Tegan used to enjoy taking long showers. There was nothing so refreshing as sluicing off the dirt and sweat of exertion; of getting clean--really clean--after you'd gone too long without. Step into the shower dirty and tired and step out clean and invigorated. A new woman. And the shower on the TARDIS was a miracle in itself, with its multiple shower heads and variable flow controls.
Only this time, soaping off the dirt, the smoke--the smell of the Terileptils--hadn't worked the same magic on her soul. Oh, she'd turned the water up as hot as she could stand and she'd scrubbed and scrubbed until she was in danger of scrubbing her skin raw. She emerged from the shower, her physical body clean, yet somehow she still felt soiled.
She could almost hear the Terileptil's voice in her mind, commanding her to obey. And she had, hadn't she? She'd done exactly what it told her to do, her mental struggles too feeble to have any real effect against it. She'd heard the Doctor when he'd pleaded with her not to open the rat cage and she'd mentally pleaded with herself right along with him.
Hadn't made a lick of difference. The compulsion from the Terileptil's command had been too strong to overcome. Oh, the struggle had slowed her movements down somewhat, but she couldn't fool herself into believing that she had broken the mind control. If the Doctor hadn't rushed Mace and his flintlock pistol and then grabbed her, removing the power supplies from both of their control bracelets, who knows what might have happened? She shivered. Because of her they all might have contracted the alien enhanced plague.
Her hands shook as she reached for the bottle of lotion on the vanity. She poured out a generous portion and rubbed it onto her arms and legs, mechanically smoothing it into her damp skin. As she moved around the bathroom she avoided looking directly into the mirror, afraid to meet her own eyes. Afraid, she realized with a shock, that it might be a stranger who looked back.
Because it wasn't just the Terileptil's voice that she was scared of, but a cold hiss that slithered up her spine and coiled itself around her mind. If she let down her guard for even a moment the susurration slyly insinuated itself into her thoughts; a sibilant whisper that promised dark things that she desperately didn't want to hear.
Her gaze was drawn against her will to the mirror. As she stared transfixed, her reflection seemed to subtly shift. Her eyes faded from brown to flat green, the pupils contracting and elongating until they were only narrow slits. When her lips lifted into a cruel smile, she blinked, breaking the spell. She scrambled away from the mirror with a low cry, intent on putting as much distance between herself and her vision as possible.
She barreled from the room and down the corridor, straight into the solid figure of the Doctor. If it wasn't for his hands quickly grasping her upper arms, she would have bounced off him and most likely ended up sprawled unceremoniously on the floor.
"Tegan?" he said, his voice puzzled, "Is something wrong?"
"I'm fine," she said breathlessly. She stepped back breaking his hold and he let his hands fall.
"You don't look fine." She could hear the frown in his voice, but she couldn't quite make herself look directly at him. "You look like something's upset you."
"No. No. I was just getting cleaned up." She glanced uneasily over her shoulder at the door to the bathroom. "From the fire and, well, everything."
"I can see that."
She glanced down at herself and blushed. She'd been so rattled at what she thought she'd seen in the mirror that she'd rushed out with just a towel wrapped around her. She pulled the edge of the towel tight and tucked it more securely over her breast. "I..." Her voice trailed off; her mind went blank and she couldn't for the life of her think of an excuse that wouldn't sound daft.
"Tegan," he said, "I can tell that something's wrong. I can help, if you'll let me."
It was the unaccountable gentleness in his voice that made her straighten her spine and lift her chin. Hadn't he already told her that the Mara was gone and her mind was her own? That the nightmare was over? How much more of a silly child would he think her if she confessed that she'd allowed her fears to overcome her? Still, it was difficult to raise her gaze to meet his, requiring every ounce of courage she possessed. When he didn't comment on her changed appearance, she shuddered slightly in relief. She was still herself.
"Really," she said, "I'm fine. I just--I was just in a hurry to get back to my room and see how Nyssa was doing. That's all."
She could feel herself flush again as he slowly swept his gaze over her. "In such a hurry that you forgot your clothes?" He raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, well, I guess I was just too busy thinking about, ah, Nyssa." She started to back away. "I'll just go back and get them, shall I?"
She could feel his gaze following her as she returned to the bathroom and she had to fight to keep her hand from shaking when she reached for the door. I can do this, she thought as she slipped inside. It'll just take a minute to dress and get out of here. And if she was lucky, he'd already be gone.
Her soiled skirt, jacket and blouse were still in a heap in the corner where she'd shed them in her haste to get to the shower. She shook her head and grimaced at the thought of touching them. They were better left for cleaning tomorrow. Her thin nightgown and wrap were draped over the padded bench. Without raising her eyes to the mirror, she dropped her towel and pulled the gown over her head. She shoved her left arm into the sleeve of the dressing gown and was still struggling to get her right arm into the other opening as she exited the room, only to come up short when she realized that the Doctor was waiting for her.
Tegan stared at him in bemusement when he gently helped extricate her arm from the tangle of the sleeve. He held the garment so that she could slip her arm in and then dropped his hands, allowing her to wrap it close around her. She tied the belt around her waist with hands that shook slightly.
She tried for her usual bravado, but her voice betrayed her with its tremulousness. "I told you I'm fine, Doctor. You didn't have to wait out here for me."
He blinked and for a moment looked nonplussed. "I rather thought it was the polite thing to do. May I escort you back to your room?"
"We're in the TARDIS. It isn't like I'm going to run into trouble between the bathroom and bedroom, now is it?"
He smiled slightly and offered his arm. "No, it isn't likely. But then, that really wasn't the point."
She sighed softly and gingerly placed her hand in the crook of his elbow. "Oh all right."
They walked through the corridors at a reasonable pace, the Doctor adjusting his stride to accommodate her shorter one. Tegan glanced up at him and frowned. She was barefoot and that put her at even more of a height disadvantage compared to the Doctor. It added to the already vulnerable way she felt, throwing her even further off kilter.
The silence stretched between them, an air of expectancy about it. It wasn't exactly comfortable, but it wasn't unbearable either. At least Tegan didn't feel the need to fill it with chatter. Though the sooner they reached her room and she could escape inside, the better she'd feel.
The door to the room she shared with Nyssa appeared in view as they rounded a curve in the corridor. Instead of relief, Tegan tensed. If the Doctor was going to ask her anything, it would be now. If he noticed the change in her, he didn't comment on it.
They stopped in front of the door and she dropped his arm and stepped back. Trying for nonchalance, she said, "Well, here's my room. Thanks for the escort."
He reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder lightly, preventing her from turning to the door. "Tegan. About the Terileptils--"
"Doctor," she said, hating the slightly desperate note in her voice, "please? It's over. I'm all right. Can't we just leave it at that?"
He dropped his head and peered into her face, searching her eyes for something that had her holding her breath. Finally he gave a short nod and dropped his hand. "Very well."
"Thank you." She turned to the door in relief only to stop short when he spoke softly.
"But you will let me know if you have any, ah, difficulties, won't you? I only want to help."
She glanced over her shoulder at him. The concern on his face, while gratifying, wasn't the most reassuring thing at the moment. She nodded, afraid to give voice to her fears, and slipped inside her room, closing the door firmly. Shutting him out.
The light in the room was dim; Nyssa was already asleep. Tegan turned it down further until there was just enough of a glow to allow her to move around without running into anything. She shrugged out of her dressing gown, letting it drop to the floor next to her bed, and crawled under the bedclothes. As she closed her eyes, she resolutely pushed aside her fears and doubts, trying to attain a reasonable amount of peace. It had all just been her imagination, right? Hadn't her Aunt Vanessa commented more than once about her vivid imagination?
Just let me get one night's sleep, she thought. If I still feel the same in the morning, I promise I'll talk to the Doctor. But please, let me just sleep now. She wasn't sure who she was pleading with, but it seemed to work. She kept her eyes closed and forced herself to lie still and focus on breathing slowly. Eventually she drifted off into a dreamless sleep. And in the morning, she was too busy being caught up in their latest adventure to worry about her flights of fancy from the previous night.