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She's heard of the Stockholm Syndrome, about people kept against their will whose feelings turn from fear into something else. She's learned about fear, not the fear of injury or hurt or of breaking, but of evil itself. And good. The stark realities of the world the Doctor's shown her. Good people die without a warning or a goodbye. Evil can get inside you to win the day and a hero can break like the rest of us. Tegan knows she's a victim, for sure, but not his. Not the Doctor's. She's the victim of a cosmic joke, literally cosmic, the universe telling her to wake up and smell the pointlessness of her painted-on smiles and earthbound ambitions. She's the victim of ignorance and time and he's her hero, and he breaks her with kindness more than cruelty.

She knows that the Doctor breaks too because she's heard cries in the dark places, the places where the TARDIS will only let her go on its own terms, the places where guilt and grief and shame and the hopelessness of hoping are kept, along with half-mended robots, half-assed ideas and a crumpled bicycle or two that he tinkers with but never finishes restoring. The Doctor turns to his projects when he's in the dark places, mending what he can mend so he can stop weeping over what he can't. He can't mend people, not even him, but when Tegan's broken, he tries. Her hero, so right and proper that he can shame evil with a smile, he'll whisper sorry in a language she'll never comprehend, and knows better than to waste promises of ever-after.

The Doctor's learned to find her among the broken things, after hard words and childish accusations. After she's felt her inferiority so sharply that she could bleed. He'll show her his skill at mending, tinkering with absolute precision with the innards of a carriage clock, or a weapon that he's converting into a clean and perpetual power source. He does it without thinking, still paying perfect attention as she dances around her resentment, her need, her hope. He's offering, she realises later. Offering her his time because he needs, too. Not her. She's not that blind, not that young. He needs her forgiveness because she's so very slow to give it. Not like Nyssa, who comprehends the vastness of him with her cool head, or Adric who saw a universe of puzzles and clear, obvious solutions. Tegan. The Doctor breaks himself over and over on her unfairness, and when an exchange of heated words becomes an exchange of touches, it makes far less difference to them than it should.

He's an alien. She laughs at herself, laughs into his still-clothed shoulder the first time she recognises that. The first time. She's seen him change his body for a new one, but it takes the excited stutter of a double heartbeat against her breasts before she'll believe it. Alien. Not human. She wonders if that makes it wicked that it feels so good and pure. She drags her nails down his back, drawing blood that will soak through his pristine shirt. Her edgy laughter doesn't puzzle or offend him, no more than the way she clings and moans and grinds while he seems only to wait and hold and breathe, and maybe they're both too busy being incredulous to be ashamed of themselves or each other.

She showers until there's no more blood behind her fingernails, until her body can't remember how his touch felt. The Doctor's only concession is a new stiffness in her presence that reads as impatience with himself. She lets the TARDIS lure her into the darker places and show her the remnants of all the travellers who came and went before her. The ship positively taunts her to explore until she's lost, until the Doctor comes to find her and chide her, to show her something wonderful, or to let slip a tiny bit of need.

From bloodstained boots and ankle-sweeping muddy hemlines, alien foods and forgotten diaries, Tegan deduces that she's merely the latest of many. Beyond the rooms she uses every day there are others that were busy and full once. Abandoned now. The Doctor knows them all and yet he doesn't, or perhaps time dulls his memories, because he seems surprised at the places he sometimes finds her and the remnants that they find there. Tegan thinks that the TARDIS knows just when and where to lead them, matching motive and opportunity. Never a bedroom, where even this would seem ordinary or planned, and always somewhere with shadows to obscure the finer details.

He says her name once in a while, his voice as kind and pained and strained as when she's glaring at him over folded arms, demanding the impossible. When he whispers that he's sorry, she knows that he's not talking about anything that's just happened or about to happen between them. That sorry isn't the word for what he needs to say, only the nearest that she might understand, and that a moment of shivering absolution with her is nothing, but all he can afford.

Beyond the shadows she begins to cope with the chaos of the Doctor's life. More and more, Tegan catches herself enjoying it. Not just the beautiful views and the wonder of new places but the thrill, the risk, and him. Ask anyone back home who knows her, ask them if Tegan would ever go on a real adventure and enjoy it, if you'd catch her with a dangerous man, and they'd laugh. Tegan would've laughed herself, and it would only have been slightly hollow and hurt. Now she runs down bright or dark corridors, sometimes clutching a cool hand for dear life, sometimes ducking science-fiction gunfire, and she'll be damned if she'll adjust her shoes or her wardrobe just so she can keep up better. That would mean admitting completely that she isn't here against her will, so she can't make those adjustments. Can't openly accept anything that happens to her.

Well, one thing.

One time, horizontal in the wardrobe room on a pile of fallen frou-frou, the Doctor kisses her mouth. Stops moving. Looks bemused. Tries it again. He's got her lipstick smeared across him and tests it with the tip of his tongue, grimacing slightly.

"You're a good kisser," Tegan lies, and he smiles without the slightest artifice. It's delight with his own success and she's seen it a hundred times before, over gadgets or plans or landing his stupid TARDIS in the right place for once. Over dozens of small and insignificant things that aren't her. It grates.

It's only then that she realises how well they can see each other. They're not hiding in any darkness and she's exposed, her clothes bunched down and up around her waist. She pulls his head down next to hers so they can't see, and he doesn't stop her.

He only kisses her once more, after the fact, and takes care not to pick up any more lipstick. It's gratitude and affection; it's making the effort for her sake. Kind and a little patronising, just like him. Her eyes sting. It hurts that he can be so sweet.

Blood has brought them to the wardrobes. Blood on her blouse, blood on his collar. It'll all come out, the TARDIS does that somehow, but Tegan's learned that she can always see the vanished marks and that they sicken her. This time, a spot of blood has managed to seep through her bra, right onto her skin. So many people died that she doesn't know whose blood it is. Her hands shake and she grabs clean things without looking, frantic for a shower.

The Doctor dresses behind a wicker screen and neither watches her nor makes a show of not watching her. Her body doesn't absorb his imagination, she knows that, but she bets he noticed the blood and was too delicate to mention it. She stumbles over her own shoe and swears, her voice shaking.

"Tegan, are you quite all right?"

"Any particular reason I shouldn't be?"

"As usual, I have the feeling that I've offended you without meaning to." He's rueful, just a little. He's changed his shirt, pushing the bloodied one out of sight. Tegan wants to know if it's out of mind as well. He looks so fresh and calm. It infuriates her. "Under the circumstances--"

"What circumstances?" Her bland smile can't fool anyone, let alone the Doctor, but she dares him to query it. Dares him to say something that brings it all into the light.

He's irritated. Puzzled. Stung. Curious. All of that within the space of a few breaths, and then he nods and opts for brisk and breezy acceptance, jacket slung over his shoulder, strolling out the door.

She itches to go after him, not content with the last word. It leaves her furious that he can move on the way he does, whether it's from a room full of bodies or from her unkindness. She can't understand how he even keeps breathing, if he has her awful experiences multiplied by centuries of the same and worse. She knows for a fact that she can't cope with it forever, that goodbye is going to be sooner rather than later and that she daren't imagine what will finally tip the balance. When she's in bed, afraid to turn out the lights, she wonders if he copes with this life because death isn't permanent for him. Because suffering is worth it for him. Because he really doesn't understand why that makes him the only selfless hero in the entire wretched universe.

She likes to think that she touches the need in him, when he finds her and touches her. That'd balance the times she's been cornered and afraid, lashing out at him for the wrong reasons. She's never even told him that she loves the TARDIS. She'll never love its unreliability, but she does love the rooms inside. She loves wandering through something alien when it's safe, and the TARDIS does the Doctor's bidding enough to do that much. It leads her to drinking water if she gets lost and she supposes that it could manage food as well, if the Doctor ever forgot to fetch her for that long. She should tell him how she feels, say that and half a dozen other things he's never heard her say, but they're all chinks in her armour and she'd be lost without it. She's already been lost once, a demon nesting in her mind, and won't let go of her last defences. Can't. Mustn't.

One day soon, it's going to be too late to say anything. She won't run fast enough or be good enough, and she's afraid to die. She can feel death there in her dreams, blood and venom turning her sleep to a nightmare world, so she sleeps less and less. Finding more places to wander she finds, slowly, that the Doctor stops finding her there. She can find her own way back now that she sees some of the subtle things that distinguish one corridor from another. A tiny crack in a roundel or a scuff on the floor. Strange, random ornaments, smells, feelings in her bones. She decides that the Doctor maps the world with way more than five senses, and things here begin to make sense to her.

When Tegan says as much, Nyssa only smiles. She knows about the dreams and says nothing, listens to everything. Does she know what goes on in the between times, after the squabbles and before the danger starts again? Tegan can never tell and doesn't really want to know. For all she knows, Nyssa has her own way of connecting with the Doctor. For all she knows, those times they're cloistered in the library or walking together in the stately gardens, they're not doing that at all. She doubts it. Nyssa is just a girl, after all. Nyssa is...

Nyssa is an alien too. Tegan notices it one day, out of nowhere and a soft surprise, like finding forgotten coins in her coat pocket or a new freckle on her arm. She gets the feeling that what makes Nyssa alien can all be learned, that they'd be more or less identical if you cut them open, but she isn't sure. Sometimes she feels alone just standing between the two of them. Nyssa and the Doctor, aliens speaking an alien language.

"You should tell the Doctor about your nightmare," Nyssa counsels, sitting close and holding Tegan's shaking hands one night. She's tolerant of sleeping with the lights on, patiently going over old ground when it happens, waking Tegan when she starts to sob and soothing her until she's calm again. "I'm sure that he'd know a way to help you."

"He wouldn't understand," Tegan tells her with absolute certainty, thanking her and putting out the light to prove that she's fine now. Until the next time.

*

The next time it happens she's alone on Earth in a dirty rented flat, and none of it even seems real. Aliens. Space travel. Dreams that she knows are more than dreams but mustn't ever acknowledge in daylight. Where's the Doctor now? She's still sure that he's real, if only because he's needed so badly.

Tegan sees the world with different eyes. Everything's filtered through the hard awareness that the people around her, the mundane problems and the selfish goals, they're all so bloody pointless. She wants to grab the woman who fires her; wants to shake her by the shoulders and tell her that there are monsters. Tegan says nothing. She smiles and leaves.

There's a time in between when everything just hurts. She cries for Adric and Aunty Vanessa and for herself, the way she's never had time to before. Travelling with a Time Lord, of all things, and he couldn't even spare them a minute for that. She remembers how it feels to be bored to tears and what her life was like before she found a direction. Her own and then his. Tegan tells herself 'chin up' and 'brave heart', but she's lost and she's lonely, and suddenly a lot less afraid of dying one day, because there are worse things.

When the Doctor saves her life again, she can't even muster surprise, as if tripping over him in her mind one day is nothing out of the ordinary. A planet the size of Earth, a universe too big to comprehend, one Doctor to save all of them, and they find each other again. Tegan's started to believe that some things are just meant to be.

The Doctor doesn't seem so sure. He offers no apologies for leaving her, and Tegan demands none. Too stubborn. She calls it strength.

Where Nyssa sees things simply restored to their rightful place, Tegan sees many things changed. The Doctor looks at her in a new way, from a greater distance, and he smiles less. Nyssa has stopped being a girl. Tegan doesn't know how long they travelled without her, whether they're both that much older or they only feel it. She cares but she doesn't ask. The Doctor watches her when he thinks she isn't looking, but she's looking, all right, and she sees troubles that run deep. She doesn't need to be a genius to work out that she's one of them. When he finally breaks the courteous silence between them, his voice is colder than she's ever known.

"Why are you here, Tegan?" He grips the edge of his precious shiny console and looks past her at a wall.

"Can you be more specific?" She hasn't forgotten how to get a rise out of him. He bristles at her tone, shoulders tightening, but speaks with determined calm.

"I rather gained the impression that this way of life wasn't for you."

"Mind reader, are you?" That's stupid. She knows full well that he is. "Look, it's unfinished business, all right? Do you think this doesn't change a person? For good?" She gestures at the off-white walls, and she's not afraid to look him in the eye. "Half of me never left here anyway." Part of her never will. She feels that sharply, in the next long silence. Part of her will always haunt the room she's shared with Nyssa, the places where she's hidden and wandered and wrapped herself around the Doctor. She can feel the ones who've come before, memories brushing past her like ghosts in the corridors. The TARDIS doesn't let go of the past, any more than this life of the Doctor's lets go of people.

"Then you have something to prove?"

"Is that so wrong?"

"Not at all." The Doctor tries a smile. Fails. "But it can be extremely dangerous."

"Since when did that worry you?" Her sarcasm is watered down with fondness and a little laugh, this time, but he looks into her eyes, hard and sincere, not knowing that she hasn't meant to be cruel.

"Always, Tegan."

The Doctor turns away.

There's danger, just like before, but Tegan enjoys herself now she's certain that she's chosen to be here. She listens to every alien word when the Doctor and Nyssa discuss how the TARDIS works, how time works, and even begins to understand a little of it. She watches and hands him the tools he names while he works under the console or behind the walls, knowing and yet not knowing that she's becoming invaluable to him against his will. That he's back to puzzling over her moods and her motives, whenever life leaves a moment free for something so mundane as people-watching.

"You've changed, Tegan," he remarks one evening, over tea in the great library. Nyssa has beaten them both soundly at chess and gone to bed smiling. The Doctor has been studying the same page of a fragile old book for half an hour, letting tea go cold at his elbow. Tegan waits for more, but he only adjusts his glasses on the end of his nose, crosses his ankles and turns the page.

"So have you." Tegan's on her third cup of strong tea. She doesn't want to sleep.

"Yes, I do rather make a habit of it." She's never sure that he's really listening to her when his answers are that vague and easy. She presses a little more.

"Is it a good thing, then?" He looks at her over the top of the specs, blank. "That I've changed?"

"Well, I don't know. Do you think so?"

"Yes." Tegan shrugs and pours a fourth cup. The pot's stewed now and the tea's bitter. No sleep, no dreams. "I suppose I do."

"Well then." He beams at her and turns back to the page he wasn't reading before.

She drifts off right there and dreams, waking when the Doctor tucks a tartan travel rug across her knees. He crouches beside her chair, studying her closely.

"Bad dreams?"

Tegan realises that he's holding one of her hands, two fingers stroking her pulse point. She's seen him do it to the terrified, the injured, the dying. She feels a rush of unnatural calm and wishes he'd teach her the trick.

"I... can't remember." It is the truth. She knows that she must have been having a nightmare, the nightmare, but he woke her and she honestly doesn't remember now. Not to know for sure. "I'm sorry, Doctor. Did I spoil your book?"

"Not at all." He pats her knee and rises, his gaze only lingering on her for a moment longer. He shelves his book, takes it back down, inserts a handkerchief as a bookmark and replaces it once more. Tegan feels too weary to move, but she doesn't want to be alone in here.

"Doctor?"

"Hmm?" He's pocketing his glasses, his mind already busy with whatever he's off to do next. He never rests, that she can see. He has a room, even a bed, but she's never known him to be in it.

"Would you stay with me?" For a few seconds, Tegan thinks he's going to pretend that he hasn't heard her. He hasn't moved at all. She can see the tension setting his shoulders. She can imagine the expression on his face and pushes down a false, face-saving laugh. "I don't mean..." She feels such a fool. "I mean, would you just sit with me? I'd rather not fall asleep."

"But you're tired." He turns smartly on the spot and frowns at her. "Completely exhausted, I'd say. What's going on?"

She almost confesses the thing she's so very afraid of, but to say it would make it real. She's too frightened even to allow herself to think it.

"Please, Doctor?" He goes back to his armchair and settles there, opposite her. Watching her. "Thanks."

The silence is awful. The Doctor fidgets and wears a fixed, pleasant expression. Tegan's too tired to make the effort.

"Perhaps we should have a talk?" He laces his hands together in his lap and tries to sound bracing. "About, well, things."

"Perhaps we shouldn't," Tegan smiles, daring him again. A kinder dare, this time, because he looks as if he'd rather die than try it. She didn't come back for him, for that. For him like that.

The most honest and charming self-deprecation comes over him, softening his face, his posture.

"Ah. Yes." He blushes as she keeps smiling at him, but he doesn't start trying to look through her or past her. He just looks down at his own hands. "Perhaps you're right."

"Tell me about Gallifrey?" It's mostly a lifeline for his dignity, but she really does want to know about the planet that made him and the people that sound perfectly happy to murder him.

The Doctor looks pleasantly surprised, relieved - flattered, even - and spends the next few hours telling her stories. Once or twice he darts off to find a book to illustrate a point or a face, but mostly he just talks to her and Tegan listens. She learns that he loves his home far too much to stay there and be stifled by it. That even civilisations capable of building the TARDIS have absurdly implausible legends and nursery rhymes. That Gallifrey has loads of beauty and backstabbing, musical mathematics, a tame black hole, an archive that keeps everything ever, and something that's like chocolate but isn't. That he has nothing and no-one calling him back there, besides duty.

When the morning comes and he's kept her safe from dreaming, Tegan bends over his chair, kisses his cheek, and thanks him sincerely. The Doctor gives her a strange look, and she's nearly sure that he knows what she refuses to know, but he doesn't say anything.

Tegan's only human, and the nightmare soon eats her alive. She's cold with terror and sick from the poisoned darkness, watching herself do terrible things. She twists in the wind, helpless, and doesn't even remember that she has a hero waiting in the wings. He saves her, of course he does, and then he sits with her on her bed and gives her time to weep and rage at how she's been used. She soaks his jacket with tears, right through to his shirt, and he tells her that he's sorry. That she's safe. That it's over.

"Why me?" She's lost count of how many times she's said it, how many times he's soothed her without giving an answer. "Doctor, why me?"

He rests his palm against her cheek, cooling her skin. Through the last of her tears and swollen eyes she sees such compassion in him. Such grief.

"Evil seeks to corrupt the pure and the good."

"Me?" Tegan laughs, wetly. The Doctor extracts a spotty silk handkerchief from somewhere and presses it into her hand.

"Yes, you," he says, with what feels like infinite patience. "Sleep, Tegan. You need it."

"Doctor--"

"You're safe now. I promise." He's strong and she feels weak, and he simply makes her lie down.

Exhaustion crashes through her, just as forceful as the terror and the storm of tears, the Doctor holds her hand, and for just one night she doesn't dream anything. When she wakes again it's Nyssa who's watching over her.

"Where's the Doctor?" she asks. Nyssa, misunderstanding completely, smiles and squeezes her hand.

"You're perfectly safe."

Tegan feels anything but.

He takes them to a couple of places that he expects to be safe and relaxing. One of them is and the other not; Tegan finds herself in hysterical tears as he shields her from gunfire and they drag her back to the TARDIS. The Doctor's good enough not to mention that she nearly got them all killed. Psychic shock, Nyssa says. Perfectly understandable, the Doctor says, and offers to teach her some simple meditation to help keep the demons at bay. She gives him a long, hard glare and goes to her room to sulk. The last place she wants to go is inside her own mind. Something uninvited crawled inside her and has left its mark there. The Doctor called her pure and says she's blameless, but she feels utterly filthy. Used and ashamed. He told her she was safe, but she's more frightened than ever. She comes so close to leaving.

"Brave heart, Tegan," he keeps telling her when she wavers. Half the time she wants to stuff the words down his throat, but then she sees the new and open respect in his eyes.

She stays.

Nyssa's sleep is always serene and Tegan envies her. She wonders if there's a trick to forgiving the universe like that, or if it's something aliens can do but she can't.

In the small hours, when she can't sleep, Tegan catches herself looking for the Doctor in odd places. The old places where they'd come across each other after their quarrels or their defeats. Things are tidier than she's remembered, but she doesn't know whether its her memory that's shifted or the Doctor's junk. He still has gadgets and tools and half-inventions lying about in workshops that smell dusty but aren't. He still has gardens that could do with a good prune. She finds a new door and goes through it to find about a thousand cucumbers growing unchecked under artificial lights, a project begun and forgotten. It starts to feel like more than random chance when she never finds the Doctor in any of these places.

He's silent and self-absorbed, when Nyssa leaves them. Tegan brings him food and he barely notices, though he remembers his manners and thanks her every time.

"I was just thinking," he says one day as she brings cheese and crackers to him in the console room. "How many times I've said goodbye." He looks at her as though hoping she might know the exact number. Tegan knows he's seen a lot of friends come and go, but her mind won't stretch around how long he's been doing all this and how many there must be. How old he is. Especially when he looks at her that way, like a little boy lost.

"Lots, I'll bet."

"Yes." His curious, wistful expression becomes a closed frown and he fiddles with something on the console that plainly doesn't need fiddling with.

"Less times than hello, though."

"True," the Doctor says, making the effort to brighten at last. He moves around the console, adjusting settings with what looks like some real purpose. Tegan still braces herself every time he does it, but he seems to be getting better at flying the thing safely, if not accurately. They stay on their feet. "That's very true. Thank you, Tegan." The smile she sees is small and private between them, and gone before Turlough joins them there for tea.

She can't say why she's happy, after all that's happened, but happy she is. She feels capable and smart and that she belongs somewhere. It's the feeling she was looking for when she set her sights on a life of travel. Back on Earth she could never have imagined the TARDIS, or any of the other things she's seen with the Doctor. Now it's harder to imagine anything different. It's a jolt when she comes across something from her own world and time, and it seems more alien than where she is. Who she's with.

The Doctor kisses her again one night, when the TARDIS is resting under an alien sky so that they can all mend for a while. It isn't the first time they've left a massacre behind them, but she's never seen him so sickened by the waste, so angry at himself and humanity. She's found him in an untidy corridor where half the lighting cells are run down, tinkering with the bell from his bent old bicycle as he paces up and down. He drops bell and tools with a clatter when she catches his elbow, and she puts her arms around his neck without permission. Tegan lets herself be a distraction, a comfort, whatever he needs, knowing that he'd give all his lives for her or anyone, that seeing too much death makes him doubt everything, and that he shouldn't always have to be strong.

It isn't the same as before. They quickly spook each other into stopping, and end up sitting against the wall, hand in hand and staring at their own knees.

There isn't any need to say anything.

*

There isn't a clear beginning to the end. Tegan will catch herself missing something simple from home, the way she used to at first when she felt like a prisoner instead of crew, victim instead of friend. She'll be drinking a pleasant, alien brew and wishing there was a good Chardonnay instead, or longing for a Cherry Ripe come that time of the month. Small, silly things that she can't ask the Doctor to help her get. He has better things to do and might just tell her so. Small things build up and it's not homesickness, not exactly, but it makes her think about the past more than she wants to.

She doesn't want the Doctor to misunderstand, when she asks him to take her home.

"My grandfather," she explains, leaning against the wall and watching him run threadlike wires from the console to some sort of blobby gadget that he's stuck in his pocket. "He's not getting any younger and Aunty Vanessa's not around to... I'd like to visit."

"Yes, I see. We'll certainly do our best, won't we, old girl?" He pats his TARDIS, ever optimistic.

"Just a visit," Tegan emphasises, even though they'll probably end up fighting injustice on the third moon of Zog instead of going home.

"A change is as good as a rest, etcetera. Yes." The Doctor grins at her, but she sees something hollow in it. She sees a future in which she's one of the many goodbyes and knows that he does too. That he always must, and that it costs him. "Besides, we're almost out of Assam." She decides he would've understood the small reasons better, after all. "Ah, but you can explain to Turlough why we're heading for Earth again," the Doctor calls as she leaves the room.

Tegan does that.

"Homesick?" She'd expected him to be snide about her little planet, or at least smirk at her. Instead, he sounds as if he understands all too well how she feels. It throws her.

"A little, maybe," she admits. She still doesn't think that it's home she's sick for, and it's certainly not her grandfather. She doesn't know the man well enough to miss him, there was usually half a planet between them even before she came with the Doctor, but she remembers that it's green and peaceful where he lives. There's a little pub with real ale, a bus twice a week, and they play cricket on the village green. Tegan doesn't miss any one of those things. She's never known those, either. She's grateful that Turlough doesn't press her for more.

It's good to find her grandfather alive and well, but a shock to find the old village in danger. The Doctor's kind of danger. It follows him, Tegan thinks, heart sinking as she watches a hazy English sunset. The mayhem and the dying, the evil that touches where she can't bear to be touched any more. It never washes out. It came here with him and that's what she travels with, what she risks with every step by his side.

Tegan knows that isn't fair. Evil was waiting here all along and he came at the right time and defeated it. It's what he does. It's who he is. He copes with it by moving on, never looking back. She's tried to do that too, but there's a limit. She's only human.

The Doctor sits beside her at a hastily prepared reunion dinner, pleasant and polite without really saying anything or eating much. Turlough has too much Chardonnay and volunteers to go up to London tomorrow for some Assam, since there's nothing else for him to do here. Her grandfather makes up her mum's old room, no matter how much she protests that she can sleep in the TARDIS, and by the time she's given in to him she realises that the Doctor has already left without her.

"Strange young man you've got yourself there, Tegan," her grandfather says, his misplaced approval making her blush.

"You have no idea," she promises, and wishes him goodnight.

She sleeps badly, half expecting to hear the TARDIS leave without her, but the Doctor's out and about in the village at the crack of dawn. Tegan watches him from the little window, not used to seeing him at loose ends. He's hopeless at it, apparently. He wanders for a while before disappearing back into the TARDIS, and she finds him there later, cross-legged on the console room floor, happily repairing something from the ship's innards.

"To each their own, Tegan," he mumbles around a mouth full of wires, when she suggests being outside in the sunshine and relaxing, instead.

Tegan takes him at his word and calls a taxi to take her shopping in the nearest town. Chocolate and wine, lipstick and shoes. She and the Doctor regard the fruits of each other's labour with polite smiles, come sundown, equally content to accept without true understanding.

They go with her grandfather to the pub for a village meeting that evening, but hang back against the wall nearest the door while things are debated and settled. Tegan's grateful to be on Earth and with Granddad, but she doesn't belong here with these people. She and the Doctor are accepted because of the trouble they went to, drinks are freely offered, but she doesn't feel welcome. She wonders if this is how the Doctor always feels.

"Turlough could've made the effort," Tegan mutters, sipping lemonade.

"Oh, he isn't back yet." The Doctor pushes his hands into his pockets. "I think he was quite glad of the time to himself." He bounces on his heels, the first outward sign that he's as uncomfortable standing here as she is. "I'm sorry. It was churlish of me to try and whisk you both away like that. I have been promising you a rest."

"Only for the last six months," Tegan laughs. It's a wild guess. She has no real idea of how long it is since she stepped into the TARDIS, how long since Adric gave his life, since they defeated the Mara, or how long since they tried to rest at the Eye of Orion. Time matters less, in a time machine.

They're attracting dirty looks from the assembled, now. Giggling in the back row like kids in school, while one earnest voice after another drones on at the front. Nobody mentions aliens.

"Come on." She leaves her drink on a table and pulls on the Doctor's sleeve. "They don't need your help for this."

He follows her outside and stops to admire the view beyond the car park. It's a beautiful evening, warm but fresh. You'd never believe that evil once lived here, or just died here.

Tegan feels strange and self-conscious, leading the Doctor anywhere with intent. She feels the hesitation as he follows, lets curiosity alone persuade him to join her in the little attic room. He can't help himself with anything new. Has to explore, to know. It's never been anything sought-after or negotiated before. Never questioned after the fact. God, but she's glad about that.

The Doctor watches her, patient and fascinated, while she watches their fading reflections in the two mirrors. One on the dresser, one on the wall, betraying all his unpolished movements, all the calculated precision of his touch, and just how sharply they contrast. He only shuts his eyes when she kisses him, and even when the light's gone and she can't see any more, only feel him meeting a deepening, sweetening ache, she feels herself studied. Only a fragment of him ever loses itself in the moment, in his passing obsessions. It's safer for everyone that way.

When she's cool again, lying still and breathing evenly, he pushes back the sheet and gets up. Finds clothes. Moves silently so as not to wake her, even though he has to know she isn't sleeping. She doesn't think he looks at her at all.

The heavy iron latch lifts on the front door. Her grandfather stamps and scuffs at the foot of the stairs, then closes the door with a slam that shakes the floorboards. Throws the noisy old bolts shut and goes about his business.

The Doctor freezes. Sighs. Whispers something alien that she hardly needs translated for her and hopes that she'll remember.

"You could climb out of the window," Tegan suggests, trying not to laugh. He could just finish dressing and leave, give Granddad a smile and a goodnight on his way out, but she thinks he might rather drop dead. She's had a glimpse of his world, now - the elaborate facade, the emptiness and corruption beneath the costume and ceremony, and how he runs from it all because there's more to him than that, or could and should be. She's known all along that this intimacy is alien to him, just something tried for size that doesn't quite fit him. "You could stay."

"Stay?"

"You do sleep, don't you?" She isn't completely sure. She's seen him unconscious and in a trance, resting with his eyes shut, but never actually sleeping.

"When I must."

Tegan sighs, reaching for the switch on the lamp. He blocks her hand with his own, a sharp movement. For just a second, she's afraid.

"...Doctor?"

She hears an indrawn breath. Sharp. Slow exhalation.

"I suppose I am rather tired." His tone leaves her in absolutely no doubt that it's not true. His hand falls away.

"What was it you said?" Tegan tries not to sound too sour. "Churlish?"

"That's not fair," he protests, controlled and painfully patient. Actually managing to sound hurt.

"Nothing ever is. What's it going to be? I'd like some sleep." She turns her back to him, leaving room for him if he wants it. Doesn't know why this, now, is making her feel wrong and wronged, making her snap at him like she didn't know him better than to expect he'd accept this inconvenience.

His weight moves the mattress. The bed's hardly big enough for two. He leans over her, watching again. Puts a hand on her hip, and the touch feels timid.

"I've hurt your feelings?" She doesn't think he meant it to be a question.

"You really don't know, do you? I thought you knew everything about everything."

"One can never know everything." His hand moves, tentative, up her arm to her shoulder. Rubs and squeezes, still just going through the motions. For her sake. "Particularly when the subject is--" Tegan braces herself "--quite so complex as a human being."

She stifles a weepy laugh with her hand as Granddad tramps up the stairs, past her door. It isn't even locked. The Doctor's hair tickles the back of her neck, as if he's hiding behind her. That'd be a first. She finds his hand and grips it, shaking with almost-giggles. He lets out an exasperated sigh, but presses her fingers in return.

"Brave heart, Doctor," she whispers, and knows without seeing that he's smiling.

*

Tegan can look back from her safe and pleasant life, seeing everything clearly without once being able to isolate the exact moment that the decision was made. She remembers that the regrets had already started, and the grief. That she was falling apart and that the Doctor couldn't see it. Too close, she thinks now. He was too close to notice when she stopped bending and began to break. His kind words and occasional smiles were only running repairs, friendship was a tragedy waiting to happen, and time did too much damage.

Her only regret now is that it came to that wrenching goodbye. She cherishes the rest, even the dark times and the memories of a touch that was never loving but always fond. Tegan can sit and remember and smile to herself the whole time, letting the ordinary world flow around her with the memories of another life as her constant.

Sometimes there are rumours, strange lights in the sky, happenings dismissed as hoaxes and natural phenomena. Tegan knows better and collects them in her mind, imagining him there causing chaos, mending what he can, defeating evil then home in time for tea.

She's forever half waiting for a glimpse of a familiar fair face, an outfit out of place, a blue box, a smile of recognition on a strange man's lips. Her name said the way only the Doctor ever said it. A reckoning. She wants that. She doesn't want it. It plays out in her dreams and sometimes they're nightmares. But Tegan isn't afraid of anything, any more, and it hasn't happened anyway.

Not yet.

END