“So, I’ve got to ask,” Yaz starts, and then watches with bemusement as the Doctor leaps backward and smacks her head into one of the odd jutting crystalline pillars that surround the console.
“Yaz! Hello, Yaz!” She rights herself cheerfully enough, rubbing nonchalantly at the back of skull. “Fancy meeting you here, didn’t you pop off to do sleep things in a sleep room? Could you not find one?”
“I did find a bedroom, yeah… about 10 hours ago,” Yaz says mildly. “Aren’t the boys up yet?”
“Haven’t seen them,” the Doctor tells her. “I don’t really - time gets a bit wibbly when you live on a TARDIS. Well, I say wibble, I mean more of a wobble… I had a phrase for it, once. I can’t quite remember.”
“Right… humans usually sleep for around 8 hours, so they’re overdue,” Yaz clarifies, because she thinks she could spend the rest of her life studying the Doctor and barely scrape her surface, but one pattern she’s already started to recognize is: the Doctor reverts to Eccentric Alien Mode when she doesn’t want to admit she doesn’t know something.
The other thing Yaz has figured out is that when anyone tries to ask the Doctor a personal question, she can misdirect them through eleven relative dimensions in time and space.
Yaz is working on asking anyways.
“So I’ve got to ask,” she repeats, “when do you sleep? Do you sleep?”
“Oh, about once a lifetime or so,” the Doctor says airily. “I had a proper rest on Ryan’s couch, plus a lot of being unconscious before chasing that Pting around.”
“Yeah, that time that you were really injured and hadn’t recovered from it yet? Yesterday ?”
“Wibbly wobbly,” the Doctor repeats.
Yaz squints at her. She looks alright, although Yaz doesn’t really know what to look for. Same blonde hair tucked messily behind the delicate ear outlined by its gold chain. Same crinkled expression of bewilderment when Yaz stares at her a little too long.
“I just worry about you,” she says lamely, feeling like she has to offer up some kind of explanation. “I mean - I was worried about you yesterday, and if you were really hurt or ill, it’s not like any of us know how to get you help.”
The Doctor’s face does a new expression then, something soft and fond and a little starry in her eyes as she smiles. “Yaz, brilliant brilliant Yaz.” She reaches out and clumsily pats Yaz’s cheek. “If anything happens, I think I’m in excellent hands.”
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Yaz asks, and since the Doctor has initiated physical contact, she doesn’t feel guilty grabbing her shoulders and looking her over. The Doctor stands very still under her scrutiny, not as though she’s uncomfortable - more the way she gets sometimes, when she is trying to follow human rules without quite understanding them.
“I’m fine, truly,” she promises, and Yaz smiles at her. She can’t quite forget - the feeling of the Doctor’s body pressed against her, pushing her against the wall, standing between her and a bomb.
She can’t shake off the knowledge that she would have done the same thing in a heartbeat, that here is a person worth protecting.
They go to a marketplace on an alien planet, or rather to an alien planet that is a marketplace, because the Doctor assures them that it has the best waffles available anywhere in the galaxy.
“Are waffles an intergalactic cuisine?” Ryan asks, and turns back to grin at Yaz conspiratorially when the Doctor launches into a lengthy and impossible waffle anecdote.
Yaz is walking a foot or so behind them, content just to observe for a while without taking part in the conversation. Ryan and the Doctor are chatty in the mornings, right from the get go. Graham and Yaz, the two sensible people on Team TARDIS, need a few extra moments and whatever happens to be caffeinated in local spacetime.
Kaphos 4 is a desert-looking planet, or at least the part of it they’ve landed on is. Yellows and browns dominate the landscape, interrupted by bright tents. The layout is more or less grid-like, rows of vendors, and they’ve been traveling long enough now that Yaz isn’t fooled by humanoid appearance into thinking that she’s surrounded by humans. She can pick out the details, now; the vendor with the green banner is shouting in a language that has sounds Yaz can’t mimic, and she thinks she sees a forked tongue press briefly against his lip to make a few of them. A woman shoves past them to get to a booth with defeathered birds hanging loosely down from the ceiling, and Yaz is almost positive she sees a set of gills carved into her neck.
“ - the Marx brothers love waffles, you know, they’re from a planet that waffles most of its food, AHA!” Yaz’s attention is drawn back to her friends as the Doctor interrupts herself with an exclamation. “Hang on a tick,” she tells them, and darts into a purple tent with a large crowd heaving around it. They watch as she melts up to the counter, heedless of any semblance of a line. She speaks for a moment to the vendor, and then shoves her hand into her pocket, digging for something.
“I have a theory that she’s working with a different definition of waffle than we are. Do you want to place bets?” Graham says, and Ryan laughs. Yaz doesn’t. Graham and Ryan talk about the Doctor sometimes like they’ve bought into the mask of whimsy she creates over herself, like between moments of crisis they forget how much is hidden underneath.
Yaz likes the whimsy, but she doesn’t like pretending it’s all there is.
The Doctor pressed against her, putting her body between Yaz and danger because it’s the only thing she had left to protect her with…
But that was at least a week ago now by any measure of time Yaz can use to keep track of things, and the Doctor is bright-eyed and healthy as she exchanges some kind of metallic chip for a steaming paper cup. She comes back and presents it to Yaz, beaming.
“Here you go, you’ll love this!”
“What is it?” Yaz asks, taking the cup and giving it a sniff. She’s not suspicious; so far the Doctor has been right on the money about what they’ll all love. She’s just curious. The smell is rich and spicy and fruity.
“Gorta juice! Bit caffeinated, tastes like pie,” the Doctor tells her happily, and Yaz sips at it. It does taste like pie, somehow - a spice that isn’t cinnamon or ginger or nutmeg but would fit right in with them, and something a little like raspberry.
“That’s amazing,” she tells the Doctor honestly, and watches her whole face light up with triumphant pleasure.
“And how come Yaz gets special treatment?” Ryan asks, laughingly indignant. “Don’t the rest of us get any pie juice?”
“Yaz needs caffeine in the mornings, the TARDIS is lousy at caffeine,” the Doctor explains, and Yaz smiles, feeling a small private warmth bloom in her that is becoming increasingly familiar. There’s no hiding that the Doctor is her favorite person - she’s admitted it aloud in front of all of them, in a brazenly honest moment. She collects these little moments of evidence that maybe she’s the Doctor’s favorite back.
Not her favorite ever, of course - in her thousands of years of life, the Doctor has met a lot of people who are grander and more important and better than Yaz. But there’s no denying the shameless way that she hangs back, rearranging herself so that she’s next to Yaz instead of Ryan as they continue on, and as she takes another sip of her gorta juice, Yaz feels pretty special.
It turns out that by waffles, the Doctor means getting chased around a marketplace by angry intelligent fruit, but Yaz isn’t one for quibbling over semantics.
Even when they’re in real danger, most of their adventures with the Doctor hold an element of fun. There’s the fascinating neverending strangeness of the universe to enjoy, and after those first days, it’s hard to ever really be frightened. Yaz has faith in the Doctor. She knows that if a solution is there to be found, they’re going to find it.
But sometimes even with a time machine, they’re too late. They land on Minona Prime, a space station in the 43rd century that the Doctor says has a fantastic view of Saturn’s rings out the window, and the explosion has already happened, the alarms are already going off.
All they can do is help clean up the damage.
The foreman, a middle-aged cyborg called Johan, gives them tasks. Yaz starts out with a very futuristic clipboard, checking off areas of the ship as the security teams declare them safe, but every time one task gets finished, someone has something else that needs to be done, which is how she looks up and finally realizes that she hasn’t seen anyone else from Team TARDIS in at least six hours.
She stands, and wobbles a bit, her knees letting her know that she’s getting too old to spend an hour crawling around among airducts.
“You alright?” asks the man she’s been assisting with repairs, and with a start Yaz realizes that she hasn’t even learned his name. Everything’s been a blur.
“I’m fine - just need to be upright for a bit and maybe find something to eat,” she assures him. “And I’d like to check on my friends.”
The man - whose name turns out to be Doric - directs her down the hall to some kind of main room, which looks like its been set up into an impromptu mess hall. There are piles of wrapped sandwiches on a table to the side, and Yaz spots Graham and Ryan sitting on the floor not far from the door, already eating. She picks her way delicately around groups of people until she reaches them.
“Yaz! Did you get anything to eat?”
“I will in a minute,” she assures them, sitting down. “What’ve you two been up to?”
“Helping in the med bay,” Graham answers her. “But after things calmed down we started to be more in the way than anything else. Hardly any casualties - they’re well organized and well supplied here.”
“Good,” Yaz says, real relief breaking over her. It had looked that way from where she’d been too - everybody pitching in, fighting back the chaos of disaster. She cranes her head, looking through the crowd for any flash of blonde. “Have you seen…”
“Not for ages,” Ryan tells her, and there’s something to the quirk of his eyebrow, to the way he cuts her off without waiting for the end of her sentence that Yaz wants to push on, but it doesn’t seem like the moment.
“She was with the scout team earlier, looking through the rubble for survivors,” Graham says, and Yaz’s heart lurches just a little. Of course the Doctor would have dropped herself right into the center of things. She’s probably uncovered six conspiracies and some sentient electricity while Yaz has been manning check-lists. And she definitely won’t have stopped to take any kind of break.
“Maybe I’ll grab an extra sandwich, see if I can track her down and bring her something,” she says, trying to keep her voice casual. “Not that I have any idea how often she actually needs to eat.”
And yeah, there’s definitely something in the look that Graham and Ryan exchange, but whatever. Yaz leaves them to it.
She walks in the direction of the main damage. There are repair teams in the areas that are already cleared, but the explosion had been huge , and there are still whole portions of the ship blocked off by rubble. Two people are still unaccounted for, and with every hour, the odds have gone down of finding them alive. Yaz follows the helpful directions of a uniformed woman, and then stops partway down the hallway when she hears a sound that pricks every instinct she’s ever developed.
“Hello?” she calls out softly, and hears it again - the shifting of fabric, and then a soft sniff. The area is marked green, which means it’s already been cleared of both people and danger, but Yaz is still careful as she shoves a derailed sliding door, putting her whole body weight against it before it reluctantly slots into the wall.
The room it reveals is far less damaged than the hallway, but it’s not completely intact. The ceiling has come partially down. Yaz isn’t sure what its purpose was - furniture and knick-knacks have been knocked into chaos by blast force, and the only light is what’s coming through from the hallway. “Is someone in here?” she calls out, deliberately gentling her voice. She can’t say what makes her think so, but something about that sniff had sounded young.
There’s no response. Slowly, Yaz kneels, peering into the dark space formed where a collapsing ceiling had brought down a set of shelves. Two eyes blink back at her.
“Hello there. Are you alright?” she asks. She’s almost positive she’s talking to a child, which is concerning because the only people still listed as missing are adults. Every child should be accounted for. There’s no immediate response, but she waits patiently, counting in her head. She lets the silence get to 60 seconds and then tries again. “It’s pretty scary in here, in the dark. If you want, I can take you somewhere where they have the lights working.”
Another break, counting in her head, and Yaz has almost reached 60 when finally a small voice replies, “I can’t move - my leg hurts.”
Definitely a child. And if she’s injured, then that means she’s been in here, alone and unmissed for hours, probably. No wonder she’s frightened into silence.
“Oof, that’s no fun.” Yaz tries to keep her tone light, knows that children look to adults for cues. If the child’s injured she should go get a med team to get her out, but Yaz is loathe to leave her alone again in the dark if she doesn’t have to. “Can you tell me how it hurts - does it feel like a bruise or a scrape or something else?”
“Like a bruise but worse,” the child says. “I think it’s broken. What happened?”
“There was an accident, but everybody’s OK,” Yaz tells her. “Lots of people got a little bit injured, but the medics are patching them up, just like they’ll do for your leg.” The girl sounds lucid, and she’s calm enough to ask questions. Yaz decides on an experimental, “I need to go for just one moment and get some medics so they can help get you out of there, OK?”
“NO!” The voice turns frantic immediately. “Don’t leave me!”
“OK, OK, I’m not leaving,” Yaz promises, responding to the tone. She wouldn’t want to be left either, if she was an injured kid. She still can’t even see the girl, the light from the doorway isn’t reaching her well enough to let Yaz see anything more than the shine of her eyes. Yaz has no idea how badly injured she is, if she’s trapped under the debris. She needs more information.
“I’m not going to leave, but we need to get you out of there,” she tells the girl. “Is your leg stuck under anything?”
“No… it just hurts.”
“Does anything else hurt?”
“No. I - I think I can get to you,” the girl says. Her voice is wobbling, but she’s clearly trying her best to be brave.
“Hold your leg as still as you can, and see if you can scoot toward me,” she says. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll come up with a different plan.”
Finally, finally, shadows shift and Yaz can see the outline of her small form as the girl pulls herself out backward from under the debris. She waits until the child is mostly clear and then supports her, pulling her the rest of the way out as smoothly as possible. The child shifts to get her arms around Yaz’s neck and then suddenly she’s clinging, sobbing and squeezing so tightly that Yaz can’t pull back to examine her.
“Alright, I’ve got you, it’s alright.” Yaz runs soothing circles down the child’s back, awkwardly crouched as she tries to hold the child close without shifting her leg. “I’m going to pick you up, alright?” she says, and feels the girl nod against her neck. She does it as carefully as she can, bringing the girl into a rescue hold. There’s a sharp yelp of pain, but then they’re settled, and they make it out the door.
The girl won’t release her stranglehold even when they get to the medbay, and the medic is finally forced to give up, setting her leg and wrapping it while she sits in Yaz’s lap. The anaesthetic calms her, and finally they’re able to get a name - Analie.
“She’s not in the base roster at all,” the medic says, scrolling down the file. “Most likely her parents are visiting through shady channels, didn’t register with customs when they came in.”
Yaz doesn’t know what kind of illegal space station business people are getting up to in the 43rd century, but she can’t imagine that any parent would fail to report their child missing after an explosion. But the medic doesn’t sound surprised, and Yaz thinks she’s missing key information for this particular puzzle. She knows who could help her find it.
“Have you seen the Doctor?” she asks as the child begins playing with her hair, tying it into curious knots. The medic’s face lights up with recognition.
“Oh, you must be Yaz!”
“That’s me,” Yaz agrees, wondering what the Doctor has been saying about her.
“She’s wonderful, your Doctor,” he says fervently, which is something they can definitely agree on. But then he watches Yaz wrinkle her nose as the little girl yanks too hard on her hair and he adds, “no wonder she likes you so much - you two are cut from the same cloth, eh?” and Yaz can’t agree with that at all.
An arm goes around her shoulder from behind and she hears the Doctor’s voice, “that’s us, two peas in a pod!” She sounds extremely pleased with herself, probably for recognizing the colloquialism and having a matching one, and it’s like all of the tension leaves Yaz’s body at once, like she’d had a thread inside her getting wrapped tighter and tighter for every moment they were separated and now somebody’s cut it loose.
“Birds of a feather,” the Doctor adds, and Yaz grins and rests her head against the Doctor’s shoulder, content to wait it out until she’s exhausted her knowledge of human idioms. Instead her voice trails off, and a moment later Yaz feels a hand in her hair, the tentative stroke of gentle fingers tracing behind her ear.
“Yaz, do you know that you have knots in your hair?” the Doctor asks. “Also, you seem to be holding a child.”
“And a sandwich,” Yaz says calmly. “Have you eaten?”
“I knew I’d like having a couch,” the Doctor says, bouncing experimentally on a cushion. “I wanted purple but this is alright too. Yaz, what did you say this pattern was called?”
“Yaz says it’s called paisley, I like paisley,” the Doctor announces and then flops sideways, rolling her legs around onto the couch so that she's lying on it fully
“It is good,” Ryan agrees, but his eyes aren’t on the couch. He’d only mentioned in passing at breakfast that he wished the TARDIS had a game room, and by lunchtime it had grown one, complete with atrocious paisley couch and xbox. Ryan’s rifling through the game selection, and Yaz doesn’t know whose love affair is sillier, the Doctor and the couch or Ryan and Call of Duty.
“You clever thing,” the Doctor practically sings, gesturing out toward the TARDIS with a loving hand, and Yaz decides she wins for being in love with two inanimate objects at once.
Not that the TARDIS can really be described as inanimate.
“Budge over,” she says, and pushed at the Doctor’s feet until there’s room for her to sit down. The Doctor rolls off the couch onto the ground with a thump and leaps back up, turning herself around so that she can sprawl with her head on Yaz’s lap. Yaz smiles and runs fingers through her hair, scratching gently at her scalp. She lets out a blissful sigh, closing her eyes, and Yaz can’t help but trace a gentle thumb over her eyelids, down her cheek.
When she looks up, Graham is watching them, and Yaz can’t control the heat that floods her cheeks. She feels as though she’s been caught in a private moment, but it isn’t one. It’s just her and the Doctor, and somehow this is where they’ve ended up lately. Touching.
The moment feels tense, and then it’s interrupted by a chiming sound, and the Doctor shoots off the couch and back onto her feet. “Oooh, nothing to panic about, but, well, maybe a little panic, should probably just - be back in a jiffy.”
“Do you need a hand, Doc?” Graham asks, and the Doctor beams at him.
“Hand, yes, two if you’re not using them for anything else!” and she practically drags him out the door. Yaz watches them go, debates following for a minute, but - she’s fairly sure it’s not actually an emergency, and she’s a bit glad for the escape from Graham’s knowing stare.
Instead she watches as Ryan starts up the xbox, settling on the couch next to her with a controller.
“The Doctor’s not going to like this game if she sees you playing it,” Yaz points out. “Lots of guns.” She can’t believe the TARDIS even made it for him, but if Yaz is the Doctor’s favorite, Ryan is the TARDIS’ favorite. It’s forever bending itself a little to make him happy.
“I’m not advocating for real violence,” Ryan protests. “It’s a game of skill!” Yaz justs laughs at him.
“Can I ask you something?” he starts a moment later, his eyes still focused on the television, and Yaz looks at him askance. They’ve fallen into a sibling dynamic over the past months, at least from her perspective, and she has a moment of dread that he’s about to ask her out and make everything awkward.
“You can always ask, but I don’t promise an answer if I don’t like the question,” she says, and tries to sound teasing instead of apprehensive.
“It’s just - lately Graham and I can’t help noticing that you and the Doc have gotten quite close,” Ryan says. “Cuddling on couches and all. And I don’t mean to pry or anything, but I can’t help but wonder if the two of you are… you know.”
“I… don’t think the Doctor does romance,” Yaz answers slowly, trying to work out her response. “At least not the way humans do. I understand why you’re asking, because if she was human and putting her head in my lap like that, I’d wonder too. But she doesn’t mean it that way.”
“I think you’re probably right,” Ryan says, and Yaz shouldn’t feel sad to hear that, she shouldn’t , because she already knows she’s right and it doesn’t change anything for Ryan to confirm it. But then he turns to look at her and adds, “but you mean it that way, don’t you?”
“Oh, don’t,” she says immediately. “I mean - don’t interpret it that way. I can’t mean it that way, when I know the Doctor wouldn’t want me to, because relationships aren’t made up of just what one person does, they’re made of both of us. I love the Doctor, and I love you and Graham, and the adventures we’re having. This is the best thing that’s ever happened in my life, and I don’t want to be sad about what it isn’t. I want to stay happy about what it is.”
“Yeah…. yeah, I get that,” Ryan says. “I’m sorry I brought it up. Do you want to play something two-player? There’s loads of games, have a look.”
“Nah, I’ve never really been a gamer, I’ll just watch you,” Yaz tells him. She lets her head fall against his shoulder, and he reaches around her, squeezing her shoulders for a moment, comforting. Privately, in her own head, Yaz acknowledges that she is sad a little, and obviously she’s not fooling Ryan or Graham in the slightest.
But she’s not lying about her happiness either. They don’t cancel each other out, the good and the bad. All of it together stacks up into a life that lately feels a little magnificent.