Chapter 1: Prologue
It was a quiet night. Nights on Gaia Nine usually were; the residents of this particular colony were normally fast asleep by ten o’clock, tired out after a long day of farming. Stretched out as far as the eye could see were fields of corn, protected by a biodome that was invisible to the naked eye. Above the fields was a blanket of stars, unhindered by clouds. There were never clouds on Mars.
It was a quiet night, peaceful and calm, until the silence was disturbed by the sound of a shovel scraping the earth. Soon, it was accompanied by the sounds of exertion as metal slid into the soil, digging deep and dislodging dirt that hit the ground in soft clumps.
The man wiped a dirty hand across his forehead, leaving streaks of soil across it. He couldn’t have cared less. Time was of the essence, and it was running out. Pausing momentarily he cast a look around him, holding his breath. He was sure he'd heard something in the rows of corn, the rustle of leaves as they were parted by someone. Or something.
He shook his head. Not helpful . Ghost stories were for children, and he had one of his own waiting for him at home. He needed to get this done. With a renewed sense of urgency the man pushed down hard with his bare foot, levering out another spadeful of soil and depositing it to one side as quietly as he could. It wouldn’t do to make too much noise in the stillness.
Judging the hole to be deep enough, the man carefully laid the spade on the ground and opened up his satchel, pulling out the package inside. He’d wrapped it in an old shirt, some measure of protection against the ravages of the elements. But hopefully he’d be back to retrieve it before too long.
Hesitating only momentarily, the man placed the package into the earth, abandoning the shovel in favour of his own hands to fill the hole back up and pat down the disturbed soil. Absentmindedly, he wiped his hands on his trousers, letting himself start to relax. He’d just about done it. All that remained was to get home. Cautiously, he stood, squinting in the dim moonlight for a path. He found a route to one of the main rows, from where he could see the end of the field. 500 feet, he estimated. Not far to go.
But something was bothering him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and a sudden chill passed through him as the sweat there cooled in the night air. He was in need of a hot shower and a cold beer, and the thought of that propelled him onwards, pushing aside the sensation that he was being watched.
400 feet. The man realised with a sinking feeling that his suspicions might have some basis in reality when he heard the sound of a stalk snapping underfoot. He’d gone barefoot in an attempt to minimise his own noise, and besides, the sound had come from his left. He picked up the pace, refusing to run lest he give away his own location.
300 feet. Another snap, but this time it was closer. Startled, he turned to face it, waiting for movement in the crops. He looked up, watching them sway above his head. There was no breeze. They shouldn’t be swaying at all.
He started to run. 200 feet, now, and the one-storey houses were getting bigger, the streetlamps a welcome comfort. He ignored the fact that the noises were growing in volume, wondering how close they were and pushing the thought to one side as he focused on getting out of the field. As soon as he got to the lights, he would be safe. There would be someone awake, someone to see him emerge. Surely? He knew, deep down, that it was unlikely, and the thought sent a spike of fear through his limbs, triggering a rush of adrenaline. He could work with adrenaline.
Ignoring the pain from his bare feet, he leapt over some of the larger stones, trying to expedite his escape. Thoughts of his daughter came to the fore as his panic grew. He couldn’t leave her.
But just as he reached the boundary, his forward motion was arrested by a solid grip on his shirt. The grasp stopped him in his tracks, sending his legs flying forwards as his head simultaneously jerked backwards. He hit the ground with a thud, winded. Before he could catch his breath and shout for help, a gloved hand clasped over his mouth and the grip on his shirt grew even tighter before he was pulled backwards into the field of corn, out of sight.
Less than 100 feet away, the town slept.
The Doctor slammed the doors shut hurriedly, muttering an apology to the TARDIS between rapid breaths before she whirled and sagged against the wood.
She winced as the doors started to bounce underneath her back mere seconds later. They hadn’t had much of a head start, and the tribe had caught up already. The fists pummeling the doors were very clear evidence of that. Belatedly, the Doctor realised that she hadn't taught any of her companions how to prepare the TARDIS for flight, which would have come in handy right about now. Not that they were of much use; all three of them were in various states of exhaustion. Graham had collapsed into a chair, Ryan was lying dramatically on the floor with his hands over his eyes, and Yaz was leaning precariously on the console. Of the three, Yaz was probably the fittest given her police training, but even she was out of breath from their escape.
"Right," the Doctor panted. Single words only for the time being, she mused. "Leaving. Yaz?”
Yaz looked at her curiously.
Yaz nodded, switching places with the Doctor and wincing as she took a subtle battering from angry fists.
“Thanks,” the Doctor exhaled, setting to work on getting them out of there. Her hands shook a little and she willed them to calm, but the truth was that she was deeply unsettled. Things had been going well until they’d been led through the camp and a stray arrow had nearly hit Yaz. At that the Doctor had insisted on leaving, thoroughly annoying their hosts, who believed they were deserting the field of battle. As a result, the Doctor was running on nervous energy given their close escape, and she focused on distilling it into her movements around the console.
The hammering finally faded away as the TARDIS dematerialised, leaving behind only the sound of breaths being caught. But the Doctor refused to relax, making sure they were safely away before even considering it.
"When you said we'd meet Boudicca, I thought we were just going to pop in and say hi," Graham panted. "Not turn up in time for the sack of London."
"Londinium," the Doctor corrected without thinking. "Always a gamble with her, to be fair. She keeps herself busy. And trust me, we were on the right side of history. You wouldn’t want to be in the Roman camp right about now.”
Graham shrugged, his way of admitting she might have a point, and the Doctor beamed. One nil to the Doctor.
Yaz pushed herself away from the door, smiling in response to the Doctor’s enthusiasm and rolling her shoulders subconsciously, wincing at a twinge. The Doctor felt a sympathetic protest in her own muscles and realised Yaz had probably obtained a few bruises from holding the doors. She wanted nothing more than to check she was okay, or even better, to take the pain away, so she started walking towards her, arms slightly outstretched. She’d almost forgotten there were other people in the room until Ryan chipped in.
"I can’t believe they went into battle naked," he said in disbelief, letting his hands fall back by his sides as Yaz laughed. The sound of her laughter made the Doctor change trajectory and she swung around, busying herself with the controls while Yaz and Ryan bantered about Iceni customs. Graham watched the Doctor work silently.
"Be grateful they were covered in blue paint!" Yaz said, finally sticking out a hand to pull Ryan up from the floor.
"Talking of paint, you're still covered, Doctor," Yaz said softly, finally joining the Doctor at the console and gesturing at the Doctor's arms and face. Her coat sleeves were rolled up, baring forearms covered in smears of bright blue paint. The Iceni tribesmen had insisted on daubing her in the stuff after the Doctor had outright refused to remove her clothes.
The Doctor inhaled as Yaz traced a fingertip up her forearm, outlining the muscle underneath. Once again, it felt like they were the only people in the room. Like they were in some kind of bubble, just the two of them. A bubble that Ryan burst. Again.
“You’re one to talk, Yaz,” he said, and the Doctor was alarmed to see that he’d joined them without her even realising. She took a step back as Yaz wiped at a smear of paint on Ryan’s cheek, a gesture that was so familiar that she wondered if she’d missed something.
She cleared her throat, ending their bickering.
“Right, you lot! Go and get cleaned up and I’ll work on getting us home.”
“That’s right...you have that promotion party, don’t you, Yaz?”
The Doctor felt a pang of hurt at that. Yaz hadn’t told her anything about a promotion and she looked at the Doctor somewhat sheepishly, wringing her hands. Ryan’s smile was genuine but it served to rub salt into the wound. It felt like he was a bigger part of Yaz’s life than the Doctor was, or what she wanted to be.
“I was keeping that quiet, Ryan,” Yaz muttered, punching him in the arm.
The Doctor pasted on a smile.
“Why on earth would you do that, Yaz? Couldn’t think of anything more well deserved. I’ll get you home in a jiffy, wouldn’t want you to be late to your own party!”
With that, she shooed them away with a flap of her hand, feeling the skin of her arm still tingle from where Yaz had touched it. She scrubbed at it in irritation, willing for the sensation to fade, and passing the gesture off as an attempt to rub away the paint. It flaked to the floor, unheeded.
“You alright, Doc?”
The Doctor huffed out a laugh, shoulders hunched as she gripped onto the edge of the console. She couldn’t catch a break today.
“Never better, Graham,” she replied.
“Yaz was planning on telling you, you know. I think she just...likes to keep her home life at home.”
The Doctor closed her eyes briefly.
“But you both knew.” She hated the way the words sounded as soon as they left her lips.
“I only knew because Ryan told me one night after they met down the pub.”
The Doctor felt like she’d just swallowed dry toast. She hadn’t even considered that Yaz might actually have a life outside of their travels. But really, why wouldn’t she? She was young, single, and career-focused. She had a family, and friends, and interests that the Doctor didn’t even know about. It felt like she barely knew Yaz at all, and yet...they had a connection. The Doctor was sure of it. A connection that seemed threatened by the fact that she and Yaz could never have the kind of friendship that Yaz had with Ryan. There were too many roadblocks.
Graham seemed to realise the unintended effect of his words and saw an opportunity to salvage the situation.
“There’s nothing going on there, either, by the way. With Ryan.”
The Doctor had refused to turn around but she could sense Graham’s presence at her back. He was ever the voice of reason, and he was getting far too good at reading her.
“I don’t know what you mean,” she muttered, flashing him a quick smile as she turned and strode past him. It was bad enough thinking it in her own head, but to hear Graham say it aloud made it far too real.
“You might want to wash that paint off before we land, or you’ll get some funny looks from your neighbours.”
Before he could say another word, she was gone with a flap of her coat-tails.
After several custard creams, a cup of tea, and a long, cold shower, the Doctor was a new person. Relatively speaking. She still wasn’t very good at entertaining herself, as became rapidly apparent five minutes after she sat down. The library was always a good distraction, full of books that she had yet to read, but her attention was elsewhere. And try as she might to direct her thoughts, she found them drifting towards Yaz and what she was doing right at that moment in time.
Probably getting ready for her party. The Doctor wondered if Ryan was invited, then bit the inside of her cheek in an attempt to stop thinking about it. But not before she imagined what Yaz might wear on a night out. She didn’t really peg Yaz as someone who wore dresses; like the Doctor, she liked to wear more practical clothing. And those shirts that she wore...
“That does it,” the Doctor muttered, cracking her knuckles as she lurched to her feet. It was unnerving to be so distracted by someone. And reading was obviously not going to cut it, so the Doctor headed towards her film collection, hoping that a more passive activity might help sweep up her errant thoughts.
Every now and again, her companions would fill some downtime with a movie – usually while the Doctor repaired something – but more recently, they’d encouraged her to join in. The last film they’d watched had been one of Yaz’s favourites, and before she thought too deeply about it, the Doctor popped it on. She could have chosen from every single film ever made and yet…she chose the one that Yaz liked most. Mere minutes into the film, she realised it just wasn’t the same watching it without Yaz laughing hysterically at the crude humour.
The Doctor huffed as she switched off the screen, drumming her fingers on her thighs. She felt scatter-brained, full of restless energy that her usual hobbies weren’t helping dissipate. That left only one thing. She would build something. Or fix something. She needed to do something with her hands, something productive. But what?
A mental lightbulb switched on. Yaz had mentioned how much she enjoyed watching the stars at night. The Doctor would build Yaz her own personal galaxy projector! One that she could take with her, to use at home or on the TARDIS. The Doctor deliberately ignored the fact that this particular activity was still Yaz-orientated, and threw herself into the task at hand.
The TARDIS hummed as she started to dig around for the parts she needed.
“I’ll clean it up later. I promise!”
There was a loud clang as she threw an old capacitor over her shoulder, prompting a flash of orange light from the TARDIS herself.
“I need a better one. And no, it’s not a waste. Can’t have a half-functional projector, what’s the point in that? It’ll conk out within five minutes.”
Yaz deserved the best.
“Aha!” The Doctor found what she was looking for. An energy source. From the 46th century, to be precise. It was as small as a watch battery but infinitely more powerful, a true achievement of human ingenuity and engineering. The Doctor admired it for a second, dismayed to note that the button-sized object was so dusty and clearly out of use that she wasn’t even sure it’d work. She did have a tendency to hold onto old batteries for some reason, which was beyond frustrating when she actually needed one. Holding it carefully in one hand so as not to lose it, the Doctor rummaged in her coat pocket for her sonic, hoping against hope that it would be fully functional.
The Doctor’s nose crinkled at the reading. Flat as a pancake. Her shoulders slumped in disappointment; she’d been so close to having all the parts she needed and she was determined to use that particular battery – it had been small enough to make Yaz’s gift portable.
Only one thing for it.
The Doctor strode over to the console, inputting the century she wanted and mentally thanking the TARDIS for supplying coordinates to a Martian colony where it would be fairly easy to purchase a replacement battery. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt to keep busy and do a little bit of solo travelling. The universe was full of surprises.
Mere moments later, the Doctor found herself face-to-face with the first of many surprises that day.
“Where did you just come from?”
A girl was staring at her like she’d just appeared out of thin air. Which she had, come to think of it. The Doctor grimaced, wishing she’d chosen a more discreet place to park, but as she looked around the grimy alleyway she realised she had actually chosen wisely. The odds of someone else being there, never mind a young girl, were slim.
“What are you doing in a place like this, more like,” the Doctor frowned, locking the TARDIS behind her and pocketing the key. The colony she’d landed on had a bit of a bad reputation, and she wanted to make sure the TARDIS would be safe.
“Looking for my dad,” the girl shrugged, and the Doctor was concerned to note a flash of fear flicker across her young face before the stubborn frown returned. Her blonde hair was tied up in a messy ponytail and her jeans were muddied, with holes in the knees.
“When did you last see your dad? He must be around here somewhere.” The Doctor squinted in the gloom, trying to get her bearings.
“Two days ago. What’s that?” the girl asked, wandering over to the TARDIS to take a closer look at the sign on the front.
“Two days?” the Doctor was shocked. “You’ve been on your own for two days? How old are you?”
“Nine. Are you the police?” the girl asked, running her fingers over the wood and mouthing the words on the sign. “Can you help me?”
The Doctor pursed her lips, original task completely forgotten. “I never say no to a request for help,” she affirmed, wondering what she’d just walked into. “Now, tell me about your dad.”
The girl shrugged. The Doctor sighed.
“You can tell me. I promise, I’ll keep you safe. I’ll even show you inside, if you like,” the Doctor said, fishing around for her key to unlock the TARDIS doors.
The girl shook her head, starting to back away.
“My dad always tells me never to go anywhere with strangers.”
The Doctor nodded in approval. “Your dad’s a clever man. And he’s right. Where are my manners! I’m the Doctor. And who are you?”
“Lily. If you’re a doctor, why are you in a police box?” the girl frowned, and the Doctor had to admire her stubbornness. She was obviously an intelligent child.
“You know what, nobody’s ever asked me that before. I borrowed it a little while ago and it suits me just fine. But we don’t have to go inside. Why don’t you show me where you and your dad live, instead?”
The girl kicked at the dust beneath her feet, clearly unsure, but the Doctor knew without a doubt that something was wrong. And she wouldn’t leave until she’d got to the bottom of it. So, she tried her best grin and held out her hand, relieved when the girl slid her own into it. It was tiny within her own, and the Doctor felt a wave of something wash over her. Some kind of maternal instinct to keep this girl safe. It was new, and it gave her pause for a second before she brushed past it.
“Lead the way.”
It had been a while since the Doctor had visited Mars. In the span of human history, colonising it had been a massive achievement, but it had also inevitably led the way to further space travel and exploration. As a result, the planet had become a bit of a backwater, used mainly for growing crops and for trade by this point in time. Still, it was the perfect place to procure a new battery at a good price. The Doctor put a mental pin in her plan for Yaz, realising that it would have to take a back seat for now. And as much as she wanted to see Yaz’s face when she opened her gift, there were more important things to worry about. Such as a child wandering around on her own on Gaia Nine.
The market they were walking past was full to the brim of food and scrap metal, with all sorts of vendors and buyers milling about, bartering and shouting as they made their money or parted ways with it. The more unsavoury characters weren’t in evidence at this time of day, but it wouldn’t be long until they emerged. Many of the backhand deals only occurred after nightfall, when the farmers who earned an honest living would be fast asleep. And judging by the height of the sun in the purple sky, it wouldn’t be long until it went down.
Without a word Lily tugged on her hand, leading her down a narrow street until they reached her home. As soon as they were inside, the Doctor asked for a guided tour, and the girl obliged. There was nothing out of the ordinary in the rooms they visited together, still hand in hand; the kitchen, the living room, the bedrooms – there was no sign of disturbance. The Doctor noted several photographs in the hallway, family pictures of who she assumed must have been Lily’s parents. But given that she hadn’t mentioned her mother, the Doctor didn’t want to ask where she was. She had a sinking suspicion she knew the answer, judging by the shoes at the door. There were no women’s shoes; just men’s work boots and sneakers that would fit a young child.
“And what about this room?” the Doctor asked, pointing at a door that Lily had completely avoided. They’d already passed it a couple of times.
“I’m not allowed in there. That’s dad’s office.”
“Do you think he’d mind me taking a look?”
Lily chewed at her lip.
“I promise I won’t touch anything. And when we find him, I’ll tell him you didn’t come in with me, okay?”
Lily nodded uncertainly.
The Doctor was glad the girl had stayed behind when she saw the state of the room. It had been ransacked. Paperwork and books were scattered all over the floor, drawers were open and upturned, and where a computer had been there was now an empty space. All that was left to suggest its existence was a tangle of power cables. In the depths of her mind, an alarm started blaring. If she’d had an inkling that things weren’t right before, she now knew for a fact that they weren’t.
Knowing that it would be fruitless, the Doctor contented herself with a quick poke around, unsurprised when she found nothing. She needed some help. Steeling herself, she quickly opened the door and slid through it, closing it behind her before Lily could catch a glimpse of the chaos inside.
“Well! Thank you for trusting me, Lily. You know what I think I’ll do? I have some friends who can help us. You’ll like them a lot. Would you like to meet them?”
“Are they from the same place you came from?”
The Doctor smiled softly. “Not quite. In fact, I can probably point them out right now.”
Taking Lily’s hand once more, she led her to the kitchen window. The sun had gone down, and the stars had come out in full force. It didn’t take the Doctor long to pinpoint Earth.
“See that star? They’re there. I’m just going to pop over and get them, and I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
“That’s not possible,” Lily countered, crossing her arms. “How can you do that?”
“That’s for me to know and for you to find out. Do you trust me?” the Doctor asked.
The ensuing pause was enough to make her start to sweat. It had never been more vital for her to win somebody’s trust, and this particular 9-year-old was surprisingly cynical.
After what felt like endless minutes, Lily gave a curt nod.
“Perfect,” the Doctor breathed a sigh of relief, as if she’d just passed some kind of test. “You won’t regret it. They’re ace, I know you’ll love them. Especially my friend, Yaz. She actually does work for the police, and she’ll help us find your dad. Now, stay here, and lock the door behind me. Don’t let anyone else in, alright?”
The Doctor was uneasy leaving her alone, even briefly, but time was of the essence. And she needed her companions.
After using her sonic to ensure the front door lock was secure, the Doctor cast another quick glance up at Earth in the distance. It was a speck of light amongst thousands but it meant so very much to her, because 2454 years ago, on that planet, Yasmin Khan was getting ready to go on a night out with her friends. The distance between them made the Doctor’s hearts ache.
As always, come find me on Tumblr (@maglex) or Twitter (@_mag_lex) if you want to chat!
When the Doctor returned to Sheffield, it was Saturday. As planned. Well, perhaps a little earlier than planned. She grimaced as she stepped out of the TARDIS, realising dawn was hovering on the horizon. But she couldn’t dither; every moment wasted was another moment that Lily was alone with a missing father.
Squaring her shoulders, the Doctor pressed the doorbell outside Yaz’s flat, hoping against hope that none other than Yaz would answer. She’d managed to work her way into the building with the help of her sonic, but it felt a little inappropriate to do the same in Yaz’s family home. She’d learned from experience that materialising unannounced inside her TARDIS was also very inappropriate. The old-fashioned way would have to do.
Unsurprisingly, there was no response. It was half four in the morning, after all. She pressed again, certain that someone would be awake. When there was no sign of life, she risked a third push, shifting on her feet. Maybe it would have made more sense to collect Graham and Ryan first. But she always liked to pick up Yaz before the others if she had the choice.
Yaz’s mum opened the door, and the Doctor felt a wave of panic. This was not going to be easy to explain, and she had a sinking suspicion that Najia was not her biggest fan.
“Doctor?” Najia squinted at her in the gloom. She switched on the hallway light, grimacing at the brightness.
“Hi Najia! Is Yaz in?”
“What…why are you here?” Najia asked, obviously unimpressed at being awoken at such an unreasonable hour. The Doctor took it in her stride.
“Sorry, Najia, but this is urgent.”
Perhaps realising that she wouldn’t get much in the way of an answer, and more than likely keen to get back to bed, Najia moved aside without much in the way of resistance, letting the Doctor in.
“Third door on the right,” Najia said. “And keep the door ajar, please.”
The Doctor frowned, unsure what the door had to do with anything, and was about to ask when Yaz herself appeared at the end of the hallway.
“Doctor?” she murmured, rubbing at her eyes as they adjusted to the light. “What’s wrong?”
The Doctor looked to Najia, who nodded wearily. Taking that as a sign to proceed, the Doctor made her way towards Yaz, who looked completely bemused. Her bedhead and fluffy pyjamas just added to her sleepy appearance and the Doctor observed her for a moment, sidetracked by how different she looked to normal. She felt an urge to wrap her up in a soft hug. Instead, she slipped her hand into Yaz’s and pulled her back into her bedroom, almost closing the door and remembering Najia’s request at the last second.
Yaz let herself be guided to the edge of her bed, half-awake and completely confused.
“Why’d you leave the door open?” she asked, stifling a yawn as she leaned over to flick on the bedside lamp. It cast the room in a comforting hue of yellow.
“Your mum asked me to. Not sure why,” the Doctor admitted, standing in front of Yaz with her hands on her hips as she took in Yaz’s bedroom for the first time.
“Oh god,” Yaz said, putting her face in her hands. “Don’t worry. She’s just paranoid.”
“About what? I’m perfectly trustworthy,” the Doctor stated, scrutinising the pictures Yaz had on her wall. Photographs of a younger Yaz with her friends, the odd poster or two of bands she liked. Even those little snippets into Yaz’s life were welcome, although the Doctor realised too late that she was snooping.
“Sorry, never been in here before. Nice place,” she smiled, before remembering why she’d woken up Najia Khan at 4:30 in the morning.
“I need your help, Yaz.”
Even half-awake, Yaz agreed almost instantly. “What do you need?” she asked without hesitation.
The Doctor ignored the little flutter inside her chest at the reaction, but let her smile broaden.
“Do you fancy a trip to Mars?”
“The planet, yeah? Just checking. You took us to a whole galaxy called Australia, once.”
“The one and only red planet. There’s someone who needs our help and I think you’re just the person I need.”
Yaz’s face lit up and the Doctor endeavoured to try and do that more often.
“And Graham and Ryan, right?”
The Doctor nodded once, shoving her hands in her trouser pockets. It would be odd to just take Yaz with her, really, and she could do with all the help she could get.
“Yeah, and them. Course.” The Doctor was sure she didn’t imagine that Yaz deflated slightly.
“Well then. Just let me get ready and we can go.”
The Doctor nodded again, watching wordlessly as Yaz stood up and started looking for some clothes to get changed into. Jeans in hand, the younger woman gave her a look.
“Would you mind just…turning your back or something?” Yaz gestured to her pyjamas, raising an eyebrow.
“Oh! Of course, Yaz. Sorry.” The Doctor turned on her heel immediately, making a concerted effort to stare at Yaz’s photos once more as she tried to ignore the sound of Yaz undressing behind her. She didn’t take any of the pictures in; the soft sound of material hitting the floor and more drawers opening and closing was distracting as she tried, and failed, to stop imagining what Yaz was doing.
A hand on her shoulder jerked her out of her daydream.
When the Doctor realised that Yaz was, thankfully, fully clothed, she let the tension ebb from her body. It ratcheted back up moments later as the light scent of Yaz’s perfume caught up to her.
“Yeah,” she sighed. “Let’s get a shift on.”
“I think you might need to get us some stronger coffee, Doc,” Graham said, passing a hand over his eyes. Ryan had slumped into an armchair as soon as they’d entered the TARDIS, obviously keen to get as much sleep as possible. He’d started snoring lightly as the Doctor input the coordinates, his legs outstretched and crossed at the ankle. Yaz laughed at the noise, which she apparently found endearing. The Doctor raised an eyebrow.
“As soon as we find a coffee shop,” she muttered, flipping switches.
“I know this is urgent, and all, but given that this is a time machine, do you not think we could take a detour?”
The Doctor fixed him with a glare and Graham held up his hands, backing away.
“Alright, alright. It can wait.”
“Yes, it can. We have more important things to worry about.”
A touch on her shoulder – the second that morning – snapped her out of it.
“It’ll be alright, Doctor. We’re here to help. Right, Graham?”
Graham nodded, realising his protests were futile.
“So what century is it we’re off to, exactly?”
“The 46th. And I hate to break it to you, but Earth by that point is uninhabitable. Global warming, pollution, war – they drove people into space. So what you’re about to see is the start of the great human migration.”
Graham raised his eyebrows. “I had a feeling we’d mess the planet up but I didn’t realise it’d happen so soon.”
“Yeah, well…things got a bit messy when certain politicians started getting into power. And no, I’m not naming names. Best not to know,” the Doctor conceded, realising she was being irritable. “Sorry, fam. I have a bad feeling about this one and there’s someone at the heart of it who needs all the help she can get.”
“And we’ll give it, won’t we?” Yaz said, looking to Graham for support.
“Always, Doc. You name it.”
The Doctor softened, reassured by the constant touch of Yaz’s hand on her shoulder. It was a confidence boost, one she very much needed.
“Thanks, Yaz,” she murmured, casting a grateful glance at her companion. Yaz smiled softly at her and there was a beat while they read each other’s expression.
“I’m going to make a coffee,” Graham announced to the room, excusing himself. Ryan continued to snore.
“Would you like anything, Doctor? You seem a bit…frazzled.”
Yaz was regarding her curiously.
“Oh me? No, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. Why don’t you get Graham to make you a cuppa?”
Thankfully, Yaz took the hint and left her to it for a moment. How on earth am I going to navigate this? The Doctor thought. Lily’s curious face sprang to mind, her empty house, the space where her parents should have been. Priorities.
“You really weren’t kidding,” Ryan mused, eyes wide as he took in the state of the office. “Someone really was looking for something.”
“Was she here when this happened?” Yaz asked.
The Doctor shook her head. “I have no idea. I hope not. I was kind of hoping you could talk with her, Yaz. You’re so good at talking to people.”
Yaz nodded, already halfway out of the door as she headed towards the kitchen, where Graham was making their young host something to eat. The Doctor watched from afar as Yaz started talking to Lily, who was instantly taken with her. She watched them for a while, entranced as the young girl started chatting animatedly. Yaz’s expression completely softened, and it was clear she was a reassuring presence for a young girl who was clearly terrified and trying to hide it. And just like she’d peppered the Doctor with questions when they first met, Lily was currently asking Yaz all about her job as a police officer.
But whereas the Doctor had given vague non-answers, Yaz was winning Lily over with her responses. The comforting sound of laughter filled the space, and their interaction was touching to watch.
Ryan cleared his throat behind her.
“Where shall we start?” he asked, glancing over the Doctor’s shoulder to see Yaz talking with Lily in the kitchen. “She’s good with kids,” he mused, and the Doctor scanned his face for clues. He was annoyingly hard to read.
“Yeah,” she sighed. Seeing how Yaz interacted with kids conjured up something she’d not considered in centuries and she abruptly shook her head, trying to dispel it. She turned back to the room, focusing on the task at hand.
“Let’s start with the paperwork. The least we can do is try and clean up the mess while we search for clues.”
Ryan scratched the back of his head, obviously unenthused about the task ahead. “Alright. This place is messier than my room.”
Yaz was at the doorway the Doctor had just vacated, her hand resting on the same patch of stone.
“Lily just gave me this. She said her dad stuck it to the fridge the day before he left.”
The Doctor held out a hand, instantly intrigued. When she saw what was on the piece of paper Yaz handed her, though, her intrigue turned to frustration.
“What’s this?” she said, turning the paper on its side as she tried to figure out which way was up. It looked like a lot of squares with a line running between them. “I know modern art took a bit of a turn around the 31st century but-“
“It’s a map,” said Ryan after a moment. “Aren’t those meant to be buildings?”
The Doctor’s face lit up when she realised he was onto something.
“Ryan Sinclair! Ten points for you. Of course it’s a map. What else would it be? But why a map?” Her elation was short-lived.
“Maybe he wanted her to find something? Maybe he knew he might not come back,” Yaz mused. The Doctor nodded, still mulling over the possibilities.
“If he thought he might not come back, do we want to find what’s at the end of this?” Ryan asked.
“I don’t think we have much choice, fam. And you’ve found our best lead so far, Yaz. Our only lead, come to think of it. Well done.”
I'm drip-feeding this one so the chapters will probably be relatively short but more regular.
This chapter is pure domestic fluff because a) I needed it and b) you're going to need it ;)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"No way, Doctor. It's pitch black out there." Yaz cast a glance out of the window, still apparently unsettled by the fact that Earth – her home - was the size of a star.
"I'll use my sonic. Great torch." The Doctor started waving it around as if to prove her point, but Yaz remained unconvinced. She shook her head, looking to Graham and Ryan for support.
"Er...yeah, maybe we could just turn in and make an early start in the morning?" Ryan offered, and Graham scoffed.
"I think hell will freeze over before you get up early," he laughed, before Yaz fixed him with a glare. "Right you are, though. I'm pretty knackered after our 5am wake-up call." He looked suitably chastened and the Doctor had to bite back a grin at how effectively Yaz had managed to get them on-side.
But she continued to pace the length of the kitchen, full of nervous energy. There was a mystery to be solved and a solid lead that she wanted to explore, and sleep…well, sleep wasn’t something she normally worried about. The girl in their midst was her main concern right now. Lily was drawing at the kitchen table, surrounded by paper and crayons, oblivious to the conversation around her.
When Graham had first seen what Lily had been using to draw with, he’d questioned whether technology hadn’t advanced past the point of such simple materials.
“Some things just work,” the Doctor had shrugged, pointing to the variety of colourful drawings stuck to the refrigerator with magnets. There was barely an inch of clear space.
“When people left Earth, they wanted to take something of their history with them. It just so happened that the 21st century was seen as the epitome of Earth’s culture. Before it all went a bit…pear-shaped.” The Doctor grimaced. “Most of their architecture, their clothes, even their food, is similar to that found on Earth in your time. Well, maybe a little before.” To all intents and appearances, the inside of Lily’s house was very much like that of an Earth house in the 21st century.
Graham nodded. “Now that you mention it, I feel like I’ve walked into the 1950s.”
“But with more spaceships, right?” Ryan asked, ever hopeful.
“Right,” the Doctor acknowledged. “There’s a lot of trade on this particular colony. Great stopping-off point for some of the longer-distance travellers.”
Like us , the Doctor thought. Except they would have to stay put for the time being. The thought made her restless.
"Anyway, I think we might need to get some dinner going," Yaz chipped in, nodding her head in the direction of Lily. The Doctor finally stopped pacing, willing herself to see sense. She looked at Lily, head bent over her drawings. As much as the Doctor wanted to get to the bottom of things, Yaz had a point. They’d stand a far better chance in daylight, and they had someone else to look after right now.
She sighed and Yaz grinned, realising she’d won.
“You can help me cook, instead.”
“Are you sure about that?” the Doctor deflected, trying to remember her last culinary attempts. She burned toast on a regular basis and lived on a steady diet of custard creams, so proper cooking was something she didn’t often consider. But the thought of cooking with Yaz was mysteriously appealing. Perhaps it had something to do with the way that Yaz rolled up her sleeves, exposing her forearms as she ran the tap and washed her hands.
“I’m going to take that as my cue to carry on with the tidy-up. Come on, son,” Graham said, pulling on Ryan’s arm. “We’ll leave you to it.”
“Right then, Doctor. You’re in charge of prep.”
The Doctor’s eyes widened when Yaz handed her a rather sharp-looking knife. “Just keep your fingers out of the way and you’ll be fine.”
Except when Yaz returned to stand next to her, the warmth of her body was a pleasant distraction from the task at hand. And when she started to hum, it distracted the Doctor just enough that the knife slipped as she pushed down, moving sideways. A split second later she hissed, jerking her hand away.
“Did you cut yourself?” Yaz’s eyes were wide with worry.
“Hmmph,” the Doctor mumbled around the finger already in her mouth. She could taste blood and she grimaced as it coated her tongue.
Reluctantly, the Doctor withdrew her finger, turning away as she waved it in Yaz’s face. She didn’t deal well with the sight of blood. She’d seen enough of it to last a lifetime.
“Ahh. Your garden variety kitchen injury,” Yaz tutted, and the Doctor risked a look. The cut wasn’t as bad as it felt, which was almost disappointing. She frowned at it.
The girl looked up, crayon in hand.
“Do you have a first aid kit?”
“Yeah. Hold on,” she said, hopping down from the chair.
Yaz took hold of the Doctor’s hand, holding it aloft slightly. “Just in case you bleed out while we wait,” Yaz chuckled, as if by way of explanation. The Doctor huffed in response, revelling in the feel of Yaz’s hand wrapped so tightly around her own.
“I did warn you to keep your fingers out of the way,” Yaz chided, her gaze soft.
“I know,” the Doctor muttered. “I think my talents might lie outside of the kitchen.”
“Here!” Lily returned in a rush and dropped a canvas bag onto the counter with a flourish, unzipping it and rifling through plasters of all shapes and sizes, which spilled out onto the floor. After a moment, she gasped and held up a bright pink monstrosity.
“Really?” the Doctor pulled an exaggerated face, knowing she had no choice.
Lily nodded, giggling at her expression.
“Great choice,” Yaz agreed, joining in the laughter at the Doctor's expression as she ripped the packaging open.
“Now, stay still.”
The Doctor held her breath as Yaz wrapped the plaster securely around her finger. The touch was innocent and yet it felt more intimate than anything the Doctor had felt in a long time. Warmth flooded her arm when Yaz lifted the bandaged finger to her lips, leaving a swift kiss on the material.
“There. You always have to kiss these things better,” Yaz murmured, as if it made perfect sense, and then she was gone, washing her hands once more. The Doctor felt the loss almost physically.
“Why don’t you help Lily?” Yaz said, her back still turned. “I think I can handle this.”
The Doctor gratefully slumped into a chair, barely listening as Lily started to natter away. All she could think about was the way Yaz had touched her like she was the most delicate thing in the world.
The Doctor just about made it through dinner but as soon as it was finished and the plates were cleared away, she made her excuses and headed out for some air. Yaz gave her a curious look but she couldn’t take it any longer; she needed to clear her head. Ryan had distracted Yaz with some inane conversation almost instantly and for once, the Doctor was grateful.
And so the Doctor found herself on the balcony outside of the master bedroom, looking up at the night sky. It was cold out, even within the protective biodome that kept the colony functioning, but she needed something to numb her. It felt like her blood was running ten times hotter than it should have been, which made concentrating very difficult.
She barely registered the sound of the sliding door opening behind her.
“Which one’s Earth, then?”
Of course it had to be Graham .
The Doctor squinted for a split second, grateful that he didn’t launch straight into what was on his mind. She found Earth easily.
“You see that constellation there? The one that looks like a giraffe?” She gestured upwards, tracing the outline as best she could.
It took them a few minutes but eventually Graham could just about see what she was describing.
“Earth is its right eye.”
“We all are.” The Doctor knew she was being melancholy but she couldn’t help it. Something had crept into her thoughts and taken up residence, like a virus she couldn’t shift. She couldn’t stop thinking about Yaz.
“You’ve made quite the impression, by the way.”
The Doctor froze, wondering where his line of conversation was leading.
“On Lily,” he explained, putting her out of her misery. “She wants you to read her a bedtime story.”
The Doctor laughed lightly, still gazing upwards.
“I’m sure I have a few.”
“Just make sure it’s an upbeat one, eh?”
She turned to look at him with an eyebrow raised, as if challenging him to explain himself. She could always trust Graham to be blunt. But she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted him to be, right now.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, Doc, it’s just…you don’t seem yourself. Normally you’re a lot more light-hearted.”
“Missing parents will do that,” the Doctor said, refusing to be drawn into the discussion that Graham clearly wanted to have.
“This tension that’s surrounding you, you know there are ways to resolve it, don’t you? You can talk to her.”
The Doctor turned her face back to the sky and closed her eyes.
“It’s not that simple, Graham,” she said, after a long moment.
“It can be,” he replied. “Anyway, just some food for thought. And I thought you might like this.”
The Doctor frowned as Graham handed her a roll of paper, the furrow in her brow easing as she straightened it out. It was a picture of her and Yaz cooking in the kitchen. Lily had even drawn the bright pink plaster on her finger. Something about the domesticity of the image triggered a pang and she inhaled quickly, staring back up at the sky. She could blame the sting in her eyes on the coldness of the air.
“Don’t keep her waiting,” Graham said vaguely, leaving her alone at last.
Eventually even the Doctor had to admit defeat and return to the warmth. And as soon as she did, she was corralled into Lily’s bedroom and tugged onto the girl’s bed so that they could share a bedtime story. Or three. The Doctor kicked off her boots, stretching out her legs as she made herself comfortable. She couldn’t help but grin when Lily laid out alongside her in a similar fashion, gradually tucking herself into the Doctor’s side as she listened quietly to the Doctor’s words. It felt like the most natural thing in the world to drape a protective arm around her.
The Doctor was so enraptured in her own storytelling – a fabulous tale about talking cats and marshmallow pillows – that she failed to notice that the intended recipient had fallen asleep in her arms.
“How many stories did you tell her?” Yaz murmured from the doorway.
The Doctor jerked slightly in surprise, wondering how long Yaz had been listening. She glanced down, surprised to see that Lily was fast asleep.
“I was just getting to the good part,” she grumbled, nodding her head from side to side to work out a crick in her neck.
“Well, you can tell that to me, instead,” Yaz offered, crossing the threshold. “Come on, to bed with you, too.”
The Doctor was glad she could turn her back to Yaz under the pretence of shifting Lily into bed. She fussed with the covers, tucking the girl in and brushing some hair away from her forehead.
“I am a little tired,” she finally admitted. The evening had been surprisingly exhausting. “Bed sounds like a good idea. I’ll just sleep on the sofa. Love a good sofa, me.”
“Oh, well...Ryan claimed that one. Actually, he kinda fell asleep on it while you two were in here,” Yaz shrugged. “I thought you could crash with me?”
The Doctor sensed something in Yaz’s tone, a slight waver that suggested she wasn’t sure what the Doctor would make of the suggestion. She didn’t fail to notice the way that Yaz was fidgeting with a ring on her finger.
“You don’t have to, you know. I can sleep on the floor, or-”
“No way, Yaz. You’re not sleeping on the floor. It’ll be great! A sleepover with Yaz! Amazing.”
The Doctor’s hearts continued to thunder inside her chest as she picked up her boots and slipped out of Lily’s room, pulling the door closed behind her. She could hear her hearts working hard as she followed Yaz down the hallway in silence. Sharing a bed shouldn’t be so anxiety-inducing, she mused. She just hoped she didn’t snore.
They entered the master bedroom and Yaz turned on the bedside lamp, before walking to the other side.
“You okay with that side?” she asked, and the Doctor wondered what it would be like to share a bed with Yaz on a regular basis. To have a side of the bed. She nodded and resolutely turned her back as Yaz started to get undressed.
The Doctor slipped her jacket from her shoulders, removing the papers and her sonic from the pockets and placing them on the bedside table before folding the coat carefully and leaving it on a chair. But the light sound of Yaz’s laughter made her turn. She was already in bed, under the covers.
“I’ve never seen anybody fold clothes so thoroughly,” Yaz said, her head propped up on one hand. If it wasn’t for the straps of her vest top, the Doctor would have thought she was naked.
“Don’t want anything else to fall out of the pockets,” the Doctor offered by way of explanation. She eased herself onto the bed, resolutely lying along the far edge.
“Are you not getting in?” Yaz asked, yawning. The Doctor wished she could be as relaxed as her companion apparently was.
“Is that okay?”
Yaz frowned. “I think it would be weirder if you didn’t.”
“Right,” the Doctor exhaled, wearily getting to her feet. “Of course.”
“You may as well take your suspenders off if you’re going to sleep with your clothes on. I don’t think they’ll be very comfortable.”
The Doctor had to admit Yaz had a point. If she had a choice, she would sleep in nothing at all, but somehow she knew that wasn’t appropriate. And to be naked around Yaz, well...that was something else entirely. She slipped the golden straps from her shoulders, feeling some of the tension in her body release as she did so.
“Better?” Yaz asked, eyes dancing in the dim light. The Doctor nodded, swallowing hard when Yaz lifted up the duvet. She caught a glimpse of Yaz’s bare legs and quickly slid in, pulling the duvet down hard against her own body. It was very warm, being in bed with Yaz. And as much as instinct wanted her to wrap an arm around Yaz, as she had with Lily, her brain told her it would be a very bad idea.
“So, what were you telling Lily about?”
Yaz inched closer.
“Oh, well, there’s a hotel that has edible pillows made from marshmallow. They’re very soft. But kind of sticky. I don’t know if I’d recommend staying there,” the Doctor mused, trying to ignore the heat from their bodies so close together.
“Hmm. Where’s the strangest place you’ve slept?”
“Are you sure you want to know the answer to that one?”
The Doctor weighed up her options. She could be brutally honest and give Yaz an answer that would make her laugh, or she could choose a more risque route.
“I once slept in Elizabeth the first’s bed. Well, I say sleep...”
The Doctor held her breath, waiting to see how Yaz would react. Her companion’s eyes widened, and she stuttered as she tried to find words. The Doctor couldn’t help it; she burst into laughter, delighted that she’d finally flummoxed Yaz.
“There are a lot more strange places, but we might be here awhile if I start to list them all,” the Doctor continued, tucking an arm behind her head. She refused to turn to look at Yaz directly, but she could feel Yaz inching closer again.
“Well then, you’ll have to continue another time,” Yaz finally murmured, and the Doctor wondered what she meant. It wasn’t as if they often shared a bed. She risked a glance when she felt Yaz shift beside her, getting comfortable.
“These pillows might not be made from marshmallow but they’re very soft,” Yaz muttered, her eyes sliding shut. Within minutes she was asleep, and the Doctor noticed for the first time just how long her eyelashes were. If anything, Yasmin Khan was even more beautiful in sleep than she was awake.
However, sleep was not going to be possible for the Doctor tonight.
The Doctor sighed, admitting defeat. It felt wrong to be watching Yaz so closely while she slept so she turned to the other side, reaching for the papers she’d retrieved from her pocket.
Although the map was her priority, she itched to look at the picture Lily had drawn of her and Yaz. Resolutely, she ignored the urge, her fingertips drifting past the curled-up paper and reaching instead for the sensibly folded map.
The Doctor scrutinised it for several minutes, trying to mentally piece together the layout of the town from what she’d seen. But the line seemed to lead nowhere, stopping abruptly in what she believed to be one of the fields surrounding the town. If there was something at the end of the line, surely it was unlikely to be in the middle of a field? And if it was, how would they find it?
The Doctor reached for the bedside lamp, realising belatedly that the light might eventually wake her sleeping companion. But as soon as she flicked it off, she almost dropped the map in her other hand. The paper was glowing. The Doctor gasped, holding it closer in the gloom, but her eyesight was very good and she could instantly see numbers, as clear as day. A string of numbers that looked very much like coordinates.
I'm on Twitter @_mag_lex, although I'm trying to cut down on my social media use and failing miserably!
Slowly, the Doctor lowered the page, mind churning with possibilities. Of all the things she’d expected, a glow-in-the-dark clue was at the bottom of the list, but she did love surprises. Especially ones that helped her solve a problem quickly.
She glanced sideways, wary of jostling her companion, who seemed to have slept blissfully through her excitement. The Doctor’s legs were itching with the urge to get moving but she allowed herself to watch Yaz for a moment when a soft sound fell from her parted lips.
The Doctor softened when Yaz’s hand reached out moments later, grasping hold of the material of her trousers and gripping surprisingly tightly. The Doctor smiled at the reflex, wondering if she could wait until morning, after all. It wasn’t like the clue was going anywhere. And besides, moments like this were to be treasured. Running around solving problems was all well and good but in reality, the Doctor just liked to be helpful. To be around people. And she really liked being around Yaz.
“Doctor,” Yaz mumbled, and the Doctor froze. She was sure she hadn’t heard that right, despite her superior hearing. She also wasn’t sure if it was wishful thinking.
“Mm.” Yaz made another sound, a breathy sigh that made the Doctor sit upright. Panic flushed through her, as if she’d been caught eavesdropping. When Yaz moaned quietly once more, the Doctor eased her grip on her trousers, wishing she could hold onto Yaz’s hand but instead leaving it to rest on the warm sheets she’d just vacated. Yaz moved towards the now-empty spot, apparently seeking the Doctor out in her sleep.
The Doctor turned abruptly, her back to Yaz as she scanned the darkness of the unfamiliar room for her boots and coat. She needed to get to work, not be so distracted. A gentle whisper of sheets moving almost made her turn but she moved forward instead, knowing that if she looked back she’d never make progress. Now was not the time.
She threw on her coat, shoving her feet into her boots as she slipped the map into her pocket. Only when she got to the door did she cast a look back at Yaz, feeling her hearts ache at the sight of her asleep and reaching. The Doctor knew she couldn’t be that person for Yaz; not really. They had separate lives. Yaz had a career, and a family that she loved. The Doctor had nothing. She shut the door gently behind her with a click, effectively shutting those thoughts out of her head at the same time. It wouldn’t do to get morose.
But her sullen mood followed her out of the door, and she was so distracted that she didn’t see a table in the hallway. The noise it made as she collided with it was enough to wake Ryan, who was fast asleep on the sofa. He was far too tall for it, his feet dangling over the edge, and the Doctor couldn’t help but be charmed that he’d offered to sleep there despite how uncomfortable it must have been.
“Who’s there?” he called, voice soft with sleep. The Doctor winced as she rubbed her knee, seeing the outline of his head poking over the back of the sofa.
“Just me,” she offered, feeling guilty for waking him up but also wishing she could have some time to think. “Sorry, the furniture jumped out at me.”
The light turned on moments later, illuminating the room and making both the Doctor and Ryan squint at the brightness.
“Were you...leaving?” he asked, retrieving his hand from the lamp switch and rubbing at his eyes as he blinked against the harsh light.
The Doctor sighed, realising she had no choice but to be honest. Nobody nipped to the shops at 1 am.
“I just wanted to get a feel for the layout of the town,” she lied, her hand coming to rest protectively over her pocket.
“In the middle of the night?”
Ryan shrugged. “Mind if I join you? I kind of wanted to see it, myself.”
“Feel free,” the Doctor replied, continuing her path to the door. She knew she was being curt but the fewer distractions she had, the better.
Ryan was surprisingly quick for someone who’d just woken up, lacing his trainers and throwing on a coat within the space of a minute. They left silently, trying not to disturb the others.
“So, where to?” Ryan asked quietly once they were outside, his breath clouding in the night air. They were alone in the street; most of the town seemed to be asleep, although they could vaguely hear the sounds of late-night drinkers in the distance. The Doctor shut the door behind them, safely enclosing the others as she and Ryan headed into the unknown, away from the commotion in the centre of the town and out towards the outskirts.
The Doctor didn’t answer Ryan, instead pulling out the map at last and trying to place the landmarks.
“Whoah!” Ryan gasped as he saw the numbers. “What’s that?”
“Co-ordinates,” the Doctor muttered distractedly. “For...that field over there.” She pointed dramatically to the far end of the road, where rows upon rows of corn stalks loomed in the dark. Ryan shivered.
“Lead the way,” he murmured, pulling his phone from his pocket and turning on the torch to light the path.
They walked silently for a few minutes, the Doctor occasionally consulting the map and finally pulling out her sonic as they approached the boundary of the field.
“Before we go in,” Ryan stopped her in her tracks, “is everything alright?”
The look in his eyes was so direct and so earnest that the Doctor hesitated. She felt guilty for being so abrupt with him before. He was a good man; he just happened to be much closer with Yaz than the Doctor had realised and she’d let irrational jealousy cloud her judgment. The fact that both he and Graham had picked up on her mood was not a good sign. She was clearly not being very subtle.
“Yeah,” she exhaled, “sorry. It’s been a long day.”
Ryan smiled a little at that.
“You were the one who got us up at the crack of dawn, you know.”
“What’s that saying? The early bird catches the worm? Well, we found the worm,” the Doctor said, waving the map. “Not bad going, if I do say so myself.”
“I suppose. I might need a Red Bull after this, though.”
“What, you’re telling me the excitement of finding a clue isn’t enough to keep you awake?” the Doctor frowned, pushing aside the stalks with her hands as they entered the field. Her sonic was clasped firmly in one hand, and she scrutinised it every now and again to make sure they were on the right track. It had calculated a route using reverse geolocation, and flashed steadily, then more rapidly as they neared the coordinates.
Finally, they stood at the far edge, sonic pulsing wildly in the dark. The Doctor quickly pocketed it, suddenly wary of drawing attention. Whatever was here was clearly hidden.
“What am I meant to be looking at?” Ryan frowned, turning on the spot as he eyed the maize surrounding them.
“I think...yes, I think it’s right under our very noses,” the Doctor said, squatting on her knees as she inspected the ground. “See the earth?”
Ryan joined her. “It looks earthy,” he said, after a pause.
The Doctor rolled her eyes. “It looks like it’s been moved.”
Realisation dawned in Ryan’s eyes. “It’s buried?”
“Seems that way.” The Doctor rolled up her sleeves, all business. She turned and flashed a grin at Ryan. “Ready to get your hands dirty?”
After twenty minutes of painstaking digging with their bare hands - the Doctor had urged caution and Ryan had heeded her advice when she casually dropped in the idea that they could be digging up a bomb, for all she knew - the Doctor’s fingers encountered something soft.
“Hold up your phone?” she requested. “There’s some cloth here,” she muttered, muddy fingers brushing away the soil as best she could. She eased the cloth-wrapped package out of the dirt, and a sleeve fell loose. “It’s a...shirt?”
“You mean we came out here in the middle of the night to dig up someone’s laundry?” Ryan said.
The Doctor bit her tongue.
“It’s wrapped around something,” she said instead. She held the bundle gingerly, still uncertain what it was. A quick scan of the sonic would have solved the mystery, but there was no fun in that, she decided. She laid the material flat on the ground, unfolding it carefully. Swaddled in the material was something familiar to both of them, bound in leather.
“A book?” Ryan seemed disappointed. “I kind of thought there might be treasure or something.”
“A book can be treasure,” the Doctor replied, glancing up at Ryan with an eyebrow raised. “Get down here, will you? I don’t want anyone to know we’re here.”
Ryan knelt next to her on the disturbed earth, holding his torch more helpfully. With the aid of the light, the Doctor could skim read the pages within; but the words weren’t written in a language she’d ever encountered before. Rather, they were written in some kind of code and without the key to crack it, they had reached a dead end. The Doctor bit back the urge to sigh with frustration but felt her shoulders slump nevertheless as she let the book fall back to the ground. Normally, she thrived on problems such as this, but her mind was all over the place. She briefly thought of Yaz tucked up in bed and wished she was back there with her.
As if sensing her disappointment, Ryan nudged the Doctor’s shoulder. “Look, there’s something else!”
He reached past her, ignoring her blurted words of caution as his fingers wrapped around something silvery within the material. He lifted his hand back, taking with it a necklace.
“Huh. I wasn’t expecting that,” the Doctor admitted, scanning it with her sonic. She looked at the readings, none the wiser for it.
“It’s just a normal necklace. A strange gemstone in the middle, though. A very rare stone, that,” she said, admiring it as it dangled from Ryan’s fingertips.
“Whose do you think it is?”
“It must be valuable if it’s been hidden,” the Doctor pondered. “Especially with that stone. But I don’t understand what it has to do with the book, if anything. Perhaps they’re both of sentimental value?”
Ryan frowned. “I think I’m more confused than I was before, to be honest.”
“You and me both,” the Doctor admitted. She cast a glance at the book, which was a mystery in and of itself. Brushing the remnants of soil from the cover, the Doctor slipped it into her coat pocket. A problem for later.
“Why don’t you look after that?” she said, gesturing to the necklace that was still in Ryan’s hand.
“I don’t see anyone else here,” the Doctor stated simply. “And I know you’ll keep it safe.”
She noted the grin that her request had elicited from Ryan. “We should keep them separate, anyway. Who knows, they might be related.”
The Doctor eased herself back onto her feet, kicking the dirt back into the hole before lifting up the shirt, their final clue. It had a name embroidered on the front, and was clearly some kind of work shirt.
“Errol?” Ryan read aloud.
“I think that’s Lily’s dad,” the Doctor murmured. “That was the name on most of the paperwork in the office.”
“You’re right,” Ryan realised. “So he buried this? And then...he disappeared?”
“To all intents and purposes,” the Doctor agreed. “And he left our first clue, the map. But who was meant to find it? It was only chance that brought us here.”
There was a rustle in the corn, breaking the silence. A shiver raced up the Doctor’s spine; suddenly, she was on high alert. Something prickled at the back of her neck, and she and Ryan turned to look at each other simultaneously.
“Is it just me, or…do you have a bad feeling about this?”
Merely tracing the footsteps of the missing man was enough to unsettle them both, never mind the creeping sensation that they weren’t alone.
“This was the last place we know he was for certain,” Ryan continued, his voice hushed. He started to look around them anxiously. “Do you-”
“Want to get out of here? Yes,” the Doctor concluded, boldly striding out into a clearer path. She wouldn’t ever give off the impression that she was afraid, but she needed to get them out of there. As they swiftly made their way back to the safety of the town, both Ryan and the Doctor cast wary glances around them. It was hard to shake the feeling that they were being watched.
They paused once they reached the boundary, comforted by the yellow glow of streetlights. They had made it out of the field; the Doctor felt silly for being spooked so easily. There had to be a simple explanation for this. She knocked her boots on a fence-post, trying to dislodge the soil that still clung stubbornly to the soles. Ryan looked at his trainers and groaned.
“I knew I shouldn’t have worn my new ones.”
“Could be worse, Ryan. Did I ever tell you about the time the Loch Ness monster swallowed one of my shoes?”
“Get out of here,” Ryan scoffed, enjoying the comfort of the Doctor’s unpredictable discussion topics as they made their way back. It settled his nerves.
That comfort evaporated when they caught sight of the front door to Lily’s home.
It was open.
Broken glass crunched under the Doctor's boots as she barrelled through the door, caution well and truly thrown to the wind. The sound barely registered above the noise of the blood in her ears, hearts pounding with adrenaline.
"Yaz!" she called, dismayed to see droplets of blood on the floor. "Lily! Graham?"
Ryan was a step behind her and she heard him gasp in shock at the sight that greeted them.
"What the…we only just left!"
The Doctor turned to face him, her expression stony.
"I’m starting to think we’re being watched.” She clasped his arms with both hands. “Help me find the others.”
There was fear in Ryan’s eyes and the Doctor knew it was reflected in her own, but now wasn't the time to be scared. Something had happened here - something bad - and the Doctor had a feeling that she wouldn't like what she found. The house felt too quiet.
"Graham?" Ryan called, cupping his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice. He stared, bewildered at the mess that had been left in the kitchen. Cupboards had been thrown open, plates deliberately smashed.
The Doctor could only imagine the racket, the commotion waking those who slept within while she and Ryan had gone off on a jolly. It must have been terrifying. She clenched her fists, trying to remain calm, checking Lily's bedroom first and feeling like she'd swallowed lead when she found it was empty. Reeling, she stumbled backwards through the door, stumbling to the main bedroom. Her hand shook as she reached for the knob.
Empty. It was like a punch to the gut. Worse, there were signs of a struggle. The duvet was on the floor, and Yaz's shoes were missing. There was more blood on the carpet and the Doctor swallowed back a surge of nausea that rose at the back of her throat. Yaz was gone.
She knew she should have taken Yaz with her.
Had Yaz heard someone breaking in? Perhaps she’d gone to investigate, putting on her shoes before someone ambushed her in the bedroom. Either way, Yaz had woken up and she hadn’t been there. The Doctor felt nauseous, trying to ignore the blood on the floor. It might not have been Yaz’s. She had to hope it wasn’t.
“Doctor! Graham’s here.”
A flicker of relief at the news dissipated some of the Doctor’s anxiety. Graham might be able to fill them in, give them a clue as to where Yaz and Lily were. She dashed towards the sound of Ryan’s voice, dismayed when she saw the state of Graham. He was tied to a kitchen chair in the third bedroom, at the end of the hallway. Ryan was still working on the binds when the Doctor entered the room.
“Oh, Graham,” she sighed. “What happened?” His eye was blackened and he’d clearly been subdued with force. He stared at her blankly, clearly shaken, and shook his head.
She pulled out her sonic and scanned him quickly, relieved at the readings.
“Nothing broken,” she exhaled.
“You sure about that?” Graham finally grumbled, wincing as the binds around his arms finally loosened. “Although I can’t really feel much right now. Tied me up good and proper, they did.”
Ryan helped him stand and they aided Graham to the sofa. The Doctor felt a stab of guilt at the way he hobbled down the hallway.
“Blimey. I knew they were making a racket but this is something else,” he muttered, eyes wide as he took in the mess that surrounded them. No room had escaped the destruction. The sofa was the only piece of furniture that was still upright in the living room, but even then it had been slashed open with something sharp, the stuffing from the cushions exploding outwards like clouds.
“I’ll make some tea,” Ryan said, heading towards the kitchen. The Doctor could hear him tidying up while the kettle boiled. While Graham recovered his senses, she started to pace, wanting nothing more than to question him about what happened. But patience was crucial. Graham was in shock and tea would help.
Her hands repeatedly clenched and unclenched as she walked. She wasn’t very good at being patient.
“They took Yaz and Lily. Told me they wanted to meet you.”
Graham answered the question she was so desperate to ask. She paused, surprised.
Graham nodded briefly. “They knew your name. And they said they found the TARDIS.”
“They what?” The Doctor let herself fall onto the couch next to Graham. “They have her?” Her stomach flipped as the nausea returned. They had her ship. Who were these people?
“Where did they say they’d gone? Who were they?”
Graham shrugged, grumbling as the move pulled on his aching shoulders. “No idea, Doc. But there were three of them that I could see. They didn’t mess around. Gave me this.”
He fumbled in his trouser pocket, tugging out a scrap of paper with a shaking hand. The Doctor clasped her hand around his for a brief second, trying to steady it and offer what comfort she could.
“I’m sorry they did this to you, Graham. I really am.”
Taking the paper with her as she pulled away, the Doctor got to her feet just as Ryan reappeared, bearing a tray with three cups of tea. The time for patience was over.
“Ryan, look after Graham. I’ll be back.”
“What? Where are you going?” Ryan put the tray down on the floor - the coffee table was in two pieces - and handed Graham a cup of sweet tea.
The Doctor unfolded the scrap of paper.
“Valles Marineris.” She frowned. “Unhelpful. That’s 4000 kilometres long.”
“There’s writing on the back,” Ryan pointed out, and the Doctor huffed as she realised he was right.
“Oh. Right. Thanks, Ryan.” The note suggested the Doctor would find Yaz and Lily - and her TARDIS - at the closest chasm to the town. That made more sense.
“Right, fam. I’m off.”
“But you’ll be outnumbered,” Graham said, concerned.
“Yeah. Let me come with you.” Ryan was already on his feet, raring to go.
The Doctor shrugged. “I’ve been outnumbered before and come out of it just fine. Stay here, and lock the door behind me. I don’t think anyone will be back in a hurry.” She hoped not, at least, but she didn’t verbalise that particular thought.
Before they could protest again she turned, stalking to the door. There was a bit of a journey ahead and she’d wasted enough time. The fact that the charges in her care had been so grievously injured was enough to light a fire within her; the fact that Yaz was missing catalysed her even further, until she was practically running, heedless of the dark and the quiet of the night.
The journey was long enough that the night had started to ebb away by the time the Doctor reached the canyon. Through the gloom, she could make out the shapes of figures: three tall shapes, standing; one much smaller one, presumably Lily. And someone sitting on the ground. A sleek-looking car was parked a few metres away. But her TARDIS was nowhere to be seen.
As she drew closer, the Doctor felt her pulses start to accelerate when she could make out their faces in the early morning light. Three unfamiliar ones, belonging to men in crisp black suits. They did not look remotely friendly. Lily’s young face was terrified; a solid hand on her shoulder was clearly preventing her from running away. She was still in her pyjamas but they’d apparently given her time to put on some shoes and a jumper to ward against the cold of the dawn.
Yaz’s face was hidden, her head hung low as she braced her arms over her knees, sitting on the dusty ground. The Doctor felt bile rise in her throat when she saw her body language. She looked defeated, shivering in the chill despite her coat. She squared her shoulders, striding onwards.
“I hear you’re looking for me?”
The Doctor had intended to go for a lighthearted tone in an attempt to reassure Lily, but it came out with a sarcastic bite. At the sound of the Doctor’s voice, Yaz’s head jerked upright. Her split lip and bloody nose almost stopped the Doctor in her tracks. She hated to see Yaz hurt or in pain, and she felt irritation flare in her gut. But to show these men emotion, to show how much she cared for Yaz - that would give them too much ammunition. She forced her eyes away from Yaz, walking instead towards the huddle that was holding Lily captive. The move also put Yaz behind her, out of harm’s way.
Of the three men she faced, only one replied: the one holding Lily. The others stood with their hands clasped in front of them, as if awaiting instructions.
“Doctor. We’ve been expecting you.” The man’s voice was perfectly pleasant; polite, even.
“Well...yes. You did ask for me. Great location, by the way. Very scenic.” The Doctor made a show of looking around her. “How deep exactly is this canyon?”
The man smirked, and the sight sent a chill down the Doctor’s spine. Something about these men didn’t seem right. They looked like carbon copies of one another and their pristine clothes stuck out like a sore thumb, surrounded as they were by dust and dirt. And yet...they were unmarred. Even their brogues were spotless.
These men had trashed Lily’s home. They had beaten Graham and Yaz, and taken a little girl captive. And yet their hands were clean; they looked like lawyers, or estate agents.
“Who are you?” the Doctor asked, desperate to know. She disliked not knowing things.
“That’s of no consequence,” the man scoffed. “All that matters is that you have something that belongs to us.”
The Doctor frowned. “I do?”
The man nodded.
“You might need to be a bit more explicit. I don’t think I have anything of yours. But you definitely have something of mine, don’t you? My ship. Where is it?”
“Uh uh,” the man tutted. “We demand an exchange, first.”
“Again, you’ll have to tell me exactly what you’re after,” the Doctor said. Her patience was starting to wear thin and all she could think about was Yaz behind her, hurting.
The man sighed, his hand grabbed hold of Lily’s jumper, and he lifted her as easily as if he was picking up a bag of sugar.
“Enough talking. You talk too much, Doctor.”
He took a few steps to one side and with dawning terror, the Doctor realised he was holding Lily over the edge.
“Perhaps this will help jog your memory?”
The girl shrieked when she looked down, starting to squirm. Her wriggling didn’t seem to disturb the man, who simply extended his arm even further. The Doctor took a cautious step towards them, holding her hands out in a calming gesture.
“You don’t need to do this. Put her down and we can talk properly. Nobody needs to get hurt.”
“That might be, but we don’t want to take any chances. You have something very important to us. Something Errol stole from us. He hid it, and you, of all people, found it.”
Immediately, the Doctor thought of the bundle she and Ryan had discovered. Perhaps they hadn’t been alone in that field, after all. But she didn’t know what this man wanted. They’d found two things, after all. And she had the notebook in her pocket, but they might have been after the necklace. She’d lose what little advantage she had if she was too upfront with them.
“I have something, yes,” she hedged, “but it’s somewhere safe. Not here.” She needed to buy some time, figure out what these people were after. They must have had something to do with the disappearance of Lily’s dad, after all.
The Doctor eyed the man’s grip on Lily’s jumper. Although he seemed blase about what he was doing, she could see that his grip was so tight that his knuckles had turned white. His arm had started to tremble subtly. She needed to get Lily back onto solid ground before his grip slipped entirely.
“Then it’s simple. Tell us where it is, and I’ll let the girl live.”
“No offence, mate, but I don’t entirely trust you. Let her go, first.” She took another step closer.
“You’re not taking us seriously enough,” the man drawled.
It was hard to tell what happened next. Either the man’s grip faltered, or Lily’s jumper slipped, but suddenly the man’s expression changed from one of focus to one of surprise as the weight his arm was suspending suddenly disappeared.
The Doctor heard Yaz’s scream behind her as she took a flying leap without thinking, hoping she could catch Lily before she fell too far. She gave only a fleeting thought as to what would happen once she caught her; she was hoping, against the odds, that she could at least grab hold of the rock face on the way down.
As it turned out the Doctor’s reactions were as quick as ever; she had managed to catch Lily before she had dropped out of reach, and her other hand grabbed hold of the lip of the rock simultaneously. They dangled precariously, the Doctor’s grip on the edge much looser than she’d like and her hold of Lily’s hand tenuous at best.
“Lily,” she gasped. “Hold on, okay? Try not to move.”
Lily nodded through her tears, screwing her eyes shut in fear. The Doctor deliberately ignored the drop beneath them, listening out for aid from above. There was the sound of feet moving above them, then car doors slamming. There was the unmistakable hum of an electric car accelerating, before the sound disappeared completely. Had they taken Yaz? If they had, the Doctor was in far more trouble than she’d care to admit.
Suddenly, Yaz’s face appeared over the edge, frantic.
“Doctor!” she exclaimed. “I thought you’d gone. Don’t do anything like that ever again, please?”
Despite the situation she found herself in, the Doctor couldn’t help but smile at the sight of her companion. It was a relief to be reunited.
“Sorry, Yaz. Had to act quick. Can you help Lily up?”
Making sure her grip was firm enough, the Doctor pulled her other arm up, bringing Lily with it. Her innate strength was always surprising, but even so, the effort of holding on for dear life with one arm and lifting up a young child with the other was taxing. She panted with the effort, grateful when Yaz reached down with both hands to pull Lily up to safety.
As soon as Lily was up, however, the Doctor felt her remaining strength start to subside, and in a panic she scrambled to get a solid grip with both hands.
“Yaz?” she called, trying to keep her tone neutral. She risked a glance downwards.
“Oh. Bad idea. Very bad idea.” She closed her eyes, feeling vertigo spin to life. The canyon was so deep that she could see nothing but darkness after a few hundred metres. There was only a very slim chance she’d survive a fall as far as that.
Yaz’s beautiful face finally reappeared and the Doctor swallowed her fear. Her grip was slipping by the second and she was scared to let go to grab hold of the hand Yaz was offering her. She took a breath, held it, and let go of the rock.
There was a terrifying second of nothing and then Yaz’s hand wrapped firmly around her own, the grip borderline painful. Nothing like it had been when she held her hand in the kitchen the previous night. That night felt like a very long time ago, now. The Doctor could just about see the pink plaster still wrapped around her finger and she smiled at the memory.
Then her grip started to slip, heedless of Yaz’s hold.
"Yaz, I need to tell you something," the Doctor grunted, the urgency of the situation making her panic slightly. What if she never got to say this? She had to get these words out. They were important. She wanted more moments with Yaz, more time together. But if this was all they were going to have, she needed to confess her feelings as a matter of priority.
"Don't speak like that!" Yaz's voice cracked, broken. "You're not going anywhere."
"No, I need to." The Doctor was adamant. "I can't leave you without saying it."
Their grip slipped even further and Yaz made a sound of terror.
"I can't hold you," Yaz said, her voice shaking. She was trembling with the effort of holding the Doctor’s weight, clearly feeling the effects of her injuries. “Can you push yourself up? Please?”
The Doctor cautiously moved her feet, but they dangled uselessly. Her boots couldn’t get a grip on the rock and the movement merely weakened her hold on Yaz’s hand. She dropped an inch, biting back a cry of surprise.
She couldn’t let Yaz know how scared she was. But she did need to tell her how she felt, if it was the last thing she did.
Cruelly, the pressure around her fingers was suddenly gone and then she was weightless, free. Her mouth opened and shut almost comically as she fell, and fell, and fell, swallowed by the darkness. Yaz’s face, distraught, became smaller and smaller and then vanished from view entirely.
I love you, Yasmin Khan.
The ground finally materialised and at the moment of contact there was a spike of inexplicable agony. The world went dark.
This was fuelled by a 60-hour work week, far too little sleep, and three beers.
Yaz didn't realise the god-awful noise she could hear was coming from her own body until Lily tugged hard on her jeans, bringing her back to reality. The noise didn’t even sound human and it gave Yaz a fright to hear it coming from herself. But once she recovered her senses, Yaz wished she hadn’t. She could feel nothing but pain.
Her throat was raw from screaming the Doctor's name, her sight blurred. She could taste blood. Her hands were gripping so tightly to the rock that she could feel the sharp pinch of stone cutting into her palms. They ached with it but not as much as the ache she could feel inside her chest. It felt hollow, and her heart thudded painfully inside her ribcage.
She’d been holding the Doctor's hand but it had been too much, their hold too slippery. She'd been holding the Doctor's hand and then, she hadn't. Yaz wished she could turn back time, stop the events from happening. Change the past. Do something...anything. But she’d been unable to help. Useless.
A thought came to mind, unbidden. What if she had followed the Doctor down? Would that have been any better? She shook her head, tears spilling down her cheeks with the motion. The sense of despair was overwhelming but the feel of small hands tugging on her jeans, and the sounds of sobs other than her own, drew Yaz out of herself.
Reluctantly, she pulled back from the edge.
“It’s ok, Lily,” she gasped, wiping numbly at the tears staining her cheeks. “Come here.” She reached out and pulled the girl into her arms. Lily was willingly swept up into the gesture, and Yaz could feel her shaking. At least, she thought it was Lily. Perhaps it was her. She rocked them both, trying to soothe the girl, but the hug was a comfort for both of them as they held each other in the watery morning light, shivering with cold and shock.
Yaz had no idea how long they sat there. There was no sign of the men who had taken them there; they were alone, just the two of them, surrounded by nothing but silence and the broad, purple sky. In the distance, Yaz could start to make out the town as the dawn light became brighter and brighter still. Logically, she knew what she had to do. She had to get them back to safety, try and find Ryan and Graham, and come up with a plan.
And yet...she couldn’t bring herself to leave. What if the Doctor needed her help? Maybe, with the arrival of daylight, Yaz could see her. She disentangled herself from Lily’s tight grip.
“Just a second, sweetheart. I need to check.”
The girl’s lower lip wobbled.
“She fell, didn’t she?”
Yaz didn’t know how to answer that question. To admit it would be to accept the truth of the matter. Her head pounded from the blows she’d sustained at the hands of the thugs and her limbs shook with effort as she cautiously crept towards the edge.
The darkness was still there, taunting her. Yaz felt her heart sink. She nearly called out once more, but she knew it would be futile. Perhaps the Doctor was just unconscious; she’d fallen through the roof of a train once before, after all.
She would be back. She had to be. And while the Doctor made her way back to them, Yaz had a job to do.
She pushed herself to her feet on weakened arms.
“Come on. We need to find the others.”
Lily shook her head vehemently.
“We can help her. Like she helped me.”
The naivete painting Lily’s face was heartbreaking but Yaz knew she had to be strong. This was just a hiccup, a temporary blip. The Doctor would be back. She had to be. If Yaz repeated it enough, she’d start to believe it.
Casting one final look back, Yaz grabbed hold of Lily’s hand.
“We’ll help her. But we need to get help, too.” Yaz winced as she started to walk, relieved when Lily started to follow her. Trying to convince her of something was as difficult as trying to persuade the Doctor that bourbons were superior to custard creams.
The memory sent a fresh pang through Yaz’s chest and she clutched at it without thinking.
She looked down to find a very young but very wise face looking back at her.
“I’m fine, Lily. Let’s get moving, yeah? Sooner we’re home, the sooner we can help the Doctor.”
Lily nodded and started to pick up the pace, practically tugging Yaz along after her.
The words might have been a comfort to Lily but Yaz couldn’t help but listen to the niggling doubt that they wouldn’t be able to do anything to help at all.
It took them an hour to get home. By that point, the sun had started to rise in the sky and the town market was in full swing, if the sound of shouting and smells of cooking food were anything to go by. Yaz felt her stomach rumble with hunger but she ignored it; it made her feel nauseous. The heat was making her vision swim and only her hold on Lily’s hand anchored her to the reality of the situation. On every step, all she’d thought about was the look on the Doctor’s face as she’d let go.
She’d looked so...disappointed. Yaz couldn’t help but wonder what she had wanted to say. If she’d been able to go back and tell the Doctor one last thing, Yaz knew precisely what she’d tell her. She’d thought that they had time. But she’d been wrong.
Tears threatened to blur her vision again and she swallowed, the lump in her throat passing through her gut and settling there. As they neared Lily’s home, it started to feel like lead. She’d have to tell Ryan and Graham what had happened, and the very thought of it was enough to make her feel sick.
But the others were so shocked at the sight of them that the most obvious question didn’t arise until a few moments later.
“Oh my god. Grandad! They’re here!” Ryan was clearly surprised to see them, and relieved, as they walked through the door. But his relief was short-lived when he took in Yaz’s appearance.
“Your face, Yaz. What did they do?” He made a move towards her, a hand instinctively reaching for her.
Yaz shook her head, grimacing at the flare of pain, but not wanting to dwell on it. “It’s nothing. It’s fine.”
She could hear the tone of her own voice, as if it was the voice of a stranger. It was as flat as a pancake. She cleared her throat, trying to act normally for Lily’s sake, if nothing else. The walk back had been exhausting but she’d put a brave face on things, realising that someone else’s wellbeing depended on her.
“Could you get Lily something to drink? Maybe some food?” she asked him, closing the front door behind her and breathing a sigh of relief to realise they were home and dry. The state of the place didn’t register for a moment; the others had clearly been in the middle of tidying the place up when she and Lily had returned.
Graham appeared, but his reaction was more muted. Yaz was dismayed to see he was sporting a black eye, but otherwise his familiar presence was a reassuring one.
“Are you alright love?” he asked, scrutinising her expression. She seemed more listless than he’d like, but he was relieved to see her, and Lily.
“Come and have a seat and we’ll sort you out. Where’s the Doc?”
Yaz was glad she was near the sofa when he asked because the question knocked her for six. She collapsed onto the cushions, eyes darting around the room as she tried to find the words. Apparently, she was quiet for too long, because then Graham was sitting next to her and her cold hands were in his warm ones.
He turned to look at Ryan.
“Be a good lad and stick the kettle on, will you?” Graham winked at Lily as she followed Ryan into the kitchen.
Yaz was in tears when he turned back. The sight broke his heart because it confirmed what he suspected.
“She’s not coming back, is she?”
Yaz shook her head briefly, but stopped herself.
“She is. She has to.”
Graham looked at her sympathetically, his own eyes brimming with tears. The idea that the Doctor was gone...it didn’t bear thinking about. But it was clear that something disastrous had happened.
“What happened, love?”
Yaz clung onto Graham’s hand as she told him how she and Lily had been taken to the canyon. How the Doctor had tried to save them; how the men had been looking for something and threatened to drop Lily in order to get it. How the Doctor had leapt before she looked, and how her grip had slipped. She didn’t tell Graham what their last words had been. They hurt too much to think about.
“Yaz, I need to tell you something.”
“Don’t speak like that! You’re not going anywhere.”
“No, I need to. I can’t leave you without saying it.”
Yaz could still feel the ghost of that grip in her own, and the feeling when it was gone. She clenched her hand.
The fact that she might never know what the Doctor had wanted to tell her was indescribably cruel. Her sobs grew louder, ripping through her chest in bouts that left her breathless. She could barely feel Graham draw her into a hug, murmuring words of comfort in her ear.
Yaz hiccuped as she struggled to breathe normally. “She’s gone, and I didn’t tell her.”
Graham’s hold on her tightened imperceptibly as she succumbed to a fresh wave of tears.
“I know, love. I know.”
It wasn’t until much, much later, when Lily was in bed - she had insisted on sharing with Yaz, rather than going back to her own room - that Yaz found out what had happened while they’d been gone.
Grief, by this point, had been replaced by rage. Yaz started to pace, blood pounding in her ears. As if it wasn’t bad enough that these men had done grievous harm to the Doctor, they’d had no shame in coming back to terrorise the others.
“They asked for what we found. I...I had to give them what I had, they threatened to hurt granddad again.”
Ryan’s shoulders slumped. “She trusted me to look after it, and I didn’t. I gave it over.”
Yaz squeezed his arm in sympathy. She knew he was referring to the Doctor, and she realised, belatedly, that they were all struggling with the idea that she might not be coming back.
“You did the right thing, Ryan. I think they really could have hurt you if you hadn’t given it to them.”
Ryan shrugged, disconsolate. Graham gave him a pat on the back, murmuring something that Yaz couldn’t hear. All she could do was pace. She scoffed in disgust at the thought of the men coming back for more, after everything they’d done.
“They’ve no shame, have they? Threatening a kid. Ransacking her house. And don’t get me started on her dad.”
Graham looked at her with concern as she walked.
“Take it easy, Yaz.”
He was doing that grandfatherly thing again but instead of feeling reassured, all Yaz could feel was prickles of rage.
“What else did you find in the field? The Doctor said she didn’t have anything with her.”
Ryan frowned. “She did. At least, I think she did. There was a book. But it wasn’t written in English. It was too squiggly to understand. The Doctor couldn’t read it, either.”
Yaz bit her lip. The Doctor hadn’t mentioned that bit...but was that surprising? She must have been playing for time. The puzzle stumped her, enough to deflate the remaining rage and slow her pace. Her head was pounding and she was dizzy from tracing the same route, again and again.
As if he could read her mind, Graham’s hand came to rest between her shoulder blades. The weight brought Yaz back to the present.
“I think you should get some rest, Yaz. I think we all should, to be honest. Start afresh in the morning. What do you think?”
Ryan shook his head.
“I’m keeping watch.”
“You don’t need to do that,” Graham protested, but Ryan stood his ground.
“It’s the least I can do, after what’s happened. I don’t think I can sleep, anyway.”
Graham had to concede the point. “I’m too old for this,” he groused, groaning as he pushed up on his knees and got to his feet. Yaz realised, guiltily, that he was obviously in pain.
“Do you need anything?” she offered, not knowing how to offer help. It stumped her that he knew precisely what to say to her and yet she didn’t have the first clue how to do the same for him. Her thoughts were all over the place and she couldn’t even offer her support to Graham. She felt wretched.
“No thanks, love.” He smiled at her, kindly. “I’ll be fine after a kip. I suspect you will, too.”
When she reached the bed, Yaz didn’t bother to remove her clothes, merely kicking off her dusty trainers before sliding between the sheets. Lily had taken her side of the bed, which meant she lay where the Doctor had been mere hours before. Before it had all gone wrong.
The sheets were cold, but there was a familiar scent to them that made Yaz feel like she’d been wrapped in cotton wool. She breathed it in, realising that she was smelling the Doctor. It was hard to describe so Yaz didn’t attempt to; she focused instead on remembering it. But with each inhalation it felt like the Doctor was slipping further away and Yaz started to panic at the thought. She willed herself to stay calm, focusing on the sound of Lily breathing next to her.
How had she ended up here? Yaz cast her mind back.
Of course it had started with the Doctor, Yaz mused. She’d turned up at her home at 4:30 in the morning. And her mum, of course, had opened the door, and asked her to keep her bedroom door open. Despite herself, Yaz chuckled at the thought. The Doctor had no idea why Najia had asked them to do that, but Yaz knew.
Her mum wasn’t naive. She had asked Yaz about the Doctor several times since the arachnid incident in Sheffield, and each and every time Yaz had dodged the question. What would she have told her mum? That she was in love with a time-travelling alien who had fallen through a train roof and used to be a man? Her mum would have had a field day. But it was the truth, and one that Yaz had only recently realised.
The true nature of her feelings had only dawned on Yaz when the Doctor had started featuring in her dreams. Several times she’d awoken, heart racing, with images of the Doctor in her mind that slipped away as soon as conscious thought took over. Yaz often wished, at times like those, that she could go back to sleep and re-enter the dream at the very point she’d left it. Especially in dreams when the Doctor was between her legs. It had got to the point that Yaz had started to take matters into her own hands because the mental image was far too distracting to leave alone and would keep her up for the rest of the night, otherwise. She’d learned that the hard way.
Yaz huffed, realising this particular line of thought wasn’t helping anything. She sniffed the sheets again. That faint, familiar aroma filled her senses and made her heart race. The image of the Doctor’s face as she fell flashed into her mind and the conflicting emotions left her staggering in their wake.
Yaz wished she had said something. Why had she not? Anger, grief, arousal, love - they had left a trail of destruction behind, one that Yaz couldn’t help but acknowledge. Tears burned her eyes yet again, but this time Yaz welcomed them, biting her lip to keep quiet so as not to wake Lily. She wrapped her arms around herself tightly, wanting nothing more than for the Doctor to be there with her, and wondering what on earth she was going to do next.
“Come on, then! What are you waiting for?”
Yaz could see the Doctor’s cheeky grin, her blonde hair being blown all over the place by the wind. She looked beautiful, and Yaz couldn’t tear her eyes away.
“You’re mad, you know that?” Yaz had laughed. She’d never felt more alive than she had that afternoon, chasing the Doctor along the beach as they tried to beat the rapidly incoming tide. Their efforts had been fruitless; the water had caught them and they’d been soaked, caught completely unprepared, but Yaz had been so happy that she couldn’t stop laughing at the Doctor’s shriek of surprise when the cold water reached the exposed skin of her shins.
The image was so vivid that when Yaz awoke, she could have sworn she heard the faint sound of the Doctor’s laughter, haunting her. She lay there for a second, trying to remember where she was. Broad daylight was streaming through the curtains, but the room was unfamiliar. Yaz rolled to one side, instinctively reaching out, but there was nobody else in the bed.
The realisation hit like a ton of bricks and left Yaz crestfallen. The thought of getting out of bed was not appealing in the slightest but Yaz knew she had to get moving, to stay busy. They needed to find the Doctor, to help Lily, and to get home. The task at hand was huge, and daunting without the Doctor there to help them. With a sigh Yaz got out of bed, feeling sluggish. At least she’d actually managed to get some sleep, even if it didn’t feel like it; by the look of him, Ryan hadn’t slept a wink. He yawned over a mug of coffee as Yaz walked into the kitchen.
“There you are, sleeping beauty,” he joked, and Yaz pasted on a smile.
“I am after about six of these,” he replied, toasting Yaz with his mug before taking a sip with a grimace. “They like their coffee a lot stronger in this century.”
Yaz looked around the kitchen.
“Where are Graham and Lily?”
“Drawing. Did you want some food?”
Yaz shrugged. “What time is it?”
Yaz’s eyes widened. “How is it that late?”
“Hey, relax. You obviously needed it. Sit down, and I’ll make you something.”
Despite the fact that he was clearly exhausted, Yaz couldn’t help but be thankful Ryan was there. The thought of eating, never mind cooking, didn’t really appeal to her but she knew she had to keep her energy up if they were to make any progress. She shivered slightly as she sat on the stool, watching Ryan set to work. It felt like she couldn’t get warm.
The sound of pots and pans being moved roused Graham, who emerged with paint-covered hands.
“Alright, Yaz? Did you sleep well?”
His smile did something to cheer Yaz’s spirits, despite the bruising around his eye.
“I did,” she lied, thanking Ryan as he deposited a plate of food in front of her. Despite not eating for several hours, Yaz found that she could only pick at it, moving most of the food around the plate rather than eating it as they discussed their plan of action.
“So, what do we do now? It’s not like we can even leave the planet, they have the TARDIS.”
“Not that any of us can fly it,” Graham reminded Ryan. “Even the Doc has issues.”
The mention of her name made Yaz feel sick.
“We can’t leave Lily,” she murmured, brushing the feeling aside. “We need to find out what happened to her dad. It’s...it’s what the Doctor would want. And besides, she might be coming back. We have to wait for her.”
Graham and Ryan gave each other an uncertain look, but Yaz ploughed on, her voice growing bolder as she became more and more certain.
“We’re going to find her. And she’ll help us figure it out.”
There was an uncomfortable pause. Finally, Ryan spoke, his expression apologetic. Yaz had a sinking suspicion that she knew what he was about to say, but it didn’t make hearing it any easier.
“She might not be coming back, love.” Graham chipped in. His voice was gentle but the fact that neither of them seemed to believe the Doctor would return triggered a wave of anxiety in Yaz. Her nerves, which were already shot, gave way to a knee-jerk reaction and the rational side of her brain knew she was possibly over-reacting. But she didn’t care. She pushed away from the counter, getting to her feet. The sudden move made her dizzy.
“She’s coming back. She has to.” Yaz was emphatic. “I know she will, she’s...she’s…”
Her words, and her confidence, started to falter. Frustration at the situation, at her inability to even think straight, came to the fore.
“You know what? Screw it. If you don’t think she’s coming back then I’ll just do this on my own!”
Graham had his hands out in a placatory gesture but Yaz was having none of it, knowing she was being irrational but so upset by the lack of support that she had to back away from him.
“I’m going to get some air.”
She slammed the door behind her, a move that was reminiscent of something she used to do when she and Sonya argued. She wished her sister was there. Or her mum. A thought struck her, and as she headed off down the nearest street, Yaz fished in her pocket for her phone. Her mum would know what to do.
After a few rings, it connected. The Doctor had done something to Yaz’s phone that meant she could call home from anywhere in the universe. It was a seemingly small gesture, but the Doctor knew how much Yaz’s family meant to her. For Yaz, it was the most thoughtful thing anybody had ever done for her.
The familiar voice in her ear was so welcome that Yaz nearly cried.
“Mum. Something’s happened.”
“What is it? Yasmin, where are you?”
Yaz could hear her mum shushing someone in the background. Her dad was probably shouting at the cricket on TV. She felt herself laugh through her tears at the mental image.
“Sorry, mum. I didn’t mean to worry you. I just...I needed to hear your voice.”
“Well, I am worried. That’s what I’m here for. What’s wrong?”
Yaz sighed, her pace slowing as she wandered aimlessly. Already, she could feel the tension dissipating as she spoke.
“It’s the Doctor, mum. She’s gone. And...I don’t know if she’s coming back.”
“Gone? Did she leave you somewhere?”
Trust her mum to jump to conclusions.
“No. Well. Kind of? It’s a long story. But I’m with Graham and Ryan. The Doctor, though...the others, they think she’s not coming back. But she has to, mum. She can’t not come back.”
Yaz bit her lip hard as she felt fresh tears sting at her eyes, the taste of iron on her tongue.
“Whatever is going on between you two, anyway?”
Yaz rolled her eyes. “God, mum. This isn’t the time.”
“Okay, okay. It’s just, the way that you talk about this - you seem very attached.”
“You could say that,” Yaz admitted, the first time she had acknowledged how she felt to her mum. “But what if she doesn’t come back?”
There was a pause long enough for Yaz to wonder if the connection had dropped.
“Yasmin, my dear. If you think she’s going to come back, have faith. And when she does come back, you let her know that I want a word with her, okay? I don’t like how upset you sound.”
Yaz chuckled, swiping at her eyes.
“I will, mum. Thank you.”
“I mean it! I’ll see you soon?”
“...yeah. I’ll see you soon. I love you.”
Before she could say too much more, Yaz hung up. The idea of Najia Khan giving the Doctor a talking to was too amusing to ignore and Yaz let the image sit there for a moment. She squared her shoulders, shoving her phone in her pocket and heading back to the house.
The others were talking in hushed voices when Yaz returned.
“He obviously got himself into some trouble, and these people don’t mess around.”
Ryan was about to reply when he heard the door open, and both he and Graham looked up in surprise as Yaz walked through it.
“Yaz, are you alright?”
She nodded briefly.
“We need a plan. We need to find those people and what they were after. The Doctor would want us to help.”
Graham nodded slowly. “Okay. You’re right. We can do that, at least.”
“Any ideas on where to begin?” Ryan asked, boiling the kettle to make yet another coffee.
“Well, for a start, you should get some sleep. I don’t think those goons are coming back in a hurry. Me and Graham can head to the market, start asking some questions. You up for that?” she asked, turning to the older man.
The plan had formed so rapidly that Yaz didn’t second-guess herself; instead, she felt emboldened and, for the first time in hours, motivated. Graham seemed to sense the shift in her mood and a slow smile spread across his face.
“Good old-fashioned police work? I reckon I can do that. Lead the way, Detective Khan,” he winked.
“What about that one?”
Yaz squinted at the night sky. She and Lily were sitting on the balcony, huddled together to keep warm as they gazed upwards.
“Andromeda. I think.”
Her stargazing skills had always been rusty, but Yaz had never thought in a million years that she’d be looking at them from Mars. She gave herself a free pass on this occasion.
Lily fidgeted by her side, tugging Yaz’s arm tighter around her.
“And that one?”
Yaz laughed at Lily’s boundless enthusiasm. It reminded her of the first time she and the Doctor had spent an evening watching the stars from the doors of the TARDIS, cups of tea in their hands as their legs dangled outside of the doors. Every now and again, the Doctor’s arm would brush against Yaz’s as she pointed something out, and Yaz would have to hold still so as not to give the game away. Inside, she was dying for them to touch more closely.
Yaz shook her head, scattering the daydream. Her hope of seeing the Doctor was fading by the hour but she tried to keep hold of it for as long as she could. Her grasp was slipping though, much as it had done when she’d let go of the Doctor’s hand.
It had been three days since the Doctor had fallen. In that time, she and Graham had followed several leads, including one that lead them to someone who had worked with Lily’s dad.
He was a thief. Yaz had felt her heart sink when the man told them about a job they’d done together, which had been the last time he’d seen Errol. It was becoming more and more apparent that whatever had triggered his disappearance had been related to the theft, and whomever Errol had stolen from was clearly trying to recover what he’d taken.
And the Doctor, apparently, had something they wanted. Not that she was anywhere to be seen.
“Sorry, sweetheart. I think that’s Sagittarius.”
“You ready for bed?”
Yaz felt the girl nod her head sleepily.
“Come on. I’ll tuck you in.”
Graham had insisted on fixing up Lily’s room so that it was back to normal and Yaz was relieved that Lily was happy to sleep in her own bed again. As much as she liked having company at night, she needed some space to grieve.
The girl was asleep before Yaz had even left the room and only then did she let her mask slip a little. She was exhausted. Between following leads and interviewing people, as well as looking after Lily, she’d had barely any rest. The sight of the empty double bed was surprisingly welcome and she collapsed onto it gratefully, kicking off her shoes and letting them fall to the floor with a clatter. Her feet ached from all of the walking she’d done that day.
But despite her exhaustion, her mind was too busy to let her sleep. She let it run riot, assimilating all of the new information she’d learned. Eventually, her thoughts, inevitably, turned to the Doctor. Yaz rolled onto her side, inhaling deeply. The scent of her still clung to the sheets.
With shaking hands, Yaz pushed herself up and removed her clothes, sliding between the sheets only when she was fully undressed. It felt nice to be surrounded like this.
Settling into the cool sheets, Yaz remembered another time that she and the Doctor had watched the stars. It had become something of a thing for them, something that only they did together. Often, the Doctor would visit her on a night shift and they would head into the hills surrounding Sheffield, chatting and watching the sky together. On one particular occasion, the Doctor had seemed particularly melancholy, which was unusual. She’d pointed out several constellations to Yaz, who waited patiently for the Doctor to tell her what was wrong.
She hadn’t said anything, in the end. The words had petered out until they were sitting in comfortable silence, surrounded by the beauty of the universe. But then the Doctor had shifted closer, so that their bodies were finally pressed together, and they’d looked at one another in the dark. It had felt like a milestone, a crucial moment.
Yaz’s police radio had suddenly gone off, the burst of static startling both of them.
Later that night, after her shift, Yaz had touched herself as she thought about the Doctor. The feel of her body pressed against her side. It was such simple contact but apparently it was enough to start a fire low in Yaz’s belly. In retrospect, it had been an error; it had made her feelings harder to ignore from that point on.
As if by muscle memory, Yaz felt her hand start to drift, moving methodically down and in between her legs. She was surprised to feel how aroused she was. Experimentally, she pressed down further and in, gasping at the sensation. It was the first time in what felt like a very long time that she had felt pleasure. She let herself think of the Doctor’s smile. Her face. Her clever hands. It was surprisingly effective, and before long Yaz found herself climaxing to the imagery her brain had supplied.
It was also probably the closest she would ever get to the real thing. The very thought made endorphins suddenly give way to a wave of sadness and Yaz couldn’t help the sob that slipped out in response. The drop from pleasure to pain was unpleasant to endure and she wondered if she’d just made things more difficult for herself. Yaz turned onto her side, pulling her knees up to her chest in the hope that she could rock herself to sleep.
Eventually, she did.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
Ryan looked at her with concern, which Yaz was starting to find irritating.
Of course not, she wanted to reply. But it wasn’t Ryan’s fault. How was he to know?
“Yeah,” she ground out. “Let’s just get on with it.”
They were at the market, following another lead. As always, it was chaotic - several people were shouting at once, making it hard to figure out what was going on. At least they knew who they were looking for, this time.
Who they found was not who they were expecting.
Ryan grabbed hold of her arm.
Alarmed by his tone and the pressure of his grip, Yaz followed Ryan’s finger, trying to figure out where he was pointing. Helpfully, the crowd had cleared, creating a circle of space around a figure who had clearly stumbled in. It was impossible to see who it was given the number of people in between them, but from the movements Yaz could glimpse through the crowd, it looked like the town drunk had made an appearance.
It was only when Yaz caught a flash of blonde that her heartbeat started to accelerate.
“It’s her. I know it is.”
They looked at one another and Yaz felt a grin spread across her face. It was so unfamiliar that it didn’t immediately register why her cheeks were burning. Almost punching Ryan’s arm in excitement, Yaz started to run, pushing people aside and shouting apologies over her shoulder as she went, heedless of their complaints.
She burst through the perimeter, aware that they had an audience. But her attention was wholly focused on the woman in front of her.
"Hiya, Yaz." The Doctor waved weakly. "Long time no see."
She lurched on her feet and Yaz instantly reached out to steady her. Her hands wrapped around the Doctor's upper arms, holding on tight.
"You can say that again," Yaz breathed in disbelief. The Doctor was alive. She was alright.
"Doctor! Are you okay?" Ryan caught up to them. Yaz frowned when she felt the Doctor tremble under her hands.
"I've seen worse. At least, I think I have. Just a bit wobbly is all."
With that, the Doctor promptly pitched forward, catching Yaz off-guard. She yelled for Ryan to help, scrambling to catch the Doctor before she could hit the ground face-first. She only just succeeded, grabbing hold of her narrow shoulders and turning her at the last possible second. Her hand slid under the Doctor's head and Yaz winced as it bore the brunt of the fall, but all she could think was that finally she'd managed to do something right. She'd stopped the Doctor from getting hurt.
Adrenaline fading, Yaz cast a worried glance at the Doctor's haggard face before looking up at Ryan.
"Never a dull moment," he said, looking as shell-shocked as Yaz felt. As wonderful as it was to see the Doctor, Yaz couldn’t help but feel alarmed at the state of her. She might well be alive but she was clearly not alright, after all.
“Give me a hand?”
I didn't end this one on a cliffhanger, you'll be pleased to note!
I also wrote this in bright sunshine so if you spot any typos, please let me know :)
“You’re back early!” Graham’s cheerful voice drifted through the house but Yaz barely paid him any mind. She was desperately trying not to drop the Doctor’s legs. The Doctor was still dead to the world, a dead weight, and luckily she had Ryan to help her.
Still, their hold was precarious and the Doctor had progressively sagged closer and closer to the ground as they tried to get her home and safe. Yaz was especially relieved to be through the threshold and away from prying eyes; the amount of attention they’d received at the market was something she had hoped to avoid, not that anyone had truly offered to help. Instead, they’d gawped.
To be fair to them, Yaz had also felt shocked to see the Doctor. Although she’d been hoping for her return, an inner voice had been slowly convincing her that it would have been impossible for even the Doctor to survive a fall like that.
“How did you get on?”
Graham’s voice neared, and Yaz’s grip on the Doctor’s legs finally slipped, sending them to the ground with an undignified thunk.
Alarm finally entered Graham’s voice, and it was also obvious on his face when he finally caught sight of them.
“Well I never,” he muttered, jaw dropping. “The Doc made it back?”
Yaz nodded, wiping the sweat from her upper lip as she caught her breath. Ryan carefully eased the rest of the Doctor’s body to the floor, where she lay like a puppet with its strings cut. They’d need to move her somewhere more sensible but right now, Yaz needed a moment to recover.
“She just...showed up,” Ryan said, similarly out of breath. “Like she’d gone to the shops and forgotten to come back.”
Graham crouched next to the body on the floor, frowning.
“Maybe. She looks like she’s been through the wars a bit, though.”
In the chaos, Yaz hadn’t really taken a proper look at the Doctor, desperate to get her out of harm’s way. She was startled to see that Graham was right. Although the Doctor’s face was achingly familiar, it was bruised and bloodied. Her clothes were covered in dust and torn, and despite how heavy she felt to carry, she looked even thinner than ever.
“She’s not glowing, though,” Ryan murmured. “She did that the first night we met her. It was well weird.”
Yaz knew what Ryan was referring to and felt her stomach wrench at the thought. Late one night, when Yaz couldn’t sleep, the Doctor had told her about regeneration. But the thought of their Doctor leaving had been such a terrifying prospect that Yaz had asked her to stop talking about it altogether. The Doctor had given Yaz a curious look before launching into a story that had left her in stitches, instead. It was the only time they’d ever talked about what might happen.
“Can someone help me put her to bed?” Yaz asked, suddenly hating the fact that they were all just staring at the Doctor as she was passed out on the floor. It was clear that she needed their help.
Graham nodded, wincing as he pushed himself upright. “Why don’t you get some supplies, Yaz? Me and Ryan can get her to bed.”
Yaz started to protest but Graham was having none of it, waving her off. Reluctantly - Yaz could feel the muscles of her arms and back screaming - she went in search of towels and all the supplies she thought she might need. Bandages. Painkillers. Except the only tablets in the cupboard were aspirin, and Yaz recalled with alarm that they’d be fatal. She made a mental note to find something better, because there was no doubt in her mind that the Doctor would be in pain.
When she made it to the master bedroom, Graham was tugging off the Doctor’s boots while Ryan fluffed the pillows. Yaz watched them for a moment, touched by their concern for the woman who was lying so awfully still. Things just hadn’t been the same without the Doctor around and even though she was so quiet, too quiet, it felt good to see her again. Yaz couldn’t wait until she was back on her feet, full of life and unable to keep quiet. She’d do her best to ensure that happened.
“I’ve got everything,” Yaz said, depositing her armful at the foot of the bed. “No painkillers, though.”
“I’ll go get some,” Ryan offered, shifting restlessly. Yaz nodded at him gratefully.
“Do you want a hand with anything?” Graham offered. “I think we should consider calling an actual doctor. She looks a bit peaky.”
Shocked at the gravelly voice, the three of them turned to look at the Doctor. Her eyes were still closed but her mouth was moving, and her brow was furrowed in either pain or frustration. Or both. Yaz couldn’t tell which.
She didn’t sound like herself at all, and Yaz felt her stomach drop. She’d never heard the Doctor so agitated, and it was clear that she wasn’t out of the woods yet.
“Doctor?” she hedged, reaching for her hand as she perched on the edge of the bed. “It might help.”
The Doctor moved her head briefly, in what Yaz supposed was meant to be disagreement.
“No help. Just you.” The words barely made it out of the Doctor’s lips before she grimaced in pain, her mouth twisting slightly.
The hand in Yaz’s squeezed lightly, but Yaz could understand as clear as day.
“Okay,” she murmured, squeezing back. “No doctors, I promise. Just take it easy.”
The furrow in the Doctor’s brow eased and her tentative grip on Yaz slipped as she fell unconscious once more.
Yaz let out a shaky breath.
“Looks like it’s just us,” she said.
“I’ll go get those drugs,” Ryan muttered, clearly eager to leave. Graham was hesitating by the door.
“I think it’s best if we leave you to it,” he said. “It wouldn’t feel right, to…”
He trailed off and Yaz gradually realised that he was embarrassed.
“Oh. Of course. I can get her cleaned up.”
Yaz could feel her cheeks growing warm. She hadn’t the faintest idea what to do, but the Doctor had trusted Yaz to look after her, and she would do her best not to fail her.
“Could you get me some warm water?” she asked, finally turning to look at him. It was hard to take her eyes off the Doctor now that she was actually there. Yaz worried that she’d turn back to find her gone, and that it had all been some kind of weird dream. The situation she found herself in certainly didn’t bear any resemblance to any real life scenario she’d been in before.
“Course, love. Did she say what happened to her?”
He hovered anxiously.
Yaz turned back to the Doctor. Her face was more peaceful now, but her expression was still pinched, as if pain was pulling at the edges.
“She didn't quite get around to telling us. She fainted before we could get to that bit.” Yaz reached up to move some of the dirty blonde hair out of the Doctor’s face, feeling the heat of her skin from nearly an inch away.
“She’s burning up,” she commented, alarmed.
“Are you sure we shouldn't get a doctor? I'm sure they have one here.”
Yaz shook her head. It would be a betrayal of what the Doctor had asked of her.
“They might not know what to make of her,” she said instead. “You know, the whole two hearts thing…”
Yaz suddenly recalled something and started to rummage in the Doctor’s coat pockets as carefully as she could.
“I’ll, er...I’ll be off, then.”
Yaz barely acknowledged Graham’s departure. Her fingertips grazed something square - the notebook that the Doctor and Ryan had dug up, presumably - passing over it in favour of something more useful at this point in time. She felt tubing and tugged, easing the stethoscope out. A very bashed custard cream came with it and she let it fall to the floor, resolving to buy the Doctor a new pack of biscuits when she was feeling better.
Yaz had never used one before but she had seen one being used enough times - including by the Doctor - to know exactly what to do with it. To place the diaphragm underneath the Doctor’s shirts would be too much, so she opted to place it over the rainbow stripe of the Doctor’s t-shirt instead, hoping for at least an audible murmur. She was simultaneously shocked and reassured to hear the steady double heartbeat she’d been so desperate to hear.
It gave nothing away. Really, Yaz had no idea what she was even listening for, but hearing the Doctor’s hearts beating was a huge comfort.
She tugged the earpieces out and placed the stethoscope on the bedside table. The Doctor hadn’t moved. In spite of how worn she looked, she was beautiful in repose, and Yaz found herself speechless as she watched her. But the silence was starting to become unnerving. The Doctor was never this quiet and Yaz opted to fill the silence for her.
“I didn’t think you could get sunburned, by the way. Your nose has caught it, and your cheeks.”
Yaz’s gaze drifted over the sun-damaged skin.
“I didn’t realise you had freckles, either.”
Unable to resist, Yaz let her fingers trace the darker spots, making sure the Doctor was tangible. Her skin still felt warm. She avoided the bruising on the Doctor’s face, the graze at her temple. The injuries looked sore enough after three days that Yaz could only imagine how much they had hurt at the time.
That whole time, the Doctor had been alone, in pain, alive, but left for dead. Yaz shook her head, horrified at the thought.
“You’d better wake up soon, you know.” Her voice wavered with emotion. “It’s not the same without you. Graham and Ryan, they...they didn’t think you’d come back. But I knew you would. There was no way you could leave us like that. Leave me like that.”
The words petered out as if her voice had broken over them.
Yaz let her fingers drift to the ends of the Doctor’s hair, which had curled slightly. It must have gotten damp. It felt soft against her fingers, but matted with blood and dirt. Yaz moved her hand away before it could get caught in it, reaching for the Doctor’s hand instead.
It was cool in her own but Yaz could feel that the skin was rough. When she lifted it up to take a closer look, she was horrified to see that the Doctor’s hand was covered in cuts and scrapes, right down to the very tips of her fingers. What had she been doing? When Yaz realised she was still wearing the garish pink plaster, she couldn’t help the slight laugh that slipped out.
“Looks like you might need a few more plasters,” she whispered, lifting the Doctor’s hand to her mouth and kissing the back of it. It felt like the only thing she could do to take away the Doctor’s pain.
The eerie silence continued. Reassured that the Doctor was still breathing, Yaz let herself relax a little, watching the rise and fall of the Doctor’s chest.
The next thing she knew, Graham was waking her up. He’d brought the water she’d asked for and some painkillers that Ryan had apparently procured.
“S’alright, Yaz. You must have drifted off. Maybe you should get some proper rest? The Doc will be ok, you know. I think she’ll be asleep for a while longer.”
He was looking at her sympathetically but Yaz, disoriented as she was, was having none of it.
“I’m not leaving her,” she insisted, ignoring the ache in her neck as she stretched.
Graham shrugged. “I thought you might say that. Well, we’ll be just outside if you need us.”
After he left, Yaz’s attention returned to the Doctor, who was still asleep. But apparently the discussion had started to rouse her. Her lips moved without speaking and her eyelids fluttered.
Then those wonderful hazel eyes were squinting at her as the Doctor struggled to focus. Yaz could have cried with relief.
“Yeah,” she exhaled. “Do you know where you are?”
The Doctor tried to look around, giving up moments later when the movement apparently hurt too much. She grimaced and Yaz felt a flare of irrational irritation. Seeing the Doctor hurt was not something Yaz particularly enjoyed. She was infallible, invincible. But right now, she was just as vulnerable as the rest of them. What on earth had she been thinking, throwing herself off a cliff like that? Yaz pursed her lips.
“Where the hell have you been?”
Okay. That wasn’t how this was meant to start. Better than crying, Yaz mused.
To her surprise, the Doctor started to smile, a lazy grin that tugged at her lips unevenly.
“Unfinished business, Yaz. I don't like leaving a mystery unsolved.” The Doctor shifted on the pillows, apparently getting a feel for the damage.
Yaz felt herself deflate. Disappointment was starting to colour her thoughts. Had the Doctor forgotten what she’d said at the cliff edge? Was she only planning on telling Yaz about the clue she had in her pocket? Yaz felt her thoughts starting to spiral. She’d been wrong. Those moments and memories she’d been revisiting, analysing, looking for meaning in - they hadn’t meant anything. She pulled her hand away, trying to hide her reaction.
The Doctor flapped, reaching for her hand and holding it tightly.
“Besides, Yaz, I told you I couldn't leave without saying something. I wanted to see you.”
Yaz could feel tears starting to blur her vision; she’d lost count of how upset she’d been over the past few days. The Doctor was looking at her so seriously that she didn’t quite know how to respond. She’d never looked at Yaz like that before. It was nerve-wracking, and Yaz felt like she was seeing a side to the Doctor that she’d never seen before. An unknown quantity.
“Yeah, well...I’m here.”
“That you are. You always will be, Yaz. I know you will. And I...I’ll always come back to you. I promise.”
Yaz held her breath. Her spiralling thoughts started to move in the other direction as she stared at the Doctor, trying to glean even the slightest clue from her expression. She wanted more than anything for the Doctor to tell her what she’d been about to say, before she fell.
Instead, the Doctor adopted a face Yaz knew only too well. It was the face she made when she’d try and brush something off, try and dodge the issue at hand.
"Anyway, I didn't fall too far.”
The Doctor started to launch into a dramatic story of how she came back from the brink, her tone borderline jovial. It was as if she’d been in no mortal danger at all.
“There was a ledge, you see, about halfway down. I landed on that, which is good news because the last time I fell that far I had just regenerated and regeneration energy adds a bit of bounce. But then, oh wow, then I had to climb back up and then I got a bit lost-"
Yaz couldn’t take it anymore. She wasn’t going to miss the opportunity. It felt like they were living on borrowed time, and if the Doctor wasn’t going to be honest, then Yasmin Khan certainly would be.
"Shut up," she murmured, her fingers moving upwards to sift through golden hair as she leaned over and brushed the gentlest of kisses against the Doctor's lips.
The Doctor's eyes took a long time to open afterwards. When they did, she looked at Yaz in awe and her companion knew, then, that things had changed. Her gamble had paid off.
Yaz ran her thumb along the Doctor's lower lip and then leaned back in almost instantly. Their second kiss was much longer and Yaz felt sheer exhilaration as the Doctor kissed her back, their mouths moving against each other more vigorously. This was what she had wanted, all this time. It didn’t feel real.
But then the Doctor hissed in pain and pulled away, and the spell was broken.
They looked at each other for a moment, breathless; the Doctor’s face was scrunched up in discomfort but all Yaz could focus on was her mouth. Her lips.
When Yaz finally spoke, it was like an out-of-body experience. She felt numb with disbelief, with arousal, with surprise. She wanted to kiss the Doctor again.
The Doctor nodded. “Just a little. Healed most of it, though, only the last of the bruises to go now.”
Yaz mentally shook her head, focusing on what she needed to do.
“Where are they?”
“Honestly? I’m pretty sure I have them everywhere. Even my big toe got a look in.”
As if to prove her point, the Doctor wriggled her sock-clad toes experimentally and winced.
“Doctor!” Yaz scolded. “What did you expect? Don’t hurt yourself any more, please. But what hurts the most?”
The Doctor pondered the question. “My back, I think. Pretty sure I landed on it.”
Yaz held out her hands, encouraging the Doctor to pull herself upright.
“Can I take a look?”
The Doctor panted as she slouched over, powerless.
“I...yeah. Okay, Yaz.”
Yaz could sense her hesitation.
“Just enough to see what we’re dealing with. I promise I won’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with.”
The Doctor nodded, pain making her breathless. It didn’t take much for Yaz to see the extent of the problem; the Doctor’s back was black and blue.
“Oh my god,” Yaz mumbled, holding the shirts with one hand as she traced the bruising with another. She could feel the ribs moving under her hand, as well as the tension in the Doctor’s body as she held her breath.
“That bad, eh?” the Doctor tried to smile, but it came out as more of a grimace.
“I’ve seen worse,” Yaz lied, letting the shirts drop back down again. “But in the meantime, Ryan picked you up some drugs. And I can wash the worst of the dirt off, if you like?”
The Doctor shook her head and Yaz felt her heart sink a little as she declined her offer.
“Maybe in the morning, Yaz.” The Doctor was still hunched over, clearly in pain despite her efforts to hide it. “But I might take you up on those painkillers.”
For her to admit she needed them was a huge step, Yaz realised. The Doctor never liked to be vulnerable. Almost immediately after swallowing some tablets down, the Doctor started to shiver, and Yaz’s heart lurched. She double-checked the packet, panicked that she’d given her the wrong thing. But no aspirin was listed on the label and she breathed out a sigh of relief.
“Wait. Are you cold?”
“Maybe a little,” the Doctor admitted. “Which is odd, because I also feel very warm.” She puffed out her cheeks, blowing the hair from her face. “I just can’t quite get my thermostat right.”
“You might have heatstroke,” Yaz murmured, jumping to her feet. “Or an infection? I’m not sure. You felt like you were burning up, earlier.”
The Doctor shook her head. “Not anymore, I’m not.”
Yaz reached out to put a hand on her forehead and was shocked to feel that it was much, much cooler.
“Oh. Wow, you’re right.”
“I’m always right, Yaz. Especially with this body.”
“Nuh uh,” Yaz disagreed, starting to rummage in her pile of clothes at the side of the bed. She could feel the Doctor watching her intently. “What about the time you insisted you could eat seventeen custard creams in two minutes?”
She turned just in time to see the memory dawn on the Doctor’s face.
“Oh. Well, that was one time!”
“You were so ill,” Yaz laughed. “You nearly inhaled one and then spent the rest of the afternoon feeling sick.”
The Doctor looked indignant as Yaz approached with her old hoodie.
“Come on, this should help.”
The Doctor raised her arms a lot more easily now that the painkillers had kicked in and Yaz slipped it over her head, tugging it down carefully. Her hands brushed the sides of the Doctor’s stomach and she marvelled at the intimacy of it.
“You smell nice,” the Doctor mumbled, and Yaz did a double take.
“Thanks,” she muttered, wondering where that had come from. Whatever had passed between them was still an unknown but Yaz knew that things had changed on some level. They had to have done. People didn’t just kiss their best friend and carry on with life as normal. At least, she hoped not.
“I missed you,” the Doctor continued, a look of bliss finally easing the pain that had been so evident on her face.
I missed you, too.
“Good drugs?” Yaz surmised.
“Great drugs,” the Doctor agreed, slowly easing herself back onto the bed. “Very great drugs. Did you want to share?”
Yaz laughed lightly.
“I think I’ll save them for you.”
“Mm.” The Doctor’s eyes were already drifting closed. “Thanks, Yaz.”
Yaz didn’t respond. She watched for any signs of distress but when it became apparent that the Doctor had entered a restful sleep, she leaned in and left a kiss on her forehead, on the only patch of skin that wasn’t injured.
“Sleep well, Doctor.”
The Doctor did not sleep well. It felt like every cell of her body was on fire, burning to the point where she was terrified that she was regenerating. Every now and again she would persevere in her struggle to push aside the veil of unconsciousness; then, she would hold up her hands, checking for the tell-tale golden glow. Once she realised that her cells weren’t changing, the Doctor would collapse back into restless nightmares. She kept falling, away from Yaz. Her TARDIS was gone. She was alone. And hot. So hot. It felt like she was back on the desert planet Efra, except this time, there was no shade or reprieve. The heat was burning her from the inside out.
The fever warped the Doctor’s sense of reality. As she tossed and turned in bed, she heard snippets of words that didn’t make sense. A woman’s voice, and a man’s. Were they talking about her?
Something cool passed across her forehead, offering a temporary reprieve. There was pressure around her wrist, a face near her own. Strange fingers held hers. But the Doctor couldn’t focus on anything but concerned eyes, dark hair, full lips.
“Yaz,” she murmured. She needed Yaz. The fingers wrapped around her own would squeeze whenever she said the name. But the Doctor couldn’t understand a word of what the woman was saying. Her tone sounded strained but it was familiar enough to be a comfort and the Doctor let herself be comforted by it.
She had no idea of how much time had passed. Where was she? Was she still climbing? The same images flashed through her mind on an endless loop. It was exhausting. Distantly, she felt hands on her clothing, tugging at it.
“No,” she mumbled, trying to push them away. She didn’t need help. She would be fine if she could just keep climbing. Keep working her way up. Find her way back to Yaz.
But it was just so hot that she couldn’t concentrate. Sweat was making her clothes stick to her bruised and battered skin, and still the hands kept moving, pulling on it. The Doctor was powerless to resist.
A brief moment of lucidity: Yaz was talking to her, helping her sit up and remove her shirts.
“You’re far too warm,” Yaz was saying, stripping the Doctor of her clothes with business-like efficiency. There was no room for modesty. All the Doctor could do was try and hold herself upright. She felt so weak that it frightened her. But Yaz was there. She would be okay.
Blissful darkness came. Yaz was talking to her and the Doctor wanted nothing more than to reply, let her know that she was alright. It was only then that she realised she couldn’t. The burning heat had been replaced by a brutal cold that made every joint feel frozen. The Doctor could feel shivers wracking her body, sending waves of pain through her bruised limbs. She had never felt so cold, or alone. Where was Yaz, now?
A solid warmth wrapped around her back, anchoring her. Only then did the Doctor realise how badly she was shivering. Words were being murmured in her ear, something soothing. The Doctor tried to focus on the sensations, ignoring the cold. Little by little, warmth eased into her aching body. She could smell Yaz’s perfume. Something soft pressed against her temple, and the pressure around her waist tightened slightly, holding her.
It was nice to be held. The Doctor hadn’t been held like this in a long, long time. Yaz kept talking to her, making her feel safe.
The dreams didn’t return.
When the Doctor awoke properly, it was with a start. She could instantly tell that she was alone. When she felt a chill, she realised that her arms were bare. Looking down, it became apparent that the rest of her was bare, too. She reflexively clutched the sheets to her chest, wondering what on earth had happened. The last thing she remembered was Yaz holding her hand as she fell asleep - fully clothed - and then…
The night was a frustrating blur. Brief snippets flitted through the Doctor’s mind as she gathered her bearings. She remembered nothing much other than Yaz.
Where was Yaz?
The Doctor nearly flung herself out of bed in a hurry to find her but stopped herself at the last second. Her foot hovered above the floor, where Yaz had apparently gone to sleep. She looked exhausted, and the Doctor hesitated. She looked like she needed the rest, even if it meant she was sleeping on the floor. She shouldn’t wake her.
Her dilemma was resolved by a gentle knock at the door, and before she could say anything, Graham poked his head through.
“Alright- oh! Doc, you’re awake.”
He flushed bright red. The Doctor frowned in confusion.
“Sorry, I didn’t realise you, er, you know.” Graham gestured to the Doctor’s sheet-clad form. “Last time I saw you was in the night. You had a terrible fever.”
The noise of their talking woke Yaz, who grumbled something before bolting upright when she realised Graham was at the door.
“Yaz! There you are. Looks like you have everything under control, I’ll just-”
Graham quickly shut the door behind him.
Yaz sighed, wondering what she’d missed. Moments later, she realised that she was being watched, and the Doctor bit back a smile when she turned in surprise to finally look at her.
“Doctor! You’re awake.”
“I am now. What happened?”
Yaz got to her feet with a muffled groan. “Either those drugs didn’t agree with you or you really did have an infection. You don’t know that body of yours that well at all.”
The Doctor could tell from the look on Yaz’s face that the words were meant in jest, but she couldn’t formulate a witty response quickly enough. She slumped, still feeling weak. Yaz almost reached out but stopped herself and instead, looked at the Doctor like she was waiting for her to say something.
But the Doctor had no earthly idea where to begin. She was still trying to figure out what had happened and what was a dream. Clearly, her recollection of Yaz removing her clothes had been real. Her dreams had felt so real, too. The endless climbing. The heat.
She was so focused on trying to recall what had happened that she failed to hide a twinge of pain. Instantly, Yaz encouraged her to lie back on the bed with a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“I’m fine, Yaz,” the Doctor protested, secretly relieved to be horizontal once again. Despite being in bed for so long, she didn’t feel remotely rested. She sighed contentedly as Yaz brushed hair from her forehead, taking her temperature. The contact was very welcome. Even though she never got ill, the Doctor realised that there was certainly a silver lining if it meant she had Yaz’s complete attention.
“You’re much cooler but you still need to rest,” Yaz said, making a move to leave. The Doctor’s hand shot out and wrapped around her wrist, stopping her.
“Don’t go,” she pouted. “Stay here. And not on the floor.”
She didn’t want to leave any ambiguity in her request. The Doctor still wasn’t entirely sure why Yaz had been sleeping on the floor, because the last she knew, Yaz had been holding her from behind. They’d never done that before, and the Doctor was eager to repeat the experiment.
“Are you sure? I don’t want to disturb you.”
The Doctor tugged lightly in response, biting back a smile of victory when Yaz capitulated and swung her legs up onto the bed, turning on her side to face the Doctor. Their faces were so close that the Doctor could practically count Yaz’s eyelashes. Being that close felt very intimate, and the Doctor tried to ignore the increase in her blood pressure. It was already all over the shop; a little additional fluctuation wouldn’t do any harm.
“You scared the shit out of me, by the way,” Yaz said, looking into the Doctor’s eyes. Her hand tentatively came to rest on her sheet-clad hip, and the Doctor took that as a sign to wriggle even closer. She wasn’t sure where things stood. Could she get this close? Yaz wasn’t moving away, which was a big plus.
“Last night?” she asked.
Yaz paused. “Pretty much all the time.”
The Doctor’s mouth opened in surprise.
“I...I’m sorry, Yaz.”
It was all she could offer. A niggling voice at the back of her mind reminded her that Yaz was only referring to limited experience. They’d only travelled together for a year or so, and she had little to no idea of what the Doctor had done in previous lives. What she was capable of. What she had kept secret.
But Yaz laughed lightly, surprising her.
“You don’t need to apologise! I mean it in a good way, you know. It’s just...I have no idea what I’m doing here,” she admitted, her hand reaching up to rest on the back of the Doctor’s neck. Her eyes searched the Doctor’s own.
“I feel completely out of my depth. All I do know is that I want this. I want you.”
Before the Doctor could reply, Yaz’s face was moving closer and then soft lips were firmly pressed against her own.
When the Doctor didn’t respond instantly, Yaz pulled back.
“Was that...not okay?”
The tone of her voice made the Doctor’s hearts flutter in panic.
“No. Wait, that’s not what I meant!” the Doctor flapped, realising Yaz had misunderstood when she started to pull away even further.
“That was very okay, Yaz. I just wasn’t sure if I’d dreamt what happened before. You kissed me, didn’t you? It felt like a dream.”
Yaz shook her head.
“Not a dream.”
“Thank goodness for that,” the Doctor murmured, looping an arm lazily around Yaz’s shoulders and holding her close as she returned the kiss properly, memorising every second of it. She wanted to remember this one.
A shiver worked its way up her spine as Yaz ended the kiss.
“You cold?” she asked, ignoring the Doctor’s protests at the loss of contact. “Hold on.” She got out of the bed in one graceful move, and the Doctor watched attentively as she checked her clothes.
“Your shirts are still a little damp,” Yaz said, reaching for her hoodie. “Just for now, did you want to wear this?”
The Doctor gave her a gentle smile. “That would be brilliant.”
When she reached for it, the sheet slipped slightly with the movement. Yaz quickly averted her gaze, her arm stuck out blindly so that the Doctor could take her jumper.
“Thanks, Yaz,” the Doctor said appreciatively, sliding the soft material over her head. It instantly made her feel better, and she realised that she’d lost time. So much time. Energised and raring to go, the Doctor pushed aside any lingering weakness and focused on the problem at hand.
“Could you pass me my trousers?”
Yaz handed them backwards in a similar fashion without a word. Her back was still turned when the Doctor finished dressing and she clearly didn’t hear her get out of bed because she jumped when the Doctor gently wrapped her arms around her from behind.
“Thank you,” she said, giving Yaz a soft squeeze. She reluctantly let go, making a beeline for her coat and the notebook inside.
“Now, what have I missed?”
So...the little bit of plot returns. There is going to be one more full chapter after this...
The cold light of day made the night feel like a distant memory.
The Doctor was chatting away like nothing had happened, regaling Graham and Ryan with the tale of her triumph over adversity. She was describing how she’d climbed back up when Yaz found her attention slipping. She’d heard this part before, and her thoughts were elsewhere.
All Yaz could think about was the feel of the Doctor's arms wrapped around her from behind. The contact was so brief that she’d barely realised what was happening before the Doctor moved away, but she longed for her to do it again.
Yaz had only fallen asleep two hours ago, passed out on the floor next to the Doctor's bed so as not to disturb her. Before that, the night had been spent in a state of high anxiety, triggered when Yaz realised that the Doctor was running a high fever. Things had got so bad that she'd had to remove the Doctor's clothes in a bid to cool her down; she secretly hoped she'd get to remove them in future and actually enjoy the experience, but at the time she'd been terrified. Throughout the night the Doctor had been saying her name, which at first Yaz had found touching but when it became apparent that the Doctor didn't even recognise her, Yaz knew she had to take matters into her own hands. She'd asked Graham to prepare cold cloths, seeing her own fear mirrored in his eyes. It was reassuring to know that she wasn't over-reacting; the Doctor really was in a bad way.
After the fever, chills had come, and Yaz had done the thing that seemed most obvious at the time - warm the Doctor with her own body heat. She was rapidly running out of ideas of how to help her. Thankfully, it had worked; the Doctor's moans and whimpers of distress had calmed as she had finally got some decent rest, wrapped in Yaz’s arms.
Yaz wondered if they would have a better time of it tonight. She hoped so. But they had other things to deal with first, and she shoved the thought aside just in time to realise that her friends were looking at her.
"Graham was just telling me how you interviewed the locals, Yaz," the Doctor prompted, a small smile on her face. “Great detective work.”
Yaz blushed at the compliment.
"Right,” she murmured. “Yeah. We found out he’d done a job with someone, stolen something. He wouldn’t say what. Those men took the necklace you and Ryan found, but they’ve been questioning people in the town, as well. Which makes me think they’re still after something.”
Yaz interrupted herself with a yawn, taking a sip of her coffee. Ryan was right: it was much stronger than she was used to, but it helped shake away the cobwebs. She was exhausted. She looked at Graham gratefully when he resumed on her behalf, but she could still feel the Doctor’s gaze on her.
She wondered if the Doctor would look at her differently now. Or if they’d have time to talk about things before life got in the way. It tended to.
“It must be this,” the Doctor was saying, flipping through the pages of the book she’d dug out from her coat pocket. She was still wearing Yaz’s hoodie but had layered up, clearly still cold. Yaz thought she could see a tremble in her hands if she looked closely enough.
Graham peered over, clearly eager to take a look.
“That doesn’t look like much of anything,” he muttered. “Why is it so important?”
The Doctor sighed. “I wish I knew what it was. And I don’t understand why he stole it, if it’s incomprehensible to everyone else.”
Before they could postulate further, a noise interrupted the discussion.
“A doorbell,” Yaz said, mouth set in a line. She had a sinking feeling she’d know who was on the other side.
“I’ll get it!” Lily called, racing through from her bedroom.
“Hang on, Lily,” Graham called out, and she stopped in her tracks. “I’ll get it, sweetheart. You don’t know who’s on the other side. Come on, you go back and play and I’ll come and find you later.”
Although disappointed, Lily did as she was told.
Only once she’d left did Graham move towards the door, casting a wary glance at the others. Yaz got to her feet, ready to spring into action. She had no idea what was about to happen. Meanwhile, Ryan sensed the Doctor was having difficulty standing and before Yaz could make a move, offered his hand. The Doctor frowned at it.
“It’s okay, Doctor,” Yaz encouraged, knowing she’d be stubborn. “Let us.”
She could almost see the cogs turning as the Doctor weighed up the options and bit back a smile as she clasped hold of Ryan’s hand, easing herself up.
“Never thought I’d see the day I felt this old,” she muttered, her mood darker than Yaz had ever seen it.
The sound of Graham’s voice carried down the hallway as he greeted their visitors.
“Nice of you to announce your arrival, this time,” he was saying. His tone was conversational but Yaz could read the sarcasm instantly. “Now, not that it’s never a pleasure to see you, but what exactly are you doing here? Don’t you think you’ve caused enough damage?”
The three men who had taken Yaz and Lily to the cliff emerged, striding with purpose into the living room.
“Don’t mind me, then,” Graham muttered, clearly unimpressed at being ignored. As soon as he saw them Ryan moved in front of the Doctor but she was having none of it, sidestepping him and taking centre stage.
“Oh, it’s you!” she said, and the switch in her voice made Yaz do a double take. “Didn’t think I’d be seeing you again so soon.”
“Neither did we,” the man in charge muttered. As before, the others stood to one side, motionless. “You have a habit of coming back, don’t you, Doctor? Like a bad penny.”
The Doctor tilted her head.
“Never quite understood that expression. What can I say, though. I turn up when I’m needed.”
“Apparently so,” the man sneered. “I must admit, I’m impressed, Doctor. To survive a fall like that...when we heard about a strange woman arriving in the market, we couldn’t believe it was you.”
“Nice to know news of my arrival spread so fast,” the Doctor muttered, and Yaz wondered who’d told them. No doubt her questioning of the locals had caused some waves, too.
“Enough,” the man snapped. “I’m tired of talking. Where’s the book?”
“You know, if you’d told me what you were after to begin with, we could have saved ourselves a lot of hassle. I’d also have saved myself a heck of a long journey to get here.”
The Doctor held the book aloft and a flicker of relief passed over the man’s face. He stepped towards her but she jerked it back.
“But first, what have you done to Lily’s dad? The only way you’re getting your hands on this is if you tell me where he is.”
The man turned on his heel and snapped his fingers. His henchmen departed and returned, moments later, dragging someone between them.
Yaz gasped at the sight of him. His face was covered in blood and his eyes were almost swollen shut. The only way she knew it was Lily’s dad was the name embroidered on his work shirt.
“Nothing serious,” the man resumed, nodding his head. The two men let Errol slump to the floor. Yaz cast a glance at the Doctor, whose expression had turned stony.
“I’d beg to differ,” she said. “You didn’t have to hurt him.” She looked at Errol with such compassion that Yaz could feel it.
“On the contrary, Doctor. He took something of great value.” The man adjusted his tie, unfazed.
“As did you,” the Doctor replied. “You have my ship. Which makes you just as much of a thief, by the way.”
He turned to one of the other men. “Write down the coordinates for the ship."
Moments later, he held a piece of paper. Yaz could see the numbers written on it. It was their ticket out of there, their ticket home, and she wanted nothing more than for the Doctor to exchange information so they could end the whole unpleasant affair.
“Give me the book and you’ll get your precious ship. I’m being perfectly reasonable. The girl gets her father, you get your ship, we get what belongs to us.”
The Doctor hesitated and Yaz felt her stomach fall.
“What’s so important about this?” the Doctor asked. “I love a good book, myself, but it’s incomprehensible.”
“Knowledge is power,” the man said, cryptically.
“I really wish you’d stop coming out with pithy sayings and talk like a real person,” the Doctor sighed. “This is getting tiring.”
“That book contains information that could have catastrophic consequences,” the man resumed, unperturbed by the interruption.
“Worth killing an innocent girl for?” the Doctor fired back.
Yaz took a step closer to the Doctor, sensing tension. She placed a calming hand on her shoulder and felt the Doctor flinch slightly, then relax into the contact.
“One life for many, Doctor. A dilemma you’ve faced yourself.”
Yaz felt the shift in the Doctor’s body language almost instantly. It was like a coil had been wound and was waiting to spring at the slightest provocation. She couldn’t help but wonder what the man was referring to, and how he knew so much about the Doctor. He seemed to know more about her than Yaz did, which put her on edge. And going from the change in her tone, it was also starting to unnerve the Doctor.
“Don't spout philosophy at me. It’s starting to get boring. Are you going to give me a straightforward answer or not?”
The Doctor sounded blase, but Yaz could hear an undercurrent of something else. Apprehension, maybe. Or perhaps Yaz was projecting her own feelings.
At the Doctor’s response, the man smiled. But it wasn’t a smile of joy; it was sinister, and Yaz wished she could look away. The whole exchange was cold and she was very glad she couldn’t see the Doctor’s face. She wasn’t sure she’d like it.
“Where would be the fun in that?” the man mused. “Now, hand over what’s ours and we can forget this ever happened.”
The Doctor hesitated again, just long enough for one of the men to kicked Errol in the side. The action jolted him awake and he groaned in pain as he wrapped an arm around his bruised ribs.
“Please,” he moaned. “Stop.”
“That’s enough!” the Doctor bit out, thrusting the book in front of her. “Take your damned book.”
The man snatched it away, leaving the Doctor with the coordinates in exchange.
Yaz turned, horrified, as Lily came running back down the hall.
“Yaz,” the Doctor murmured, but Yaz was already moving, trying to stop her from seeing the state her father was in.
The man on the floor was looking for his daughter, even though he could barely see. Graham took that as his cue to step in and help him sit upright, with the aid of Ryan. In the confusion, the three men had apparently departed.
Lily instantly escaped Yaz’s grasp, running straight to her father.
“Daddy!” she cried, and Yaz watched, uselessly, as she threw herself at him. He grunted in pain but smiled widely, clearly delighted to see his daughter again.
“I’ve missed you,” Lily said, wrapping her arms around Errol’s neck. “Where did you go?”
Despite the fact that Errol could barely sit upright unaided, it was touching to see them reunited. Yaz watched them for a moment, relieved that things had worked out in the end.
The Doctor was looking at her expectantly.
“Ready to chase some bad guys?”
Yaz raised an eyebrow.
“We have the TARDIS,” the Doctor said, holding up the piece of paper like it was a prize. “And I put a tracker in the book,” she shrugged.
She pulled out her sonic, switching it on to get a lock.
“Gotcha,” she murmured. “Boys? Will you be okay here for a bit? Me and Yaz will be right back.”
Without waiting for their reply, the Doctor grabbed hold of Yaz’s hand and started to run.
(Thank you to Bow_Ties and JTrack2 for their valuable advice re: this particular chapter 🙂)
To Yaz’s immense surprise, the TARDIS was at the coordinates they’d been given. She watched fondly as the Doctor inspected the exterior, checking for damage.
“I’m sorry for leaving you,” the Doctor said, smoothing her hands over the wood in a placatory gesture. Yaz always found the relationship the Doctor had with her ship rather touching, especially the care with which the Doctor treated what looked like, to all intents and purposes, a bog-standard police box. Apparently satisfied the TARDIS had come to no harm, the Doctor turned to look at her.
“Come on, then, Yaz. Let’s go.”
She winked at her companion, opening the doors swiftly and ducking inside. Yaz could do nothing but follow in her footsteps, breathing a sigh of relief as she stepped through the door. Entering the TARDIS was like coming home; it was the Doctor’s home, of course, but Yaz had started to feel something of an attachment to it. Not only was it responsible for some of her most magnificent adventures, but its very existence inevitably made her think of its pilot.
The pilot who was rapidly preparing for its next journey.
“We’ll be back soon,” the Doctor reassured Yaz. “I just need to know where they’ve gone.”
Yaz didn’t question her logic, instead reaching for a handhold. Take-offs had a tendency to be bumpy. Thankfully, the flight was a short one; the Doctor frowned when she looked at the monitors, clearly surprised.
“I have no idea where we are,” she admitted. “Something’s messing with her sensors. Do me a favour? Stay put, just for a second. I want to check it’s safe.”
When Yaz nodded, the Doctor impulsively grasped her hands and placed a kiss on her forehead in gratitude.
Yaz watched, speechless, as the Doctor poked her head out of the TARDIS doors. There was a beat, a moment of suspense and excitement while Yaz waited to hear the verdict. Where had they landed? The Doctor wasn’t giving anything away from her visual inspection.
Finally, the Doctor’s head reappeared, her arm still braced against the doorframe.
“It’s a library,” she said, sounding almost disappointed. “Which makes sense, I suppose. Most books belong in libraries. You ready?”
Yaz nodded, already walking over to join the Doctor at the doors. She slid under the Doctor’s extended arm, eager to take a look for herself.
All she could see were shelves and shelves of books, neatly arranged and extending as far as the eye could see. Yaz looked upwards. She gasped when she realised the stacks disappeared into the gloom of what looked to be an endless ceiling. At random intervals were old-fashioned lamps of stained glass, which cast a rather feeble glow. They only hinted at the scale of the room they were looking at.
“It’s huge!” Yaz gasped. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many books.”
She could feel the Doctor’s arm come to rest on her back as she gawped.
“It seems like we’re not the only ones here,” the Doctor murmured. “Look.”
She moved her arm to point and Yaz followed the line of her finger, squinting into the distance. She wondered if she needed glasses, before remembering that the Doctor’s eyesight was intimidatingly good. At the end of the aisle she could just about make out a desk, with someone sitting at it.
“Who’s that?” Yaz realised the question was a daft one but she couldn’t help herself. Mercifully, the Doctor didn’t tease her for it. She never did.
“I’m not sure. But I think we should find out. Shall we?” the Doctor asked and Yaz nodded, taking the first step out of the TARDIS. She waited while the Doctor locked the doors behind them, not questioning her logic. Despite there being only one other person there, recent events urged caution.
They walked silently, side by side. After a while, Yaz stopped trying to estimate how many books they were surrounded by. They all looked the same: bound in leather, with the faintest of gold lettering on the spine. At least, Yaz assumed it was writing; it didn't look like any language she'd seen before.
She was so distracted by the books that she almost walked into the Doctor, who had come to a stop a few feet away from the table. Yaz glanced back. The TARDIS was just about visible, and the Doctor had turned on the light on the roof to guide them. Reassured that their escape route was obvious, Yaz turned her attention to the person in front of them.
When she realised that they were in the company of an old man reading the newspaper while he smoked his pipe, Yaz started to wonder if her concerns about escape had been unfounded. He seemed harmless. There was no sign of the three men that had visited them on Mars, but the book they’d recovered seemed to be sitting on the desk in front of him. Perhaps they’d just left.
The Doctor cleared her throat. “Excuse me?”
“I hate to disturb someone when they’re reading,” she murmured to Yaz, by way of explanation.
The old man took a puff of his pipe and turned the page.
Surely he wasn’t that old that he hadn’t heard the Doctor speak? It was so quiet that Yaz could have sworn she heard her own heartbeat.
“Where are we? And who are you, if you don’t mind me asking?”
The Doctor’s polite request fell on deaf ears. Yaz wondered if perhaps he was hard of hearing after all. He did look to be about 90 years old.
The Doctor was undeterred.
“What are all these books?”
At the mention of the books, the old man finally acknowledged their presence by sighing and putting down his paper in time to see the Doctor reach out for the nearest tome.
“Don’t touch those!” he bellowed, and Yaz started in fright. The old man sounded much younger than he looked. The Doctor moved towards her, her shoulder sliding in front of Yaz’s in a protective gesture. She had a habit of doing that, Yaz realised.
The Doctor, by contrast with Yaz, was not remotely bothered. If anything, she seemed pleased to have finally got his attention.
“Or what?” Her words had a slight mocking tone to them.
The man glared at the Doctor from beneath bushy eyebrows.
“You don't know what, or who, you're dealing with, Doctor.”
“Oh, so you know who I am then? In that case, tell me. Who are you? I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure.”
The Doctor stuck out her hand but the old man stared at it coldly.
“I'm the Librarian,” he said, grandly. Yaz could hear the capitalisation. She’d never encountered such an intimidating librarian in her life.
The Doctor retracted her hand, shoving it in her coat pocket. She was wavering on her feet slightly, Yaz noted with alarm.
“To answer your next question, I know who you are, Doctor, because I have a book all about you. I know everything there is to know. The good, and the bad.”
“I find it hard to believe everything about me fits in one book,” the Doctor said. “If that’s the case then you’ve probably missed a few things out.”
The Librarian chuckled dryly.
“I keep a record of everything that has ever happened,” he said simply. “And trust me. At the end of the day, all that we are or ever become can fit into a book.”
The Doctor pointed to the book on the table between them.
“What about that one then? What was so important that you nearly killed people to get it back?”
The Librarian sighed, reaching for the book to take it out of harm’s way. Satisfied it was out of the Doctor’s reach, he answered.
“If you must know, that thief broke in here to steal his wife’s story.”
The Doctor scoffed.
“Surely you could have him keep it? His wife is dead. Her story was finished.”
Yaz winced. The Doctor wasn’t mincing her words.
The Librarian started folding his newspaper neatly. The act was mundane but he made it seem somehow sinister. Like he was preparing for something.
“You didn't let me finish, Doctor. I had a feeling you’d be impatient. Quite plainly, he took the wrong book. Understandable, I suppose. The translation matrix can get a while to get to grips with. Either way, the book he took was not his to take, and it ended up in the wrong time. You know what would happen if you were to read ahead, Doctor. You learned that in New York.”
The Doctor stiffened. Yaz hung back, struggling to follow the conversation. All she could go from was the clues the Doctor’s body language was giving her. She reached for the Doctor’s hand, which was hanging limply by her side, and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
“What’s the translation matrix?” Yaz asked when it became clear the Doctor wasn’t going to say anything. Her hand felt clammy in her own.
“That necklace you found contains the key to decoding these books,” the Librarian said, gesturing around them. “It’s priceless.”
“Did that really require the use of force? I’m sure there were other ways of getting it back,” the Doctor finally said.
“It was imperative that I get it back, by any means necessary. You know as well as I do, Doctor, that information needs to be stored carefully. It can change history if it falls into the wrong hands."
“And what makes your hands the right ones? Who are you working for?”
Yaz was wondering the same thing. The Librarian might well be in charge of these books, but it seemed that larger forces were at work.
“Let me answer your question with one of my own,” the Librarian said, a glint entering his eye. Yaz didn’t like the look of it, and was more than happy to abstain from the verbal chess match that the Doctor was playing.
“Do you think you'd do it better? Why do you think you deserve to curate knowledge? You are an unreliable narrator, Doctor.”
At that, the Doctor went silent.
“I bet you've not told your friend, Yasmin, about your past.”
Yaz’s eyes widened at the mention of her name. Her hand slipped from the Doctor’s and the Doctor turned to look at her, panic in her eyes. She looked pained, and frightened, which in turn frightened Yaz a little.
“Yaz, you can go. Head back to the TARDIS. I’ll be there soon.”
Yaz shook her head as the Librarian continued to speak, his voice growing louder and more malicious. She wasn't going to leave the Doctor if she had a choice.
“That's right,” he chuckled mirthlessly. “I know who you are too, Yasmin Khan. All the things you have done and all the things you will do. How your life will end.”
Yaz felt her blood run cold. Was that a threat? Despite the Doctor’s direction, Yaz stayed put. She felt the Doctor’s hand slide back into hers, warm and strong.
“You can threaten me all you like but don't you dare talk to Yaz like that. She's done nothing wrong.”
Yaz could only see the Doctor’s profile, but it was enough to see the anger twisting her features. Her beautiful face seemed to have warped slightly, becoming unrecognisable.
“Don't worry, Doctor. I'm not interested in your friend. I'm more intrigued by you. And I think young Yasmin has more to worry about given that she’s travelling with a murderer and a psychopath.”
Despite her misgivings, that was the final straw. Yaz might not know the Doctor all that well, but she knew enough.
“Oi! The Doctor is neither of those things.”
The Librarian started to laugh, and Yaz felt the Doctor’s grip slacken.
“Did the good Doctor not tell you about the number of lives she's destroyed? The number of lives she’s taken? The genocide?”
He drew the last word out with such pleasure that it left a bitter taste in Yaz’s mouth. The Doctor faltered, weakness finally winning out. Yaz barely noticed, too distracted by the glee painting the Librarian’s face as he continued to talk, each word a barb that pierced the Doctor’s resolve.
"You're lying," Yaz retorted. He had to be.
"Hmm. Let me see."
The Librarian stroked his chin as if he was thinking. His eyes lit up when something came to mind.
"Why don't you ask her about the Silence, Yasmin."
"The Silence?" Yaz echoed. She'd never heard the name before, but the Doctor clearly had. Her hand finally fell away, their last bit of contact broken.
"Oh! Ho. Have you not told her about the Silence, Doctor? How you harnessed humanity to do your dirty work?"
The Doctor bowed her head and the Librarian continued.
“You see, Yasmin, the Doctor is clever, as I'm sure you know. I'm sure she's even told you herself."
Yaz swallowed hard. She had always thought the Doctor's arrogance was charming. It wasn't quite so endearing when other people pointed it out as a character flaw.
"The Doctor can make others do her dirty work. She keeps her hands clean when she can."
"You're lying," Yaz repeated, but it sounded weak to her own ears. Why was the Doctor saying nothing?
The Librarian continued, clearly on a roll and relishing every moment.
"That's not to mention the people she leaves behind. She entices people to travel with her, idolise her, and then she leaves them behind or discards them when it suits her.”
At that, the Librarian turned to look at Yaz. It felt like he was looking right through her, and she was pinned in place by the ferocity of his stare. All of a sudden, Yaz wanted more than anything to undo what they’d done by coming here. Remove herself, and the Doctor, from this horrible place.
Did he truly know her deepest, darkest secrets? If there was a book about her here, in this library, then he knew everything there was to know about her. And if he knew everything about her, a mundane human being from planet Earth, then he certainly knew all about the Doctor. The Doctor was the most unique person that Yaz had ever met.
And the Doctor hadn’t put up a fight. Was he speaking the truth?
The Doctor turned to look at her, her expression one of utter defeat, and within milliseconds, Yaz realised it was all true.
With the realisation, Yaz felt herself stumbling backwards in an attempt to get away. She didn’t know what to do; all she knew was that she needed to get out. The walls seemed to be closing in on them. The atmosphere was claustrophobic.
“Yaz, I can explain-”
Yaz let out a sob. She thought that her feelings could be trusted, but it was like the rug had been pulled out from under her feet, leaving her completely disoriented. Knowledge is power, and I know nothing, after all. How stupid have I been?
Whatever the Librarian said next was lost to Yaz as she turned and started to run back towards the comforting light of the TARDIS. She didn’t think about the Doctor. For once in her life, she put herself first. She needed to get out of there.
The Librarian’s laughter haunted her down the aisles, her breath coming in fits and starts as she struggled to hold it together. Yaz was sure she could hear the Doctor behind her, but she didn’t dare look back. She wasn’t sure she could handle the reality of the situation just yet.
Finally, she reached the TARDIS, barely pausing before pushing on the door. It didn’t budge.
Of course. The Doctor had locked it. The Doctor was in control. She always had been.
The Doctor sounded winded as she caught up, no doubt still weak from the events of the past few days. Yaz couldn’t bear to look at her so she stared at her boots, instead. Even the familiar striped socks poking out of the tops did nothing to cheer Yaz up.
“Let me in.”
“I said, let me in.”
It took all of Yaz’s willpower to hold it together and she was relieved when the Doctor finally did as she was asked.
As soon as the door swung open, Yaz paced inside. Her first instinct was to flee to her room but she knew, deep down, that it wouldn’t solve anything. She was a grown woman. She couldn’t run from this problem. How had she been so stupid? Investing all of herself in someone she barely knew?
So, she made do with pacing around the console. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Doctor slump into a nearby chair, her head hanging low. At the sign of the Doctor looking so defeated, Yaz gained courage. Her eyes were stinging, but she knew she had to be brave.
“Is it true?”
She hated how upset she sounded, but she had to know. Even if it hurt.
Her answer came when the Doctor slumped even further. Suddenly, Yaz didn’t want to know at all.
“Don't say it,” she whispered.
“It’s true,” the Doctor replied, her voice hollow. “I have blood on my hands.”
She finally looked at Yaz with such a haunted expression that Yaz felt a pang in her chest. Later, she’d wonder if it was the feeling of her heart breaking.
“I understand if you don’t want to travel with me anymore.”
The Doctor’s voice was completely flat, defeated. She looked ancient.
“It’s not just travelling with you, Doctor. It’s more than that. You know it is.”
Yaz felt her heart hammering inside her chest, like it was trying to break free. She’d yet to be so bold in discussing their relationship and what it actually meant. Ironically, the one time that she acknowledged that it meant something more than simple friendship was possibly the last time they’d ever discuss it.
This couldn’t be it. It couldn’t end that easily. Words couldn’t have that much power...could they?
“I suppose it doesn’t matter much, anymore, Yaz. You know a bit more about who I am. Your idea of me...that’s changed forever.”
Yaz screwed her eyes shut, trying to stop the tears. She’d been happy not knowing. Knowledge might be power, but ignorance was bliss.
“You always say we should be good and kind but are you good, or kind? You say you believe in love, and hope, but now I'm not so sure. You've not been honest with me, Doctor. I don't know what to think anymore."
At the mention of love, the Doctor looked like she’d been slapped in the face.
“Life isn't that black and white sometimes,” she bit out, running a hand through blonde hair. Her earring glinted in the orange light of the TARDIS.
“But you make it out to be,” Yaz argued.
“Sometimes we need to have hope. We need the idea of love to see us through.”
Yaz felt herself deflate. The Doctor needed love just as much as anyone; that much was plain. But it was proving difficult to reconcile her version of the Doctor with the one she now knew to be true. The Doctor had killed someone. Many people, by the sounds of it. And that person didn’t seem to be the one in front of her now. She looked smaller than ever, diminished.
“Maybe I was blinded by it,” Yaz admitted, crossing her arms. She slowed to a stop. “If you tell me to jump, I just ask how high.”
She tutted, annoyed at herself. Hindsight was always painful.
“I know,” the Doctor replied. “I know.”
They finally looked at one another and Yaz couldn’t bear the look in the Doctor’s eyes. She needed space, and time. Suddenly, she was itching to get away.
“Take me home.”
Yaz kept her composure while they said goodbye to Lily and her dad. The Doctor was back to her usual self, which served to illustrate just how good she was at hiding her true self. But Yaz struggled to murmur more than a few words of farewell. She was worried that if she said any more, she’d say too much.
When they finally landed in Sheffield, she let Graham and Ryan leave the TARDIS first. She wanted to delay the inevitable moment for a little longer.
“You go ahead, guys. I’ll see you in a second.”
The pair of them waved goodbye, discussing where they’d go on their next journey, but neither woman paid them much attention. The air was heavy with the weight of so many words unspoken. Important words. Yaz slowly closed the gap between them.
The Doctor was fiddling with the TARDIS controls as she usually did when they landed, but Yaz could see her watching her in the reflection of the monitor.
“You’re coming back, right?” Yaz was unexpectedly reluctant to leave. She had a horrible feeling that she wouldn’t see the Doctor again.
The Doctor finally turned to look at her directly. Her gaze, though affectionate, was the saddest that Yaz had ever seen. It gave her pause.
“I promise, Yaz.”
It would have to do. Words were all they had, now.
Yaz wrapped her arms around herself, wishing she could give the Doctor one last hug goodbye.
“I’ll see you around, then. I just...I need some time.” She tried to inject some positivity into her tone. The Doctor would come back. She had before, and she would again. Yaz deliberately ignored what the Librarian had said about the Doctor discarding people. Her experience differed. The Doctor had climbed a cliff she'd fallen off to find her. That fact was the only thing that Yaz could cling to.
“I get it,” the Doctor nodded. “I do, Yaz. I understand. I’ll see you soon, okay?”
She pasted on a smile, and Yaz did the same. It wouldn’t do to leave things on a bitter note.
With a deep breath, Yaz stepped out of the TARDIS. Graham and Ryan were waiting for her, and both of them realised something was amiss the moment they saw her emerge.
But every step she took felt like a step in the wrong direction. Walking away from the Doctor seemed like the sensible thing to do but Yaz hadn't even given her a chance to explain. It went against the grain of who she was to walk away like that. And she hadn't told the Doctor how she truly felt. The least she could do was tell her, be as honest as she had asked the Doctor to be with her. Even if it didn't change things, she had to know she'd at least told the truth and given the Doctor all the information she needed to hear.
Would the Doctor have told her something similar in return? And if she had, would it have changed Yaz's mind? The moment had passed and Yaz realised, with a sense of mounting panic, that such a moment might not arise again.
As the TARDIS started to dematerialise behind her, Yaz realised that she wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to the Doctor after all.
“Wait,” she murmured, turning to hammer on the door. “Wait!”
But the wood gave way beneath her hands, disappearing into thin air.
“Shit!" Yaz let her clenched fists fall by her sides.
The tears finally fell. She’d held them back for so long but now there was nothing to stop them. The Doctor had gone. The Doctor had gone, and Yaz hadn't told her how she felt.
“I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry.”
The tears were hot on her cheeks and as soon as Ryan saw them he pulled her into a hug. Yaz let herself be consoled, realising she needed the simple comfort.
“It’s alright, mate. She’ll be back.”
Yaz shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
She had no idea who she was apologising to. She’d cut them off from the Doctor. She’d cut herself off from the Doctor. And it hurt like nothing she’d ever known.
We made it! PHEW.
A huge thank you to everyone who has read this and let me know your thoughts, I really do appreciate it. Posting into the void can be terrifying, especially when you end up having mini crises about the quality of your writing every other day! I know my fic isn't anywhere near as polished or well written as a lot of other stuff out there but I really love writing for you guys as much as for myself. So thanks for bearing with me :)
I have a few more things to write but I'll probably take a couple of weeks off since I'm off on holiday (hallelujah) at the end of the week. In the meantime, come find me on Tumblr (@maglex) or Twitter (@_mag_lex) if you want to chat.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Doctor stumbled through the TARDIS doors, patting her coat to try and extinguish a particularly stubborn flame.
“Phew! That was a close one!”
Her voice echoed around the console room as she was greeted with silence.
To the casual observer, nothing would have seemed amiss; those who knew the Doctor better might have noticed the slight hesitation in her step when there was no response forthcoming.
“Just you and me, eh. I forget sometimes,” the Doctor said, running her hand along the TARDIS console. “The original double act. The gruesome twosome.”
The TARDIS hummed.
“Don’t you start,” the Doctor muttered, staring to input the coordinates to her next destination. “You could be a little bit nicer, you know. It’s been a long day.”
It had been a long few days, really. A long few weeks. The Doctor had lost count.
“And...voila!” she exclaimed, pushing the lever to jump to their next destination. “Jacobean Scotland will be a right laugh, I promise!”
The Doctor knew that if she could act the part, it would become second nature. She could be positive. Upbeat, even. And by keeping busy, she would overcome the loneliness that was gnawing at her.
The TARDIS had other ideas, glowing orange in reprobation.
“Okay...well if not the Jacobites, where would you like to go? Bearing in mind that you just have to sit there while I go around actually dealing with things.”
The orange glowed a deeper hue. The Doctor frowned.
“I’m not going to have much of a say in this, am I?”
The orange lightened.
“Fine. Surprise me.”
The Doctor capitulated easily; she seemed to do that a lot, these days. Her stubborn streak, normally a mile wide, had been replaced by reckless abandon and an almost self-destructive tendency to throw herself at whatever came her way. She inspected the ends of her singed coat as the TARDIS started to dematerialise. The ruined fabric epitomised precisely how careless she was getting. One day, she would get burned. But that was a problem for another time. It was easier to focus on the here and now. Life was for living, and all that jazz.
When the TARDIS made the ominous boom that signified landing, the Doctor had to stop herself calling for Ryan, Graham, and Yaz. That was a habit she’d found hard to break. And she didn’t quite want to do it, yet. But every time she thought of them, it was like a mental dam inside her mind started to crumble. She would instantly picture Yaz’s face, animated with excitement as they opened the doors to another adventure.
The Doctor could also remember precisely how Yaz’s face looked when they watched the stars together, legs dangling out of the TARDIS doors as they drifted in space. If she concentrated really hard, she could even remember how Yaz’s leg felt pressed against her own. Having such a prodigious brain was both a blessing and a curse. It meant that the longing hadn’t dissipated; if anything, it had festered, and it was permanently trying to derail the Doctor’s attempts at positive thinking. She could still picture the look on Yaz’s face when they’d said goodbye. That night, and for several nights afterwards, the Doctor had laid in Yaz’s bed, wondering what it would have been like to share it.
“Enough of that,” she muttered, shaking her head. “Where have you taken me, then?”
Striding over to the TARDIS doors, the Doctor practically threw herself through them and straight into heavy rain that soaked her within seconds.
Stepping back, she decided to survey the landscape from the safety of the doorway. It didn’t take long for her to recognise where she’d landed.
“Sheffield,” she exhaled, dread settling in the pit of her stomach. “Too soon.”
Her answer was a push of the TARDIS door behind her back, effectively shoving her out and into the downpour once more.
“Wait!” she called, turning to knock on the wood. “If you really insist, I might as well kill two birds with one stone.”
The door creaked open slowly.
“We’ll be having words,” the Doctor muttered darkly, traipsing water all over the floor as she retrieved something from the console. With one last withering glare, she squared her shoulders and strode back out into the rain.
It didn’t take long to find the door she was after.
The minute she spent waiting between ringing the doorbell and the door opening was one of the most suspenseful minutes of her long life. And when Najia Khan opened the door, the Doctor’s relief was short-lived.
Najia was equally surprised to see the Doctor, it seemed. Her mouth opened and closed wordlessly for a second as they both eyed each other up.
“The one and only,” the Doctor smiled softly, self-consciously running a hand through her wet hair. “Is Yaz in?”
"She is," Najia nodded. "And I think you have quite a bit of explaining to do.”
Her tone was stern, and the Doctor gulped. She’d faced death on several occasions and yet there was something about Najia Khan that terrified her. All the Doctor knew was that she wanted to please her and somehow she always failed.
“Are you alright?”
Najia’s question took the Doctor by surprise. She hadn’t even seen her reflection in recent memory, not that she was prone to worry about it, so she had to hazard a guess as to how she might look. Probably close to drowned rat, given the rain.
“Me? I’m fine. Always am!”
Najia shook her head slowly. “I’m sure you won’t mind me saying this but you don’t...look fine. Your coat has certainly seen better days.”
Without another word, she turned and called for Yaz. The combination of anxiety and apprehension tickled the Doctor’s stomach and she reached for the door jamb, subtly trying to lend herself some strength.
Why had she turned up like this? She could at least have tried to make herself presentable for Yaz. And Najia. The older woman turned back to scrutinise her appearance as they waited.
When Yaz finally appeared at the end of the hallway, the Doctor was glad she was already holding onto something. She was exactly how the Doctor remembered, except even more beautiful. And she was looking at the Doctor with an unreadable expression - but at least it wasn’t disgust, which is what the Doctor had expected.
“I’ll put the kettle on,” Najia said, looking at each of them in turn. She laid a comforting arm on Yaz’s shoulder as she walked past her. The Doctor didn’t hear what she murmured to her daughter, but when both of them looked at her a moment later, she had a terrible feeling they’d been talking about her.
“And when you’re both finished, I’d like a word, Doctor.”
Najia entered the kitchen, leaving them alone.
“Why do I get the feeling that your mum is cross with me?”
Although the Doctor had wanted to start with a joke, it was a weak one: they could both tell. Yaz looked at her with concern but her arms were folded, closing her off.
“She's my mum,” Yaz sighed. “Nobody will ever be good enough.”
Out of the corner of her eye, the Doctor saw movement. A split second later, the curtains in the living room window fell back into place.
Yaz poked her head out of the door to look and rolled her eyes.
“I can't wait to get my own place.”
The move had brought them into close proximity and the Doctor held her breath, but it was too late. Yaz’s perfume had filtered through and deprived her of logical thought for crucial seconds. Because of that, the Doctor found herself laughing in response. It was the first time she’d laughed in a long, long time, and when Yaz started to join in, the sound made the Doctor’s hearts sing. But it was short-lived. The euphoria dissipated as soon as it arrived once Yaz took a step back, her face adopting that impossible expression once more. It didn't suit her, but then, things had changed quite a bit since they'd seen one another. Their last interaction had been painful to say the least.
“I have something of yours,” the Doctor blurted. She reached inside her coat, retrieving Yaz’s hoodie. Yaz took it without looking at it. Her gaze was fixed on the Doctor’s face instead.
“That isn't why you came here, is it?”
The Doctor hesitated.
“Travelling alone isn't good for me.”
It wasn’t good, but it was a start.
“You're right. You shouldn't travel alone, Doctor.” Yaz’s expression was still inscrutable. It was as if she’d built a wall around herself, or was wearing a mask. The Doctor supposed she had been guilty of the same thing.
“I’m sorry, Yaz.”
Yaz laughed at that, but it was a bitter sound. The Doctor winced when she heard it.
“Sorry? You promised you'd come back to me. But where were you? You’ve been gone for six months! I didn’t think I’d see you ever again.”
The Doctor felt her jaw drop. Six months? She had meant to return much, much sooner.
Yaz deflated slightly when she realised the Doctor hadn’t intended to travel for that long, after all.
“Whoops. That was meant to be a week, believe it or not.”
For her part, the Doctor felt truly rotten at what she’d done. Maybe that was why the TARDIS had insisted on dropping her here, but she wished her ship could have brought her back a little earlier.
“Does that saying ‘better late than never’ apply here?”
Yaz bit her lip and the Doctor was dismayed to see her eyes brimming with tears.
“I thought you'd forgotten,” Yaz whispered, arms still clenched tightly around herself. The Doctor hated to see the pain she’d caused expressed so physically. Yaz seemed smaller, more subdued than she’d ever seen her. And the Doctor had been so caught up in her own misery that she’d lost track of what truly mattered to her: Yasmin Khan. Emboldened, the Doctor started to speak the words she’d wanted to speak months ago.
“My sense of timing might be a bit off - I will work on that, by the way - but I remember every single thing, Yaz. And we need to talk. I need to tell you something very important. I’ve been wanting to say it for a long, long time.”
Yaz’s arms loosened from her sides as she breathed deeply.
“Yeah?” she exhaled.
The Doctor nodded. “But maybe not out here. Don’t really want your neighbours listening in.”
“Do you want to come in for tea? I bought you some custard creams.”
Yaz stepped aside, opening the door to let the Doctor in.
“Like I'd ever say no to tea with you.”
The Doctor crossed the threshold.