Yaz is combing her hair.
“Doctor,” she says, more to break the silence than anything, “your hair is a mess.”
She’s teasing, but the Doctor doesn’t respond. She doesn’t move. She’s actually forgotten how to tease, she’s sometimes afraid, not sure how to respond or to pull once-easy quips out of thin air. Once, she and Yaz had a rapport. Now, they have nothing.
Except a spare six inches between them and a hairbrush, yanking gently through the Doctor’s hair.
“Doctor?” Yaz’s fingers brush past her ear, close enough to be a nudge. “Are you—”
“I’m fine,” she says, too short. She’s not. She’s cold, far too cold than she should be. She’s one step away from shivering, and she hates that. Shivering is weakness.
The prison was cold too. Cold, and the jumpsuits far too thin, and she hated the color. Hates red now, went through and threw out all her maroon shirts. They weren’t the same shade, really, but she doesn’t want any reminders. She’s a new Doctor, now.
Yaz is still brushing her hair, which is wet from a shower she’d hated. Too much sensation all at once. The brushing she doesn’t mind though—it’s a little painful, because she’s got a lot of tangles, but Yaz tries her best to be gentle, and the Doctor is—
Well. There’s six inches between them. The last time she was six inches away from anything it, was a Judoon’s baton.
“Do you want a coat?” The hairbrush has paused, Yaz’s hands hovering ever so cautious. “We could hunt something—”
“No.” Yes. Her jumper should be enough. It’s blue, and soft, and reminds her of the night sky. Not the blackness of space. Real night, proper night, light scattered through an atmosphere. “I’m fine. Thank you, Yaz.”
Yaz laughs, the sound clear but soft. “Thank you, Yaz?” Abruptly the hairbrush clatters to the table and Yaz steps around the chair, leaning over the table and propping up her elbows on the wood. It’s Graham’s table, which she hasn’t broken, fortunately, but Graham and Ryan are busy at the shops. Buying for her first meal back, or something. She hopes they buy custard creams.
“Doctor.” Yaz’s eyes are serious, but teasing, like she’s trying very very hard to make things normal. She’s very close to the Doctor, and it’s almost startling in its simplicity. Like shared space, rather than something she’d thought she might need to get used to, is actually something sorely missed. “You don’t have to be all formal, you know. It’s us. Or, it’s me. And I—”
She hesitates then, chin nestled on the back of her hand. “I missed you, yeah? And if you want to talk about anything, I’m here.”
“Oh.” The Doctor blinks. That’s a very human thing to say, isn’t it? Being there for you. She’s not sure she knows what it means. How can they be there for her? She wasn’t there for them. Instead she went to die and ran at the last minute and got caught and thoroughly raked over the coals for too many days to count in a cell she couldn’t stand. Now, she’s barely sure of her own name, never mind the moral standing of her friendship.
She had been put in prison for crimes. Nothing specified. Just crimes. That had left her plenty of time to wonder what she’d done, and the awful realization had been plenty. Killed people, hurt people, hurt friends. Ruined lives.
If prison was meant for rumination, she’d sure aced the quiz. Only now, she wasn’t sure where to go.
“Oh?” Yaz is watching her, curious. “What, were you expecting a cold shoulder?”
“No, I—” The Doctor stops with her mouth open, then shuts it. “I don’t know. I’m—”
She stops again, not sure what to say. There are too many words weighing on her chest, a hundred speeches she never got to say, a million promises she never got to keep. In the end, all her dashing fantasies of escaping and sailing to their rescue hadn’t worked out; they’d broken in, Captain Jack at the head, to rescue a broken body from an empty cell. She’d barely been conscious, dulled into darkness and sensory deprivation. She’d cried out when Yaz had touched her, out of pure shock.
Now, she feels like she’s sitting in a dream. The room is cast in dim light; they hadn’t bothered to turn the overheads on, and only a lamp scatters illumination across the dusky shadows of late evening. The entire room, in fact, is slowly dissolving into darkness, like fine mist, and the Doctor hates that she’s unsettled.
She wants a blanket, she thinks very suddenly, but she doesn’t want to ask for it.
“Doctor.” Yaz is watching her, concern replacing curiosity, along with a slowly dying look of disappointment. Oh, she’s seen that look before. It’s hero worship, the kind that breaks on impact, the way Martha had looked at her after they’d saved the world. This is different, though; whereas Martha’s had been mixed with resentment, this is mixed with pity.
She hates it. She feels very weak, and very small.
“I’m sorry,” she says, and to her horror realizes that there are tears in her eyes. When had they gotten there? She blinks thickly, and it doesn’t do much. Worse, it’s filling up her throat as well. “I’m fine.”
“Sure, and the sky is purple.” Yaz, to her create, doesn’t bat an eyelash, and the Doctor, despite her horrible tears, feels a faint flicker of pride. Steady Yaz, like a rock. Better than a rock, actually, but she’s running low on metaphors. “Seriously, Doctor. Don’t get all wound up on some stupid show of strength. You don’t need it around family.”
Family. There’s a word she hasn’t heard in a while. She blinks again, and hasn’t moved, but a tear is sliding down her cheek. The darkness is encroaching, and she feels like any moment it’ll sneak up and stifle her.
“You don’t deserve to be my family,” she whispers thickly, and—oh, there goes another one. Stupid, salty liquid. She’s shaking too now, which is just another straw on the camel’s back. Damnably, she hasn’t even broken. “I—Yaz—listen—”
But Yaz is shaking her head, not even giving her the chance to jump into one of those speeches she’s practiced. She’d memorized a bunch of them, heroic ones and plaintive ones and honest ones and the ones she calls break up ones, where she finds the fam and explains regretfully why she can’t be their friend anymore, so they don’t get hurt.
“Mate, don’t even start.” Yaz scoffs and rises, her diminutive frame towering. “I can tell what you’re going to say. Something like ‘oh, I’m so terrible and I shouldn’t even be here’. Yeah,” she adds when the Doctor opens her mouth in protest, “Jack warned me.”
The Doctor stares at Yaz for a long moment, eyes still starry with tears, then gives a small huff and drops her chin. “I’ll kill him,” she mutters, but there’s no fight to it. Instead, she’s only tired.
She’s had so many nightmares about the dark. Too many to count, even though she’d tried. Now, night is falling and she can’t even fight it.
Where are Graham and Ryan? she wonders dimly. Shouldn’t they be back from the shops?
“I’m just trying to be a good friend,” she mutters, slightly peevish, and drops her gaze to the table. There are whorls in the wood, and she follows them dully with her eyes. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Oh, and where were you when the Dalek invasion started?” Yaz says, propping one hip against the table and crossing her arms. She’s joking, but the Doctor looks up swiftly, hurt flaring.
“That’s not fair,” she says, and maybe Yaz realizes it because her gaze softens.
“I know,” she says, and heaves a sigh. “Sorry, I just—”
She stops for a moment and looks away, and this time there are tears in her eyes too. They gleam in the dim light like jewels.
“I missed you,” she says, and her jaw is stiff like she’s trying not to cry. She’s a sight more successful than the Doctor. “I slept in the TARDIS for ages. Not yours, the other one. I thought—”
She breaks off again and gulps a shaky breath.
“I thought you died,” she says at least, and that hurts, because there’s anger in her voice too. Like she still hasn’t forgiven the Doctor for going off like she did, and maybe she shouldn’t. “I thought you’d up and left us, and let me tell you—”
She shakes her head, still not looking at the Doctor. “You here is worth a thousand heroic sacrifices, you know that, Doctor? A thousand.”
She’s wrong, the Doctor decides immediately. The Doctor isn’t even worth one sacrifice, except whatever she can pull off to save others, but she doesn’t say that. Instead, she just nods numbly.
“I’m sorry,” she says, because it feels like the right thing to say. “I didn’t mean to do that.”
Yaz sighs again heavily. “Yes you did.” Then she turns and faces the Doctor, her eyes roaming over her countenance with something soft—or maybe just tired.
“You’re an idiot,” she says at last, with a finality that brooks no argument. “And I still love you. And so does Ryan and Graham. Does that scare you, Doctor? Because if so—too bad. You better get used to it.”
“Uh—” The Doctor is staring, shocked into silence by blunt honesty. The challenge is too stark to be a lie. Like she’s sick of tiptoeing, and is about to shove the truth down the Doctor’s throat if she doesn’t get her head together.
So the Doctor tells the truth back.
“Yes,” she says, and as she says it, something collapses in her chest. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s not nice either. It’s like falling off a cliff, and not knowing if you’ll hit the ground. She’s tried so hard to not care, because the last time she cared about someone, she became a Cyberman. She’s not meant to be loved, but people keep doing it for some inexplicable reason, much as she tries to drive them away. “I’m not worth it.”
Yaz laughs so hard she snorts. “I think,” she says after a breathless moment, “you don’t get to make that decision.”
Then, before the Doctor can summon a response, Yaz turns to cross the room. She stops first at the light, flicking it on—much to the Doctor’s utter relief—then at the sofa, picking up a heavy knitted blanket and pulling it into her arms. She returns to the Doctor and, without asking, tosses it around her shoulders, adjusting it just a moment so that it won’t fall. Then she pulls up the seat next to the Doctor and sits down hard, her gaze on the table.
After a moment she says, “You know, I’m not one for emotions. So, you owe me one.”
The Doctor stares at her for a long, long moment. Then she laughs, reaching up as she does to pull the blanket tighter about her shoulders. She feels a good bit warmer than she had before.
“I don’t have any money,” she says, then pauses. “But I know a way to sonic at ATM—”
The Doctor huffs. “Custard creams it is, then.”
Yaz is still staring at the table, but there’s a small smile on her face, the kind that are hard to hide. “Deal. I think about twenty will do it.”
The Doctor watches her for a moment before answering. She’s pretty sure she’s forgiven, though she’s not sure for what. She wasn’t even sure what forgiveness she was asking for—maybe just for existence, for her self in its entirety, for existing and wanting love and friendship and doing bad things and being a messy, complicated person. A bad person, even, never mind how she tries to be good.
But she can’t say all that to Yaz, because clearly Yaz likes emotions about as much as she does—they really do make quite a pair—so instead, she puts it all in a single word.
And that’s enough.