There’s something you need to know, and no-one tells you about it until it happens.
There’s always an after.
It’s sort of like when there’s a television in the room. Your eyes just go to it, even as the rest of you zones out.
Except it’s not an it. That’s her. That’s Nan.
Ryan’s teeth clench and his brain goes really quiet, like it’s in lockdown.
Graham’s sat on the ground, which is going to mess up his legs and back, his hands pressed to his mouth. Yaz has gone off and is ‘calling it in’, whatever that means. Ryan wonders if she’s ever had to do this before, and now she’s done it twice.
No, three times. Did she call in the woman? How has he seen enough dead people today he can forget one?
Four. Security guard. God.
The woman came down from the crane. Scanned Nan with that sonic whatever, but she didn’t do anything. She’d have probably done something if there was anything to be done. Seems to be what she does, for all they’ve got out of her.
“Sname ut.” Ryan mumbles, and grits his teeth in anger this time. Even now he’s fucking things up. “What’s your name?” He over-enunciates, without properly looking at her.
She shifts though, and his eyes automatically flick to her, as she wraps her arms around herself and looks - strangely - exactly how he feels right now.
“I’m the Doctor.” She whispers.
And with that, he knows Nan’s dead. Because she doesn’t sit up and laugh.
There are Police, and medics, and Yaz has gone, and they’ve had to leave the car because Graham can’t drive it, and he actually can’t drive it, and the Doctor says she doesn’t know if she can but Graham says it doesn’t matter because she wouldn’t be insured anyway, and they’ve had to say things, and sign things, and sit around, and wait, and drink awful tea.
The only thing that stands out clearly post-alien that isn’t a mixed up blur, is a moment around maybe five, or seven, or something with dawn light, he’s shit with time at- well, at the best of times.
Someone - there are so many different people - is trying to find out what happened from the Doctor, get a statement maybe. They have her in a separate room, and all of a sudden they hear her shouting. Repeating herself, her name. Again and again, faster and faster.
He doesn’t move. He can’t. Body has stopped. Ears are on, but everything in his brain is full of fuzz. For a second he isn’t even sure that’s not him. It sounds like it could be.
Graham jumps to his feet, out of the weird comfy waiting room chair, even though he’s probably aching from everything.
“Alright, we’re done now, you can do that later.” Graham says loudly as he crosses the hall. It’s what Nan would have done for him. If he was the Doctor. But she’d have helped her too. If she was him. Everything and everyone is all mixed up. Even more than usual.
A few moments later, Graham returns, chivvying the Doctor into his vacated chair. She’s walking a bit like he does on a bad day. The Dinosaur Stomp, Nan used to call it. But the Doctor’s hands are pressed to her eyes, which his don’t; and she rocks a little back-and-forth when curled up in the chair, which he doesn’t think he does; and then she makes a low, unpleasant groaning noise, which he definitely doesn’t - but he’s known enough other ‘special’ kids that do.
Graham throws his hands in the air and storms out. Ryan’s inner voice tells him it’s because he’s angry that now there’s two of them to deal with. But a voice that sounds like Nan tells him it’s that he’s angry with the Police, not with them.
“Are you having a panic attack?” Ryan asks thickly, and a little too loud - words still collapsed.
The Doctor flaps her hands loudly.
“Ok.” He says, and leaves her alone.
In the corridor, there are a lot of professional and calm-sounding noises, interspersed with Graham’s gruff grumbling. “...got enough...can go.” “Won’t...autopsy?” “...unlikely.” “...get through to him?” “...informed...”
“We won’t tell.” Ryan bursts out, as the thought crosses his mind. It doesn’t really explain what he wants to say - that there’s supposed to be an unwritten code not to bring this stuff up, or let it change your opinions of people, or to remember it any more than you have to. Ryan sticks to that code. Graham breaks those rules sometimes - but if Ryan is honest, he knows he’s still better than most people. And Nan would never-
...He’s never going to have her to trust with his weaknesses ever again. His failures. That’s all gone. Not even just for him. For everyone. She’s gone, she’s gone-
There’s another moaning noise.
The Doctor flaps one hand at him softly.
The noise stops.
They look at each other, glassy eyes to glassy eyes, and Ryan wonders if she gets the same feeling of being unable to actually see him as he has for her right now.
A cough he knows well comes from the doorway. Graham waves them over, exhausted.
The cab that’s been called for them is ridiculously expensive, even though he sort of assumed it would be on the house. Graham empties his wallet.
“Cheaper to get one of those bloody app things.”
“Lyft.” Ryan mumbles.
“Yeah, that’s the one.” Graham says, as he fishes for keys.
They couldn’t have done that anyway, now the Doctor’s bricked his phone, and Yaz isn’t here.
As if he’d said it out loud, the Doctor pulls his mobile out of her pocket and furrows her brow.
“I can fix it.” She says. But he’s pretty sure she’d say that even if she couldn’t.
Fuck it. There’s no-one he wants to call any more.
They file quietly into the house. The Doctor dithers on the doorstep, plucking threads off her raggedy jacket.
Are fairies aliens? Are aliens fairies?
“You’re invited.” He says, just accepting that every thought is going to come straight out of his mouth right now.
The Doctor opens her mouth to say something, and finally looks him in the eyes again. She looks dead on her- She looks really tired.
Her shoulders drop and she sighs, coming in and closing the door behind her.
“Food?” Graham asks flatly from the kitchen. It seems like a long shot.
“Nah, I’ll just. Bed.” Ryan says, turning to the Doctor, who shakes her head as if they’d just offered her a plate of dead squirrel.
“Dunno what I like.” She says. And then quiet enough so only Ryan can hear her adds, “And that’s supposed to be a fun bit.”
Graham reappears, picking out of a box of cereal.
“Bed then.” Graham says, flicking his head at Ryan towards the stairs. “You want the other bed, or?” He asks the Doctor, who shakes her head at this too, and in fact might not have stopped from before.
“My bed’s in there.” She says, pointing towards the living room with the hand that still holds his phone. Ryan’s not sure if the bizarre surety of that statement is a tiredness thing, or a ‘her brain works differently’ thing.
“I’ll find you a duvet somewhere.” Graham says tiredly, as the Doctor opens the living room door.
“I’m alright. Cheers.” She says, darting through and shutting the door on them.
“There’s a throw on the side if you need it.” Graham says, and there’s another muffled “cheers” in reply.
They both stare at the door for a bit.
“Right, bed. Get me if you need me, or if...” Graham waves his hand in the direction of the Doctor. If she does something. If there’s a problem. If there are more aliens. Too many ‘ifs’ to list.
Ryan nods, but when he’s at the top of the stairs, he sees that Graham hasn’t moved.
“And, uh, same.” Ryan says down to him. Graham gives him the bus driver nod that passes for a smile, and Ryan takes it as his cue to leave.
He wants to say he can’t sleep.
Who sleeps after someone they love dies?
But he does.
The house creaks as Graham starts moving around, and it wakes Ryan up.
For a moment everything comes flooding back, but then it’s like his brain jams from the force of it, and to save time it drops everything that isn’t immediately important.
1) Nan is dead.
2) It’s three o’clock and he should eat something.
That will do for now, and after putting his trousers on backwards twice somehow, he sleepily shuffles down to the kitchen.
An unhappy moan comes from the crack in the living room door as he passes.
3) An alien slept on their couch this morning.
Ryan wonders whether he should check on her. But he’s not sure if she’s actually awake or not - or which of those options would be more awkward, for that matter.
“Bill...m’sorry...” Ryan thinks he hears her whisper. He’s 90% sure that the noises she’s making are bad ones. But even so, maybe better not get involved. Just hope that this Bill was a good guy.
It’s all a moot point anyway, as he bangs off the kitchen door as he enters, sending it flying back against the wall, and he hears a snort and gasp of shock from the living room.
“Bloody hell, Ryan!” Graham growls, startled.
“Sorry.” He says, rubbing his shoulder and flinching away. “Sorry.”
Graham has an actual teapot on the side of the sink. One of Nan’s friend’s handmade cosies on it. Even on the rare occasions they get it out, they never have it on the table because he’s so unsteady, the draining board is just more practical.
Graham puts bowls and mugs and spoons and cereal on the table.
“If you want anything else, you can make it.” Graham says, not really unkindly, just tiredly.
“You sleep?” Ryan asks, trying to be...something. Graham pours himself some tea, stirs in milk, and taps his spoon on the edge.
“...It’s like she’s just on the night shift. I keep on expecting her back.” Graham sighs. “You?”
“Alright.” Ryan says, and Graham nods.
There’s a soft pad of feet, and the Doctor appears in the entrance, sleep-ruffled and younger looking than the alien genius superhero of early last night.
“Not-Breakfast?” Ryan offers, in case she’s not sure what’s going on. She was pretty woozy when she woke up before.
The Doctor nods and winces at the cold lino on her bare feet, stepping back on the carpet.
“I regenerated my feet last.” She says, looking at them. “So I could run. First time I’ve managed to control it like that. But now my shoes and socks don’t fit.”
Ryan’s really not sure he gets what she’s talking about, but he gets the last bit at least. He looks at her feet - not in a creepy way - sizing them up.
“We‘ll find something.” Ryan says.
They look close enough to Nan’s size. And he might not be sure of a lot of things, but he knows that Nan would’ve offered. Would have insisted.
It’s like herding a cat to get her to sit at the table, she prefers to skitter back and forth, picking things up and putting them down. She’s a little twisted up and squirming, like she really needs to-
“Toilet’s under the stairs.” Ryan says, picking the closest one that doesn’t need directions.
The Doctor darts off, letting the sound of slamming doors reverberate around the house.
He and Graham laugh into their cereal, even though he’s not sure why it’s so funny.
There’s a yelp, and a sudden bang.
They look at each other, but nothing else happens, so Britishness takes over - they ignore it, and get on with their not-breakfast.
When she returns, smelling of soap and looking a lot more comfortable as she pulls a bowl towards her, Graham breaks the rules again.
“You alright? Seat didn’t fall off did it? It’s done it before, I’ve just been faffing about not putting the new one on.”
“Nah,” The Doctor says, reaching for the cereal and looking at it suspiciously. At least it’s the nicer one with raisins in. “It’s just been a while since I’ve run on this hardware. Hadn’t thought through logistics.”
Ryan doesn’t really want to work out what she means, and instead, without Nan to say “Let me do that love”, gets up to try and pour tea without burning himself.
He spends a few hours at his desk, trying to write something for Nan. Something to say about what she did, what she meant.
There’s gonna be a funeral.
He can’t do public speaking. YouTube’s different - you can just record it again and again when you mess up. Maybe he can do a video.
When he comes down for a drink, he looks into the living room, where Graham’s sat with his head resting in his hands, and the Doctor’s piling up brightly coloured notebooks and flicking through them.
“There are just so many people.” Graham mutters, defeatedly.
“There are a lot of doubles...” The Doctor says with a stab at optimism, but pulls a face. “You have to call all these people?” She asks disbelievingly, the gossamer-thin mask slipping away.
“How else are they gonna know?” Graham says into his palms.
“Her Facebook and stuff might still be logged in. I could post something.” Ryan says, causing them to start and look up at him. It’s the last thing he wants to do, but he’s got to do something, right? He doesn’t know her logins, but he knows her passcode at least. “Where’s her phone?”
Where is her stuff?
The Doctor thinks there was probably a bag, Graham swears he remembers holding something, and all Ryan can see is a turquoise waiting room, that when he really thinks about it, was actually the one after Mum died, not Nan. It just feels like that was yesterday right now.
Graham phones around; there was indeed a bag, they left it behind, and they can pick it up whenever.
He immediately starts getting his coat on.
“I need to get the keys to Eddie so he can drive the car here anyway. If I go now I can catch the Seventy-Two, do this, then get the Seventy-Five near enough to where he is.” Graham shoves his feet into broken-backed trainers. “You, keep an ear on the door,” he says to Ryan. “And you,” Graham says, looking at the Doctor and actually pointing at her. “Look after him.”
Ryan barely manages to splutter out a sound of offence, but the Doctor immediately has her shoulders back, nods, and would probably have clicked her heels together had she been wearing any bloody shoes.
Apparently he is Serious Business, and completely incompetent of looking after himself. Great.
“Do you want some beans on toast?”
“Cus Nardole looked after me, and that usually meant beans on toast. Or laundry, or lecture planning, or forms, or taxes, or shopping, or cleaning, or proper cooking. But I can’t really do any of that stuff - that’s why Nardole did it - but I can do beans on toast. Or tinned spaghetti.” She adds, as if this is a vital piece of information that might just swing it for him. “Or cuddles I suppose, that’s another one, I might be a hugger this go around, and either way-”
“Nope, no, I’m, uh, I’m good thanks.” Ryan says, backing up a step. “Who’s Nardole?”
“You just said- Wasn’t it Nardole? You said they looked after you?”
The Doctor shrugs and looks blankly at him, and he’s pretty sure he’s stepped into some sticky situation - not for the first time - so he backs off. Life is complicated. People are complicated. You don’t have to know everything.
“Do you want some beans on toast? Cus if not, I’ll...” The Doctor starts looking around the room for something to do, and this seems a far more dangerous situation.
“Alright, yeah. Beans on toast. If we’ve got any.”
She perks up considerably, and three smoke alarms, two melted forks, and one possibly-broken microwave later, they’re sat down to a perfectly acceptable beans on toast, which probably wasn’t worth the material cost to the kitchen. And he burns himself twice, after she informs him that she doesn’t make tea, if he wants it he can make it himself, and actually he could do her a coffee while he’s at it.
Ryan’s trying to help the Doctor cross-match address books, when the doorbell goes.
His heart sinks at the fluorescent yellow jacket visible through the glass, but luckily it’s the best case scenario.
“Hiya. You alright? Thought I’d pop in. Well, sort of have to really, so it’s all worked out. Unless you don’t want to see me, in which case you’re welcome to have another officer handle-”
“Come in.” He says, and then over his shoulder, “Yaz is here!”
“Hey Yaz!” Shouts the Doctor back, and Yaz smiles as she tries to get through the entrance with all her Police gear.
“Sorry it’s a bit of a mess.” He says automatically, like there’s a bit of Nan inside him permanently now.
“No, no, don’t worry, this is nothing.” Yaz says, picking her way through open notebooks to sit on the chair the Doctor pats for her. “What’re you doing?”
“Going through Nan’s phonebooks to contact people.” Ryan answers. Yaz winces apologetically.
“I’m making a spreadsheet.” The Doctor says proudly from the floor, as if she hadn’t reformatted his phone into alien tech in about five seconds. Or maybe doing something normal for a change is a reason for her to be proud of herself, who knows.
Yaz pulls a stack of pamphlets from her pocket.
“Uh, I dunno if you’ve got ‘em already or anything, but I wasn’t sure if they’d be helpful, so I thought I’d grab all of them.” Ryan takes them and nods, the ‘thank you’ getting stuck in his throat somewhere. “I don’t mean to- I just- but have you, uh, looked into, the uh, ‘certificate of death’ and ‘death certificate’ bits yet? They’re two different things, need the first to get the second, and you can’t really do anything or arrange...stuff unless you’ve got em.”
Ryan’s teeth clench, and the Doctor, surprisingly, answers for him.
“First one, can’t do anything til Tuesday they said?” She replies, looking up at him. He nods. “Couldn’t sign it on Sunday cus Sunday, and couldn’t do it on Monday for... No, they will do it Monday, it’s just it can’t be picked up til Tuesday.”
“Cus it takes three days to be sure she’s definitely dead.” He blurts out. It all goes quiet, and he regrets it instantly.
“Right, I’ll call Wilma first - no, but then she’ll start calling everyone.”
“But you said if she heard it from someone else first-”
“I know what I said.” Graham snaps at him.
Ryan goes back to drafting his post. So much for trying to help. The Doctor reorders her spreadsheet.
“Oh, and Kamilla will go and do that bloody WhatsApp stuff, so maybe she should go further down. Or up?” The Doctor taps away again. “Oh, why do I have to decide all this bloody stuff!” Graham shouts, and Nan’s phone slips from Ryan’s hands, bouncing harmlessly on the sofa.
“I-” The Doctor starts, looking like she’s going to regret saying whatever it is. “Look, I haven’t really known many nurses, but I knew one, and he definitely had a will and this,” she gestures, “Plan Box thing. For if he didn’t come back.” She adds, very quietly.
He and Graham look at each other like they’re both idiots for a second, and Graham steps through all the mess, to - as Ryan knows - the top shelf in Nan’s wardrobe.
He comes back with a small flowery suitcase, a relieved but sad smile, and a pair of brown boots.
“Here you go love, try those on.” Graham says, dropping the shoes by the Doctor, and putting the suitcase on the coffee table as he sits down.
“The Just In Case.” Ryan says, huffing a laugh for some reason.
“Is that what it’s called? Ha. Always good with words.” Graham replies, and they just look at it for a while, eyes tracing the flower stickers that are maybe supposed to make this better somehow.
“You gonna try those on?” Graham asks suddenly, and Ryan looks up to see the Doctor focussed on the boots, stroking the soft leather.
“Not the right time yet. Later. When I’m ready. I’ll ball up some socks for now or su’ming. It’s gotta be right. Needs a plan.”
“A shoe plan?” Graham says and Ryan can feel the bad humour coming like a bus towards him, and tries to give Graham Nan’s ‘NO’ glare. “Typical wo-uuuh... You. Got to have a plan for everything.” Graham says, looking at him as if to ask if that was alright. It’s not a terrible save at least. And the Doctor doesn’t seem to have noticed.
The Just In Case seems to have everything in it. There’s even a list of people to contact ‘In this order - trust me!’ up to 2017. That’s close enough for most of them.
Graham calls up the funeral people on the leaflet in the case, who can at least collect the- collect her, apparently they only really need to have the certificate for the... the last bit. It’s all done by the same people, so they’ll handle everything. Nan always liked things to be as easy for everyone as possible - apparently this was no different.
Graham asks him about times, and they set a rough date for Saturday at one o’clock. They both agree that she’d hate to be hanging around.
“At least I can give people the details now when they ask, eh?” Graham says, and immediately grabs the call list to set to it - the spreadsheet mostly forgotten.
“I’ll make some tea. And coffee.” Ryan says, which makes Graham look up at him in surprise.
“Good lad.” Graham says, as the Doctor butts in, “Three spoons of instant and sugar til it’s saturated.”
She’ll get one-and-a-half spoons and five sugars, because he’s pretty sure the mixture she wants will kill her, alien or not.
When he returns with one cup on a slightly swimming tray - two at once is never going to happen - he almost wishes he’d scalded himself so he wouldn’t be here right now.
There’s a woman’s voice gabbling shrilly on the phone held to Graham’s ear, and his eyes are wide and red and shining.
The Doctor looks at him and gestures like she doesn’t know what to do, but clearly wants him to do something.
Graham shuts his eyes and lets out a sudden sob.
The Doctor screws up her face for a second, then points at him and then to Graham as if to say ‘You take care of him,’ and then she pulls the phone from Graham’s hand.
“Hello there, Kamilla isn’t it? Sorry, bit of a difficult moment for everyone, I’m-” She waves her free hand in the air, clearly searching for a lie. “Doctor Song. Yes, no, I’m not Grace’s doctor, but I was with her when she died.”
Ryan puts the tea tray down, slopping even more of the mug’s contents into the puddle, and awkwardly pats Graham’s arm. It’s not fair, why couldn’t he do the phone, and she do the comforting? He’d probably be saying the reverse if that had happened, but still, he doesn’t know how to do this.
Graham pinches the bridge of his nose and gathers himself quickly, taking the two-thirds of a tea, and wiping the bottom of the mug on his jeans so it doesn’t drip.
“Good lad.” He says again, thickly, while they watch the Doctor press herself into the corner, head against the wall, occasionally moving away and flapping her hand when she needs to find and trap another lie, like Peter Pan with a wayward fairy.
It takes forty minutes for one phone call. The Doctor collapses with a groan that sounds distinctly like ‘Humans’, and puts her bare feet up on the coffee table - one straight into the wet tray.
“Right, Wilma. Do you wanna do her?” The Doctor asks, eyes closed, accent thickening again, and slurring slightly like she’s just ran a marathon.
“I’ve got it, it just was a bit much, she’s very full on is Kamilla.” Graham says, and the Doctor shakes her head.
“Question. Answer. Do you wanna?”
“Well no, but-”
The Doctor opens her eyes again and starts dialling the second number on the list.
“Thought I ordered coffee.” She says tiredly, before someone picks up the phone and she sounds perfectly awake and scripted again.
The Doctor comes into the kitchen while he’s stirring her coffee. Two spoons and six sugars now. He needs more ways to thank her.
“You know, you don’t have to do this.” Ryan says.
“I do, actually.” The Doctor sighs, reaching around him for the mug.
“No, like even though you want to help - and you are helping, you really are - you don’t have to do this. You got rid of the alien. You don’t have to do this bit too.”
The Doctor gulps half her hot coffee in one go.
“I never do do this bit. I always save the day then run like hell. Every time. So, yeah, I have to do this. I have to help. I have to stay. I’ve got to draw a line under all this. Seven in a row. I lost seven in a row. And I never went back, not once, not one single time - didn’t even tell anyone they’d died. So I’m gonna do this, and I’m gonna do it properly, and Grace is not going to be number eight in the list of people in a row I’ve done badly by, but first in the list of ones I’ll do right by. She was dutiful and brave and helpful and funny and kind, and the first face this face saw, and that matters. I’ve got to do right by her, or I’ll never forgive myself, and I’m telling you, I have had enough of self-hatred.”
The Doctor downs the rest of her coffee.
“Does that make any sense?”
Somehow, yeah, it really does.
One script ripped up. One take. One hour. One more thing to do.
Push down, push down, don’t lean- DON’T LEAN!
It’s not that he’s worse when she’s watching - he couldn’t be any worse, but it’s still embarrassing.
The Doctor isn’t like Nan, or Graham. She stands well back, and doesn’t shout encouragement, or dust him off, or treat him like a child. He’s never been sure how he feels about ‘riding lessons’ and he’s not sure now. It’s hard to tell if what she’s doing is better or worse. Just different, he supposes.
He can see her in his peripheral vision every time he turns to get back up the hill a bit.
Ryan can’t tell what she’s thinking, she’s too far away for a start, and he wonders if it’s anything more than making sure he doesn’t accidentally break his neck - ostensibly the reason she’s here.
Well actually, he just tried to sneak out at 6:00am, and she noticed, and he flicked his head to ask if she wanted to come with him. It’s not really been a discussion as such.
On one of his falls, something metal bangs into his knee, and it hurts enough to lie there in the grass for a bit.
He’s used to pain. Sort of. It’s weird. It’s always too much, or too little. He’s yelled his head off at a needle prick, and walked around with a broken finger for three days. Dyspraxia - it’s a lottery.
The Doctor - he assumes - taps his face.
“M’ok.” He says. “Just resting my eyes.”
The Doctor pushes at his leg until he remembers how to move it, so she can disentangle him from the bike, and pull it upright.
It takes him a little more time to get upright himself, stretching his leg out until his knee feels normal again.
He wanted to do it. Suddenly be able to ride the damn thing. Wanted to keep going til he got it. But he can hear Nan telling him to stop, that there’s always tomorrow, not do himself an injury.
Ryan sets off down the hill on foot - which honestly is hard enough on its own - and the Doctor follows, wheeling the bike.
“You can ride it down if you want. I’ll be a while anyway.”
The Doctor looks at the bike suspiciously and shakes her head.
“It’s no spaceship, huh?”
The Doctor turns away, looking out into the sky. He knows he’s misjudged it, and feels a wave of guilt.
“It’s alright, you’ll get it back.” He says, and immediately trips in a rabbit scrape because he’s not looking where he’s going.
The Doctor catches him with an arm.
“I’ll make sure you do.” Ryan says, staring at his feet, making a promise he knows he can’t keep. But he would try though, he sends out to the universe, just in case something is listening. He’d really try.
The Doctor peers around his room.
She looks somewhat soppily at his wall of photos. Ryan gets the feeling it’s not really directed at him. But almost immediately her brow furrows.
“Why sixty-four? I mean, good number - not great, but good - square number, building block of computations, both digits add up to ten, very mathematically pleasing, but why? And why in rows of eleven rather than ten?”
He’s learned a few things about the Doctor, he thinks.
1) She takes in information very quickly.
2) She still gets overloaded by it, especially if it’s from people, not things.
3) She’ll hypocritically ask loads of questions, in any sort of order, on every single whim, in a way she’d hate to deal with herself.
It’s not a judgement. Just an observation.
The Doctor swings around to his desk, and she bends with her hands behind her back. She stares at his paintbrush and pencil and ‘stuff that’s long and thin’ container as if memorising the contents, his camera, the random bits that aren’t really mess, they just look like it. The Doctor spends quite a few seconds looking at the model Beefeater. Her fingers twitch, but she keeps one wrist clasped tight.
“You can pick it up.” Ryan says, surprised by her...respect. Maybe it’s because of the phone thing.
The Doctor picks up the Beefeater very carefully, examining it, and starts mumbling under her breath, as if the intense processing has to come out somehow, like steam.
“Never cruel, never cowardly, never give up, never give in, funny how the universe works, fear is a superpower, with great power comes great responsibility, why something with no responsibility then, not really, doesn’t make sense, doesn’t want to let them down, doesn’t want to fail, but all that’s art, it’s documenting, remembering, that’s a journalist, a director, a historian, a psychologist, that’s someone who saw me do some very impressive stuff and didn’t ask how- You’re doing your what in Mechanics?”
“NVQ.” Ryan says, shuffling, not really wanting to get into it. She keeps looking at him long after he’s looked away.
Eventually she looks back at the Beefeater. Sniffs it. Tips it upside-down. “Made in London. Wonder why you’d lie about that.”
And she sets it back on his desk.
“When is it?” The Doctor asks, tapping at Ryan’s phone while she stretches out over the chair.
“When’s what?” Graham replies.
“When’s now? What’s the when?” She asks.
Ryan knows that feeling. It’s like time has gone all over the place - stretching like bubblegum, or popping like- well, like bubblegum. Does that make it a good metaphor or a bad one?
“It’s 11:46am, on Wednesday the third of October.” Yaz says brightly.
“When-uh?” The Doctor asks sulkily, jabbing the phone. She clearly has no patience for things not going her way. He shouldn’t relate. Definitely does though.
“Um, 2018?” Yaz adds questioningly, and the Doctor groans loudly.
“Of course it is. Would be, wouldn’t it.” She drops the phone on the coffee table with a clatter. “Can’t I just buy you a new one of these?”
“Do you have money?” Ryan asks. The Doctor gives him a look, and then picks the phone back up again and resumes tapping it.
“Stupid empty pockets...” She mutters to herself.
“Right. I know you probably want some time alone, so I’ll see you, day after tomorrow?” Yaz says, pulling her jacket on.
The Doctor looks up and around at them, while he and Graham make their protests and goodbyes.
Ryan walks Yaz to the door.
Now she’s got him on his own, she corners him, like a lion picking a gazelle off from the herd. Or that's what it feels like, anyway.
“You, uh, get through to your Dad again?” Yaz asks.
“Phone’s broken.” He says quickly.
“That’s not the only-”
“Can’t use Nan’s, it’ll show her name on the top, that’d be messed up.”
“He needs it.”
Yaz gives him a look, and he knows it’s only pity that keeps her from calling him out on his bullshit. He feels like he’s nine again.
“Have you at least called in work?”
“I’m not an idiot, Yaz.”
“Never said you were.” She shakes her head and backs up a step. “You’ll at least ring me, if you need anything, yeah? You’ve got my number- Well-”
“Nan’s phone, I know.” A thought occurs to him. “You’ve not got in trouble for any of this, have you?” He asks. Yaz smiles at him and shakes her head, but her eyes are wrong.
“I’m fine. No problems. Don’t worry about me, you look after yourselves.”
Well, at least he’s not the only one lying.
After waving goodbye, he pulls the letters out of the letterbox - they always get stuck - and tries to filter through them. There are so many letters every day now. He’s not sure how many people Graham’s contacted - ‘Tell Us Once’, yeah right. Hard to tell what’s spam anymore. Except the pizza menu. And that might actually end up being useful.
“-And I don’t know what to do...” Graham moans.
“Maybe there's something in the case?”
“That was the case! Think I’dve remembered that on my own?”
Ryan freezes outside the living room door. He’s not supposed to be hearing this conversation. They think he’s still seeing Yaz off.
“I don’t know how it all works. When I sorted out Mum she’d been on her own, it was just closing up with banks. Now there’s pensions and joint accounts and insurance and God knows what else.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t-”
“No, no love. Don’t look like that. I’m just venting, I’ll muddle it out somehow.” Graham sighs. “It’s all just so bloody expensive. Funeral, the house, everything else. Can’t do the only thing I was ever any bloody good at. No time to bloody think.”
The Doctor makes a noise.
“It’s all right, I’m just worrying, being stupid. Don’t need to be scared, we’ll muddle through, we’ll muddle through.”
Ryan re-opens and slams the front door loudly, and fakes a coughing fit in the hall before coming in.
“Yaz fine?” Graham asks nonchalantly. Ryan nods, looking at the Doctor curled up on the chair, staring at his phone in her hands.
Suddenly she springs up.
“Yaz is right, you guys need time. I’ll be back later. I will - see, take the sonic.” The Doctor gabbles, thrusting the cold metal object into Ryan’s hands, and like that she’s darted past him and out of the door, before they can even tell her goodbye.
It’s the middle of the night, and he needs the Doctor here.
Ryan can’t explain it. It’s like all this terrible stuff happened, but she was there, and she’s been there ever since, and he needs her to just be around.
It’s not like a fancying thing - it’s more like one of his legs has fallen off, and he doesn’t want to be too far away from it.
He keeps seeing that guy ripped apart. The teeth. The body.
And Mum. All of that.
Why couldn't it be Graham, why didn’t he do it, why couldn't he have been the one who didn't say goodbye, why wasn’t it him lying there like that.
It hurts, every time he thinks about it. A pang in his chest, sparking outwards, like an electric shock.
Was that what it felt like? A thousand times worse? How much did it hurt her before-
Eventually he feels so sick he just leans over the toilet, desperately tired, emergency chocolate bar in hand in case it’s actually a low blood sugar thing. Nan’s cure for fainting - legs up, head down, doesn’t fix anything either.
At five in the morning, after no sleep (but luckily no throwing up either), he puts his clothes on, and goes to get the bike. He hasn’t died from it yet, he’ll be fine on his own, and it’ll make him feel closer to Nan.
It’s a nice morning, cloudless, if cold. The sky is gorgeous. Mornings suck, but Nan was right, sunrises do sort of make it worth it.
He’s wheeling the bike through the park at the bottom of the hill, when something in his brain tells him to look up.
At first he thinks there’s a dog, sleeping on the big net swing like a nest, and wishes he had his phone to take a picture. But of course it isn’t.
He drops the bike and runs over, slipping on the dewy grass.
The Doctor’s eyes snap open as he frantically pats her, and he breathes a sigh of relief.
Stupid Ryan, Stupid Ryan, Stupid fucking Ryan. He believes her. She doesn’t have a ship, she doesn’t have money, where did he think she was going to go? She has nowhere to go!
She’s even colder than before. She wasn’t exactly toasty when Nan guessed her temperature, and checked her heart(s).
The Doctor stiffly rolls and sits up, raising her hands to him, and Ryan takes her freezing fingers to help her off the swing. Then he pulls the sonic from his pocket and puts it firmly back in her hands.
He wants to ask her a hundred questions, wants to know if she was ok all night, wants to ask if she’s feeling ill, wants to be sure there weren’t any funny people about.
But he doesn’t, because they naturally fall into their quiet companionship, and she probably wouldn’t answer him properly anyway.
Ryan’s hiding up in his room.
There are too many people. Doorbell ringing constantly, people crying, people laughing, people making the house smell of every kind of food because they all thought they’d bring something ‘just to be safe’. He already misses the beans on toast days.
“Ooh, hello.” The Doctor says to his phone, tapping away excitedly.
She’s hiding too. Most people recognise her as the voice on the phone, and keep calling her Doctor Song, which seems to be making her flinch now.
He swivels his chair to her properly, and watches her zap the phone with her sonic-thing.
There’s a whoosh and a sucking sound and a twist in his eyes that makes his brain hurt.
“Ah hah!” The Doctor exclaims, brandishing the phone, and with a burst of light, the screen turns on.
He takes it from her, and turns it over a few times.
“There we go, finally sorted, like trying to turn a chicken nugget back into a chicken, but I did it. Sort of. Good as new, like it never happened. Technically for this one, it didn’t. Shh.” The Doctor babbles incomprehensibly, jumping up and peering over his shoulder.
A notification pops up.
Thirty-nine missed calls.
“Oh, crikey.” She says.
He briefly scrolls down the list, and after about thirteen missed Work calls in a row, he feels queasy and shuts it off again, throwing it back on the bed.
“Oi! I worked hard on that.” The Doctor says offendedly. Ryan turns away so he can drop his head on the desk and groan. “Look, there’s got to be some understanding about this stuff right?” She says comfortingly. “They’ll understand why you didn’t call. Won’t fire you on your first offence.”
Ryan laughs. First offence.
“Minimum wage. Won’t fire me? Ha. You really are an alien.”
“Well, even if they do, you wouldn’t want to do that sort of job anyway.” She looks around his room. “You want to...”
Ryan looks up at her. Yeah? He wants to...?
Graham bursts in and then shuts the door behind him, leaning on it as if something’s about to break through. The house suddenly rings with that uniquely distinguishable screech of Leticia’s, that could be a laugh, or a sob, or an exclamation of disgust upon seeing the unwashed dishes in the sink.
The door handle rattles behind him.
“Password?” The Doctor says loudly.
“Don’t leave me out here.” Comes the muffled reply.
“That’s clearly a passphrase but alright, go on then.” The Doctor says, and Graham opens the door for Yaz to all but fall through.
She sits heavily on the bed, before tipping over like a felled tree.
“Look at that professionalism, that’s a skill that is.” Graham says. Yaz rolls on her front and mutters something incomprehensible into the duvet.
“Lettie wear you down?” Ryan asks.
“Me or her?” Graham replies, as Yaz moans wordlessly.
Graham abandons the door and sits on the very edge of the bed. He looks at them guiltily.
“It’s not that I’m not- you know. But if I see another quiche again, I’m gonna be sick.”
Ryan knows it’s not just that. People keep on sharing stories. It’s weird enough for him when they start talking about Dad, or before he was born. Must be worse for Graham, who barely knows any of them in the first place.
“When I left they were fighting about how they’d decorate the downstairs loo.” Graham says, clearly perplexed.
“People dunno what to say when something like this happens.” Yaz says, resting her head on her arms so they can hear her. “And they’re all different people suddenly pushed together. So they end up saying all sorts of things, or have weird arguments, or fixate on strange stuff that they usually wouldn’t.” She blushes and coughs. “I read an article.”
The Doctor nods, and Graham pulls a ‘why not’ sort of face.
“Makes sense I suppose.” Graham says.
Ryan wonders if she’s read a lot of articles these last few days.
“We do alright though.” Graham continues. “You two haven’t told me I need an accent wall yet.”
“In Extremis bonding.” Yaz says. “And contrary to popular belief, I do have some crisis training.” She says, looking at the Doctor like she’s trying to work her out.
Leticia screeches downstairs again, and Yaz and Graham flinch.
“I could always set the smoke alarm off.” The Doctor says, helpfully.
While Graham’s waiting at the bank, Ryan and the Doctor have their own tasks to do.
“Thirty-six’ll be enough right? Twenty-four seems too low.” Ryan says, chucking three boxes of mini sausage rolls into the shopping trolley.
The Doctor shrugs and pushes off again, jumping onto the metal bar in a way that’s got to be mathematically risky, but is apparently not quite enough to tilt the trolley backwards.
“Can I just say,” the Doctor starts, which is rarely a good sign, “That I get the idea of a funeral party, wake, whatever name you’re giving it. I really do. Nearly every high-level sentient creature has that idea at some point, and it’s definitely better than mandatory crying or sacrificing history teachers to the gods.”
He calls at her to wait so he can add some on-offer samosas, and she hops off, pulling the trolley to a stop.
“But what I don’t get,” the Doctor continues, “Is why you lot have to organise it. Shouldn’t someone else do this? You’ve got enough on your plate. Metaphorically and literally.” She says, peering into the trolley.
Ryan considers this.
“We don’t have to do it. It’s just... People will want to get together. To talk. Maybe they won’t get to again. And we can’t just go to the pub because there are people who don’t drink, and it’s not very Nan, and a restaurant’s too fancy when people might be upset, and so...” He tails off and shrugs.
“Couldn’t someone else host it though? All of that, and then a load of people hanging around, tracking crumbs into your carpet.”
Ryan feels one of those unfortunate surges of frustration.
“Look, it’s just polite, yeah? I don’t like it either, and I don’t really know most of them, and it doesn’t matter, we’re just doing it, alright?”
The Doctor looks hurt, but doesn’t look away. He does though.
“Sorry. I don’t- I’m sorry.” He says quietly. The Doctor moves around, and sort of presses to the side of him like a cat.
“Friends?” She checks.
“Course.” He says, pushing back a little.
After a second, the Doctor steps away and looks up at him.
“You wanna ride the trolley? I’ll be counterweight.”
They nearly make it to the paper plates, before an employee shouts at him to stop messing about.
He’s not gonna come is he. How? How can he not come? Why does he have to be such a fucking useless Dad? No. Son. Useless son. This is about Nan.
Fine, it’s about both of them.
Why isn’t he here?
Ryan stares at his phone and shakes it.
“Maybe-” The Doctor starts, and he cuts her off.
“No maybe...” He can hear the tremor in his voice. Upset and angry and too fucking emotional, like always. But he can’t help it. “He’s always been a fucking ‘maybe’. Maybe he’s stuck in traffic, maybe he’s in hospital, maybe he’s out of service, maybe he’s got a new phone, maybe he got the wrong time, maybe he got the wrong date, maybe it got lost in the mail - maybe, maybe, maybe!”
He impulsively hits himself on the head with the phone, and the Doctor grabs onto his free arm and squeezes it tightly. It seems to draw a bit of the bad energy out of him.
“Is everybody seated?” They hear from inside the hall.
“Go find Yaz or something, eh? She won’t hold anything against you. She’s good is Yaz. In Extremis pal, yeah? She’ll get it. I’ll stay here and keep an eye out, and I can slide in at the back and be close by if, if you know, whatever.” The Doctor says.
The arm squeezing relaxes into an arm hug, and because he doesn’t know how she feels about proper ones, he just leans into her again for a second.
“Go on, off you pop.” She says softly, and pats him away.
He looks back before going in.
The Doctor’s tattered jacket lies draped over a chair, because the last thing Nan would have wanted would be everyone all formal. Her shirt hangs out like a duck’s tail. Her too-big shoes stuffed with socks so she can just about walk, because ‘there’s a time for everything,’ and now isn’t it for the boots.
And the way she’s standing. Upright. Like a palace guard, protecting the Queen. Even with her hands in her pockets. The tilt of her head as she looks one way, to the middle, to the other, and then back again.
Keeping watch; less because she believes his Dad will come, but more because she told him that she would.
The Doctor, and Yaz, and yeah, maybe even Graham too. Except for Nan, there’s nobody else he’d want more than them, In Extremis.
“At least we’re down to about two-and-a-half quiches now. That’s something.” Graham says, sliding in the bedroom door, balancing two paper plates. “Whose idea was the samosas by the way?”
The Doctor points at Ryan.
“Nice one. Gone down a treat. I mean Indira’s saying we should have just come to her, and they’re too thick and wrong, but everyone else seems happy, so that’ll do.”
Graham offers the Doctor some pineapple and cheese on a stick.
“No sausage.” The Doctor says, examining it thoughtfully.
“Oh. Sorry. I just sort of assumed you were, you know...vegetarian.” Graham says, and Ryan almost puts a hand out to stop him. “Didn’t think you’d be into sausages.” He thinks he’s being funny, and he really isn’t.
The Doctor shrugs.
“Not really thought about it. Used to like ‘em. Haven’t really had time to experiment yet.” She replies. Naive, or playing them like a primary school recorder. He may never know.
“Hey you, respite’s over, get back out there.” Yaz says, coming through with a bowl of her own. Graham raises his eyebrows long sufferingly and shuffles off again with his cheese and pineapple.
The Doctor eats hers, her face going through all the stages of grief, before finally landing on acceptance.
“What’ve you got? I’m experimenting.” The Doctor asks Yaz, running her tongue over her teeth.
“Um, stewed pear? Sort of cinnamon and raisins. Didn’t know if anyone would go for it...”
The Doctor sticks her empty cocktail stick into Yaz’s bowl, pulls out a chunk of pear, and shoves it in her mouth.
“Mmm. MMM. V’ats fine.” The Doctor says with her mouth full, and expression of revelation. “That’s good.” She wipes pear juice off her chin. “Like, look, there, gone. Why wasn’t I eating pears?” She says, frowning at him, as if he’d told her not to.
Yaz shakes her head, somewhere between amused, confused, and exasperated, and hands her bowl over to the Doctor, who makes a happy noise.
“You’re supposed to be out there too, you know.” Yaz says, tilting her head to one side.
“I was banned because of the mini pizzas.” Ryan rebuts.
“No, you were banned from the kitchen.” She says, putting on her Police officer ‘I will win this, might as well save time and give up now’ voice.
Ryan tries to think of something funny to say, because admitting that he can’t handle this doesn’t feel like an option.
In the end, he lets Yaz drag him downstairs, and abandon him in the hall.
“Oh, Ryan, how are you, pet?”
He’s immediately descended on and swarmed by people who think he remembers them, petting and cooing over him.
“Such a shame, at her age,”
“After your Mum as well,”
“Can’t believe your Dad didn’t turn up-” “Ooh, I know, I was shocked.”
“You’re being a really brave boy.” Kamilla says slowly, clearly under the impression he’s a-word-he’d-never-call-anyone-but-himself, and he finally breaks. Doesn’t even say anything, just bolts upstairs to his room, slamming the door behind him.
He curls on the floor, head against the carpet, and pulls his neck with his hands til it hurts. If he doesn’t he’s going to smash something, he knows it.
Oh god, he needs Nan. Everyone thinks he’s an idiot. He needs her. He is an idiot. He needs her. He’s never going to be anything, achieve anything, he’s never going to do anything right, and she’s the only one since Mum who ever properly loved him, and the only one who ever will-
“Is it a pressure thing? Your neck?”
And of course the Doctor’s still fucking in here, because he can’t even have a breakdown right.
A hand presses down hard between his shoulder blades.
“Better or worse?” She asks quietly. He lets a breath out, and feels a bit of tension go with it. Like when she squeezed his arm. Sometimes that would be terrible, but right now...
“Alright, if this - well it probably will hurt a bit, that’s sort of part of it, yeah - but if it’s bad, move or make a noise or anything, and I’ll stop.”
There’s suddenly a lot of weight on him, and if he had the breath to laugh at how fucking ridiculous everything is, he would. But all he can do is tuck his hands under his forehead while his brain magically stops spinning its wheels.
“Alright?” The Doctor asks.
He manages a hum.
“Good.” She says brightly, and carries on slurping the last of her pear, while sat on his back.
They stay there for a minute before she breaks the silence again.
“Five minutes thirty two. That’s worth what, an Enter Sandman? All my music knowledge is leaking out. Maybe we could start a leaderboard.”
Ryan extricates a hand and taps on the floor, and she steadily stands off him. He rolls on his side, eyes shut, and takes some deep - slightly painful - breaths.
Five minutes. That’s all he lasted. Five minutes.
“That’s not bad, you know. Do you know how long I last at a reunion? Four ‘n a half minutes, tops. And that’s split between at least two of me.” Does she think she’s making sense? She says all this with such confidence.
The Doctor nudges him.
“I’m not down there either. Sometimes you’ve just got to say you’ve tried, and let the small stuff go.”
“T’snot small though, s’it?” He mumbles, hoping she’ll decipher him.
There’s a brief touch against his fingers, as if she considered holding his hand and then thought better of it. Or maybe she was just stretching.
“Compared to everything else that’s gone on, yeah, it sort of is.” There’s a lot of shifting, and suddenly her voice comes from right next to him. “Look, you matter. Your feelings matter. If something’s gonna hurt you more than it’s ever gonna help them, then maybe sometimes you have to leave it. Trust that if they need you, they’ll find you.” The Doctor sighs. “That’s the idea, anyway.”
He wants to ask her if she’s been through this before. Wants to ask her about her family. Wants to know what it felt like for her. Wants to know if it’s normal that sometimes he remembers the stuff with Mum like it’s happening now, and sometimes he can’t remember anything at all. Wants to know if that’s gonna happen with Nan. Wants to know if he should’ve just jumped off the bloody crane and got it over and done with.
He wants her to be able to magically tell him the future.
The Doctor presses the back of her hand to his, and keeps it there this time.
“You’ll be alright, you know. You’ll feel happy again, and you’ll laugh again, and you’ll love again, and the sun will rise again. I didn’t think I was ever going to be alright again and then five minutes later, bang, I found you lot. Grief and happiness and hope and loss don’t always work how you think they’re gonna; they come and go, and mix and match, and bad feelings aren’t anywhere near as permanent as they try to tell you they are,” The Doctor brushes her knuckles against his. “And maybe you’re wiser than me, and won’t need a fifty storey drop to teach you that.”
The stairs creak, and they both spring up, Ryan rubbing his face so it looks like he’s not been lying on the floor, and the Doctor sitting in the chair which spins at the force and cracks her knee on the desk.
“Right, I’m having a ten minute break, it’s regulations, I’m sorry.” Graham says, shutting the door and sitting on the bed sulkily. “You alright?” He asks under his breath. Course they told on him. No-one has any respect for the code. Ryan nods.
“You.” Graham says, pointing at the Doctor.
“I’m not going down there, no way.” The Doctor protests, “It’s too emotional, I’ll absorb it all and turn into dust, I will, I’m an emotional dust alien - tell him about the glowing, Ryan.”
“She did glow.” He says loyally.
“Damn right you’re not going down there,” Graham snorts. “Do you know how many questions I’ve fielded about you? Everyone wants to know who you are,”
“Everyone wants to know what you’re a doctor of,”
“Did you say aliens? Because it’s basically aliens, fixing stuff, and sticking my nose into places it doesn’t belong.”
“Everyone wants to know how you’re related - and if anyone acts like you’re my niece, you’re going to run with it, ok, because I thought they might be thinking you were something else, and I panicked.”
“You know, I got accidentally related to a lot of people. Quite liked it actually.”
“And everyone who’s seen you thinks you’re homeless.”
“Well I am homeless.” The Doctor says, and then as if her brain has caught up with her mouth, she immediately droops a little.
“Hey,” Graham says, a little frown between his eyes. “Come on. I’m sure you can MacGyver something together. You’ve already done something funny to the microwave, you can have that and do some clever bits and bobs with it. Reverse the polarity of...” Graham waves his hand.
“The neutron flow.” The Doctor finishes for him.
“Yeah, do that.” Graham says.
The Doctor looks thoughtful.
The door bursts open, and a furious Yaz pokes her head in.
“Seriously, stop leaving me alone down here, what sort of back-up are you?” Yaz hisses, and everyone stands to attention, trying not to laugh.
He looks at the Doctor, and she shrugs, filing into line behind him.
Yeah, maybe if they stick together, it’ll be fine.
And just like that, his world - for now - ticks on.
“You really need to get out of those clothes.” Ryan whispers with a voice quivering with suppressed mirth.
“No.” Yaz says tightly.
“Let’s get you outta those- Ah! Ow! Police brutality!“ He collapses in a fit of laughter, while Yaz stops whacking him on the arm, and presses her fingers to her eyes.
“Ooh, I can’t believe I said that!” She moans. “Tell me it didn’t sound like that.”
“Eh, don’t think she’d have minded,” Graham says, and Ryan knows he’s already too late to stop the rest of the Bad Humour Bus convoy. “Almost surprised she didn’t strip off right there, she can be literal enough.”
Yaz covers her face with her hands and giggles in a reluctant sort of way.
“You can’t-” Ryan begins, trying to force down a smile of his own, while Graham’s expression becomes horrified.
“No, I don’t mean I wanted her too, I’m not a perv, it’s just she’s like you a bit i’n she-”
“Just stop! Stop digging! Stop!” Ryan shouts, giving into laughter like the snorting Yaz behind him.
What is it about today? Everything’s either twice as funny, or twice as sad. But Nan would have wanted the laughter. It means they’re getting something right.
The Doctor emerges from the front door with a wide smile, a reusable fabric shopping bag, and a pair of boots balanced on top.
“Right, now I’m ready!”
They look at each other.
“Ready for what?” Yaz asks.
“Ready for clothes. It’s finally time!” She says excitedly, almost squeaks.
“Hold your horses there Dobby, it’s half six.” Graham says. “All the shops are shut.”
The Doctor seems to deflate, and Ryan’s pretty sure those sad eyes are a banned alien weapon too.
“We’ll go tomorrow morning. Trawl the charity shops. I haven’t got a shift.” Yaz says quickly.
“There’s a café on the high street that does an all-day breakfast - bet they’ll do a fried egg sandwich if you ask.” Ryan adds.
“Easy bus and all, just that stop down the road, every half hour.” Graham finishes.
Oh well. At least she suckers everyone.
“And a ‘Deja vu’ to you too.” Graham says, heading up the path in his slippers.
Yaz and Ryan are hanging out in the same place as yesterday, just without the tea this time.
They’re waiting on the Doctor - and the Number Seven he supposes - but she’s taking a while. Wanted a shower, perhaps in recognition that after a week, she wasn’t exactly a basket of roses, and the shops would probably get a bit narky with her trying stuff on.
Eventually she appears - the wind’s in the wrong direction and he smells her before he sees her - clean and stuff, not like that, it’s just she smells like she’s probably used at least half of his shower gel and deodorant.
But she isn’t quite as peppy as yesterday, a little pale and...something else. It’s an odd combo, whatever it is.
She dumps the bag and boots in Ryan’s arms, and one immediately falls into the flowerbed.
“Uh, Yaz, I have a question.” She asks.
The Doctor shakes her head and indicates they go back to the doorway.
Ryan tries to ignore the situation and puts the shoe in the bag. Of course - he thinks, as he knocks soil out of the other boot - it would be better if the wind wasn’t, as he noticed earlier, in the wrong direction.
“-Well what’s wrong with the one you’ve got on now?”
“I don’t have one now, the waistcoat sort of...covers things up, I haven’t had to think about ‘em yet, I’ve not done these before.”
“Why aren’t you wear-”
“Look, I only ever tried one on twice, it’s not like I ever wore it outside the TARDIS, and honestly thinking about all that makes me kind of sad for old Scottish, and I don’t appreciate you bringing it up.”
“Look, what size are you?”
“I dunno. Small? Small-medium? Medium rare?”
“No, I mean like 30A, 32B, 34 double-A?”
“What?! Are they encrypted or something?”
“Ok, look, we’ll pop into a proper shop first then. Charity shops don’t do underw- Wait. You haven’t just been going around in the same pants all week?!”
“Oh come on, it’s not that big a deal. Two days one way, two inside-out-”
“Two off, and then back to the beginning again-”
No! Oh, that is not on. Ugh. No, hang on, are you saying you went commando to a funeral?!”
This is considerably louder than the rest, and Graham breaks and falls sideways into the tree, whooping with laughter.
“You hearing this, Grace?” He chokes, looking up at the sky.
Ryan continues to pretend he can’t hear them and browses Twitter, because there doesn’t sound like any way this conversation ends well for anyone.
“Some confidential Police-whatever you are.” The Doctor says loudly, but without any venom, and strides out the gate ahead of them, Yaz following a little shamefacedly behind her.
“Incoming.” Yaz says, finally back from her quest, and kicks a carrier bag under the changing room curtain.
Ryan doesn’t look up from his phone. Don’t go looking for trouble, and trouble won’t find you - that’s what his Nan always said. Ok, so she never said that, in fact pretty much the opposite, but probably someone said it once and it sounds like good advice right now.
“And what have you been doing?” Yaz snaps at him, while he tries to ignore the Doctor’s intrigued ‘huh’ behind the curtain.
“I’ve been standing by this wall, making no noise and pretending I’m not here.” He says, suddenly flashing back to Nan’s audiobooks on long drives.
“Don’t suppose you want to do anything more helpful than that?” Yaz asks sarcastically.
He wishes he was on a long drive right now.
“And this’ll fit?” The Doctor asks from the changing room. Yaz winces, and he wonders if now she’s getting it.
“I mean I tried to...guess.” Yaz says, much more quietly than the Doctor, and turns as red as her shirt. “It’s a sports one so...it’s forgiving.” She ends in a whimper.
Ryan tries to empty his mind. Like Occlumency. No Voldemorts getting in here.
“Cool. And the same way you take one off, right? Just in reverse. And on yourself.”
“Mmhmm.” Squeaks Yaz, pretending to flip through a rack of clothes to hide her blushes, radiating heat like a setting sun.
“I don’t exist.” Ryan affirms.
“Couldn’t grab me some clothes could you? Anything that’ll fit. Or at least not drag on the floor. Unless it’s a scarf, cus you can tie that around you a few times.”
Anything to not be here, sure.
Ryan heads over to the far side of the shop where the tops are, and tries to figure out what the Doctor would like. But if she doesn’t know, how’s he supposed to? It’s not that he’s one of those ‘real men don’t shop’ people - he likes looking good, and never fits in with any ‘real man’ stuff anyway - but she’s not really given him anything to work with here.
In the end, he decides to do what she would do with her ‘experimenting’, and grabs a bit of everything - buttoned, t-shirt, long-sleeve, jumper; plain and patterned; functional, fashionable; and even something low and strappy that he really sort of hopes she doesn’t go for, but it feels wrong to let his biases affect the results.
Clothes are easier to carry than most things, so while he does walk into a spinning rack and cause a woman to tut at him, it’s done mostly without incident.
Yaz is still picking things out, an outfit at a time it looks like.
“That sounds like a confused Ryan noise - are you back?” The Doctor says happily. He doesn’t make confused noises, does he?
“Uh, yeah, got shirts.” He says, dumping them on a chair.
“Good-oh, pass ‘em through then. Can’t come to you - this level of nudity’s only acceptable if they’re called swimming costumes apparently. Funny rule that one.”
Ryan grabs a few shirts, tries to wipe the last few seconds from his mind, and holds them against the break in the curtain like he’s trying to hand-feed an alligator.
“Cheers.” The Doctor says, snatching them, and he jumps backwards into Yaz.
No sooner has he turned to apologise, then a balled up t-shirt hits him in the back of the head.
“Nope. Nah. No. Nada. Next!” The Doctor shouts, throwing them out, causing Ryan to duck away from the barrage of clothes, and from potential curtain malfunctions.
Yaz gives him a superior sort of smirk, and hands over her outfit collection.
“Too fancy. Too flowery. Too much like I use the word ‘synergy’ in casual conversation.”
The clothes are chucked out again. Ryan gives the downcast Yaz a slightly gloating sort of shrug.
He passes the other half of his shirts in, while he watches Yaz carefully put her choices back on their hangers.
“Aren’t you gonna do yours?” She asks. Ryan looks over to the pile on the floor.
“Folding’s hard. And trying to get things the right way round.” He says.
You know when something comes out of your mouth that you regret, and you only really have two choices?
“What, and you think I’m gonna do it? Or the owner’s gonna do it?”
All you can do is apologise. Or double-down.
“It’s her mess.” Ryan says defiantly.
“If you two would pick the right clothes, then it wouldn’t be a problem, would it?” The Doctor says, holding out a smaller pile than he passed in. “Liked two of those. Might need them later. Got anything else, or have you just been standing there gabbing?”
Thirty minutes later, he’s officially struck ‘Personal Shopper’ off his possible career path list.
It’s a lot of running back and forth, sometimes literally, and even Yaz starts to flag on the tidying up front. It’s not much different to warehouse work - just with an obstacle course of browsing shoppers getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of clothes on offer.
The woman at the till is giving them death glares.
“If they say they’re gonna call the Police, you’ve got to tell them you are the Police, and maybe it’ll work out.” Ryan says. He’s not getting arrested for this.
Yaz snorts, and waves something small at him, a hopeful grin on her face, and passes it through.
“Hand-knitted hiking socks, what do you reckon?” She says through the curtain.
“Ooh. Those are nice. Blue. ...I miss her.” The Doctor says.
“Anything else like that?”
Yaz gives him a thumbs up that he returns automatically, her smile infectious, and they start to look around for more blue clothes, both probably a bit too buoyed up by the positive feedback to be entirely healthy.
“Anything to sort of...pull it together?” The Doctor asks, about an hour and a half in. She still won’t show them what she’s got - likes a big reveal, he thinks. She clearly likes her positive feedback too.
Ryan browses, walking paths he’s treaded probably fifty times already.
A glint of silver and gold catches his eye. He examines the object. He should think it’s stupid - peace and love, Elton John, we all bleed red. But it makes him think of Nan.
“These are new, and I know your ears probably aren’t done, but what do you think?” He asks, handing the clasped-hand earrings to her. “Don’t take them out of their packets unless you want ‘em though, they’re expensive.”
“Hah. Grace.” She says quietly. He knew she’d see it too. “Well, I’ve never done these before either...”
Yaz comes over with a basket on top of another small collection of clothes, and pushes the basket under the curtain with her foot.
“Belts and stuff.” She says tiredly, and resumes her clothes-rail position.
“You know I think that might work.” The Doctor says, and he can hear the smile in her voice. “I think that’s it!”
He daren’t get his hopes up, and starts trying to catch a Pikachu on his phone, but he and Yaz share a look.
“Hmm. Don’t like mirrors. Never know when they’re portals to another world. Oh well, needs must.” There’s a whirring pulse of her sonic, and the sound of her slow breath out and sharp one in.
He only gets what she’s about to do a millisecond before she does it. With a flash of memory, he claps his hand to his collarbone.
“Fluorine-Uranium-Carbon-Potassium- Ow, that hurt!” The Doctor shouts. Yaz mouths the elements, frowning. “Oh, I really hope that was the right ear.” She moans.
The Doctor’s not all there. Amazing, brilliant, he really likes her, and he’s definitely no-one to be throwing stones. But still. Not all there.
The three of them clear up the clothes piles.
They are forcibly removed from the CLIC Sargent.
It’s hard to believe they’re here again.
Shouldn’t this still be shut for... dead body stuff? But Yaz doesn’t seem too concerned, so it must be alright.
Graham’s brought the Doctor’s ‘necessary equipment’, and has been a bit quiet. Stopped at home all day. Ryan doesn’t want to think about what it’s gonna be like when there’s time to settle down - no aliens, or organising, or phone calls, or people.
The Doctor’s as happy as a raven in a junkyard, picking things over for sparkly bits in her nest. Or maybe she’s a lemur, hopping around giddily from place to place. Or that flashy peacock that tried to bite the ring off Nan’s finger once when they all went to the zoo.
He can’t make that joke to Graham. He wasn’t there. Now he’s the only one left with that memory. What if he remembers it wrong?
There’s a clatter as the Doctor knocks a wrench off her tool pile.
“-And what’s the microwave for?” Yaz asks.
“It’s to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow, i’n that right, Graham?” The Doctor replies.
Graham gives her a smile and an ‘Ok’ hand gesture, but when she turns her back, he pulls a face and shrugs at them.
“How can you reverse the polarity of something neutral?” Yaz asks.
“By turning the positive bits negative, and the negative bits positive, come on, think it through.”
“But what does that do?” Graham asks.
“All sorts of really useful stuff, now hush. But stay there for me, cus I’m gonna need you.”
They’ve spent all day standing and waiting for her. She doesn’t seem to have noticed that.
Twenty minutes later there’s a full workstation. It should be incredible. But it’s been a long day, and he just wants to get home.
It doesn’t sink in.
She tells them to plug in cables.
It doesn’t sink in.
She tells him he’s going to turn on the switch.
It doesn’t sink in.
“Look at you three. I’m almost gonna miss you.”
The Doctor’s sad eyes. Yaz’s forced grin. Graham’s almost tearful attempt at a smile.
It sinks in.
But too late.
He reflexively waves, and takes a deep breath, because there’s nothing left but autopilot, his brain jammed on the idea that someone else in his life is going to disappear on him again, right here, right now.
It’s not going to work. It’s going to blow up. It can’t just be this.
And with his eyes almost shut against the sudden light, and breath still held, because who cares about breathing, he prays intensely to any force that will listen, in the fraction of a second he still has the chance:
‘Day?’ The force reflects wordlessly, a flap of a butterfly’s wings. ‘Hour? Minute?’ It gains a voice, the only one it knows yet. Steals it. Picks it from a dead man’s empty pocket. It whispers, echoes, far away and lost, swirling around in beginnings and endings just like he is. ”One more lifetime?”
There’s a whoosh, and a sucking sound, and a twist.
Everything feels wrong, and it hurts, it hurts!
“How long can you hold your breath?”