The Doctor wasn’t sure what was wrong with Tegan.
If there was only one sign to go by, it was that she didn’t comment on his piloting of the TARDIS. In fact, she wasn’t in the console room at all. She remained in her room, keeping to herself.
“Have you seen Tegan today?” the Doctor asked Turlough as he entered the console room.
Turlough shrugged, unconcerned. “As far as I know, she hasn’t even left her room since we got back from Terminus.”
The Doctor hummed, staring at the console as if it could help him. “I wonder what could be the matter. I hope it’s not the Mara again…”
“It’s probably nothing.” Turlough crossed his arms over his chest and looked like he was getting ready to say something very profound. “Girls get upset over the silliest things.”
The Doctor stared at him. “You think she’s upset?” He frowned, and the gears began turning in his brain. The realisation had been dawning on him for the past few days that maybe, just maybe, he had been neglecting Tegan. She always put off the air of being capable, able to look after herself; but the Doctor knew very well that when looking after yourself, keeping your thoughts locked up inside...that was the perfect invitation for loneliness.
“Maybe I should talk to her…” he murmured.
“Do what you like. I’d just leave her alone; she’ll come round eventually.” As the Doctor strode out of the console room, Turlough called after him, “I’m going to set up a game of chess!”
The Doctor found Tegan’s door shut, and suddenly he wondered if he should just go back and join Turlough. Anyone watching might have found the sight of him standing there and deliberating quite comical. He stared hard at Tegan’s door, as if willing it to open on its own, then reached out a hand, and retracted it again. Finally, making a decision, he reached for the door control, but changed his mind at the last second and knocked. He breathed out an almost inaudible sigh.
“Tegan? It’s me.”
The door whooshed open and he entered. Tegan looked up from a stack of papers, her eyes telling of weariness.
The Doctor paused a few steps into the room nodded at the loose sheets in her hands. “What are those?”
“I was going through some of Nyssa’s things, but I can’t make any sense of these notes.” She held them out with a sigh that heaved her whole body. “You probably can.”
The Doctor took it as an invitation to approach and grabbed the sheaf from her hands. He rifled through the dense pages of chemical formulas, equations, and observations written hastily in Nyssa’s hand.
“Brilliant,” he murmured. He let his arms fall, feeling the pang of her loss once more. “She was always...so brilliant.”
Tegan nodded. “And now you’re left with dumb old me.”
The Doctor studied her forlorn expression. Could it be that all this time, she’d felt inferior to Nyssa and even Adric?
“Nyssa and Adric were bright in their own ways,” he said, coming to sit beside her on the edge of her bed, “but you have your own unique strengths that are equally brilliant.”
Tegan cast him a disdainful glance. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
The Doctor blinked. He thought, as far as encouraging words went, that they had been quite good. “Er...yes?”
That brought a smile, albeit small, to Tegan’s face.
“Do you want to go home?” he asked gently, fearing her answer. Losing Tegan would be like severing the final connection to who he was. Without the three companions who had stuck with him through a regeneration, how could he move forward?
Tegan didn’t reply immediately. “I’ve thought about it.” She clasped her hands together. “I already miss Nyssa.”
“Me too,” the Doctor confessed with a sigh. He stared at the blank wall, remembering the brush of her lips on his cheek. Like everyone, it seemed, he only realised how much he valued Nyssa now that she was gone. Just like Adric. Just like Romana, and all who had come before.
“Really?” Tegan looked up at him, surprised. “You haven’t shown it since we got back on the TARDIS. It’s like after Adric,” she continued, her eyes drifting downwards. “It was like you were sad for one moment, and in the next it was like it didn’t happen.”
The Doctor found himself caught off guard at her accusation, though it didn’t sound like one. More than anything, she seemed shocked that he had any feeling at all. If only she knew. “There’s more than one way to feel grief,” he reminded her, all the while feeling the familiar weight of regret at this life he led. He could never look back too long. If he did, he couldn’t go on.
The thought made him uncomfortable, so of course, he moved on. “Come on, Tegan.” The Doctor jumped up. “Turlough was interested in a game of chess; how about it?”
“Sounds so exciting,” she said with fake enthusiasm and a half-eye roll. Yet, she got up and followed him anyway.
The Doctor hid a smile at her biting sarcasm, but it soon faded. Just like Adric’s and Nyssa’s unique qualities, Tegan’s brazenness would soon be something he looked back on with sadness.
How long until he lost her, too?