With one final glance at the Doctor, Tegan swept out of the console room, anger exhausted for the present. She pulled Nyssa out with her, and the Doctor slowly released a breath he hadn’t been aware of holding.
The Tardis thrummed woefully, the sound full of mourning for the young boy that was gone.
The Doctor shook his head, blond hair whipping across his face, and backed up to the wall behind him as the realisation hit him, fully, like a ton of bricks.
He let himself slide down the wall until he was sitting, back pressed against the metal and his knees to his chest. He’d had a duty of care.
And he had failed. Failed Adric, failed Nyssa and Tegan. And because of his failure, a child had been lost; a child whose life could have been so, so brilliant.
A star that had been entrusted to the Doctor.
The Timelord’s insides writhed, making him feel physically sick with self disgust. He pressed his forehead into his knees, pushing his closed eyes into the kneecaps and seeing colours bloom across the darkness, the pain welcome.
The Tardis was silent and he didn’t like it. No more arguing, he thought to himself bitterly. Isn’t that what you wanted?
The hollow silence persisted, broken only by the quiet humming of the ship. Presumably Tegan and Nyssa were still in their room. As far from him as possible. No wonder they didn’t want to be anywhere near him, at least for a while. Maybe for good. He could understand why they would hate him. After all, if he could help it, he’d stay far away from himself too.
He hadn’t heard Tegan approach. He wondered how long he’d been sitting here.
He raised his head slowly, facing the Australian but not looking at her.
“Have you been sitting here this whole time?” she demanded brusquely, arms crossed.
The Doctor didn’t know how long that had been. He looked away, and his silence was all the response she needed.
“Is this it? Adric is d-dead, Doctor, and you’re just going to sit there?” Tegan accused, goading him, her voice shaky. The Doctor stiffened as she spoke, but when she took a step closer he wilted and pulled himself closer into himself, gazing at the floor before him. She was right.
Tegan frowned at his reaction. She had been trying to make him strike back at her - or make any display of emotion, really, instead of the quiet that he had maintained since the crash.
She sighed in exasperation and stepped forward until she stood over him. The Doctor flinched visibly as her shadow fell across him.
Tegan just sighed again wearily. Slumping onto the ground in front of him, her red eyes betrayed her as the Doctor’s finally flickered up to hers, startledly. She just looked at him, and the Doctor could see the pain in her eyes, and the reproach.
It was his fault. He wet his lips.
“Tegan, I…” he began lowly. What could he say to her? He had betrayed their trust in him. He deserved her anger - both of their anger. With this thought the Doctor fell silent.
Tegan chewed on her bottom lip, studying him; his blank expression and the sorrowful dark eyes.
With a sigh, she scooted closer to him.
“Look, Doc, we gotta go back… we can’t just let him die,” she said, but with none of her previous heat.
The Doctor looked at her spiritlessly.
“I know,” she cut him off with a sigh. “Doctor, I know. Laws of time, blah blah blah.” She gave him a flat smile. The Doctor, after a moment, tried to return it, although it faded quickly.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
Tegan’s heart clenched with guilt and sorrow, despite knowing - or maybe because she knew - that he would blame himself even without her help. She hadn’t really meant those things she’d said - she had just lashed out in her grief and anger.
Tegan pushed herself to her feet, holding out a hand for the Doctor to pull himself up after her.
Drawing closer, she hesitantly wrapped her arms around him, tucking her head into his chest. He tensed, and for a moment she thought he would pull away, but he carefully brought his arms up around her and rested his chin on her head, relaxing into the embrace, the constricted feeling in his chest easing.
Despite this incarnation being less disposed to touch - it had been a while since he had been hugged like this - or hugged at all, really - it was nice to feel Tegan’s head against him, his hearts beating steadily beneath her ear.
“It’s not your fault, Doctor,” Tegan told him harshly, fighting back tears, “it’s alright. Adric would- would understand.”
The Doctor’s breath caught and Tegan pulled his head down to rest against her shoulder.
“It’s okay, Doc,” she said. “Your friends can be strong for you, sometimes.”
And the Doctor thought he could let himself believe that, just this once.