pathetic, that. I should have been nicer to you and Nyssa and…” She trailed off, blinking away tears.
“You were, Tegan. You were. Nyssa and Adric weren’t the most extroverted of people, and they both had difficulties expressing their feelings at times but I assure you Tegan that they both loved you dearly, faults and all. I saw how hard it was for you to say goodbye to Nyssa again, and it takes tremendous strength to do that twice. Believe me, I know.”
Tegan laughed a little, sniffling and wiping her eyes a bit with the back of her hand. “I… I suppose. And now here I am doing the same to Turlough, I’m surprised he hasn’t raked me over the coals for being such a failure, I couldn’t even land the job I was supposed to get.” She gave him a small smile as he produced a handkerchief and handed it to her, and silently she wiped her eyes and blew her nose.
“If I’m to be perfectly honest with you Tegan, you do have good reason to be suspicious of Turlough. I would prefer it if you two would try to get along a little better, but I confess he hasn’t made it easy for you.” She snorted at that, but said nothing more as the Doctor continued. “But I suspect he has a great deal of respect for you, especially since you are never a failure.” He held up her hand when she opened her mouth to protest. “You have been through a lot, Tegan. Far more than I wish you had to suffer through, as I want nothing more than to see you safe and yet… I can’t help but feel I let you down. I can only imagine your harrowing experiences with the Mara.”
Tegan swallowed thickly, nodding her head as she absorbed the Doctor’s words. “...You really think I’m not a failure?” She asked quietly.
“Never.” He replied instantly, squeezing her hands firmly. “Tegan Jovanka, one day you shall find your calling and excel at it, whatever it will be.” The Doctor gave her a small, encouraging smile at that, and with a choked ‘thank you’, she pulled him in for a fierce hug. He froze awkwardly for a few moments, before wrapping his arms around her in return and hugging her back. “There there.” He soothed, rubbing her back as she sobbed a little against his shoulder. “You’ll be alright, Brave heart, Tegan. Brave heart.”
“Annoying phrase.” She sniffled, but smiled fondly at him and wiped her eyes again on the handkerchief.
“Why don’t you accompany me to the food room, I think after such an… emotional experience, some comfort food I’ve found is just the ticket for some recuperation.” Standing, he pulled Tegan up gently to her feet. “Shall we?”
Giving him a smile, Tegan took the Doctor’s arm in hers. “Lead the way.”
Together, they left her room and headed down the TARDIS corridors in silence.