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those quiet hours turned to years

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They don’t tell Graham and Ryan at first. It’s not a secret or anything - Yaz isn’t embarrassed of the Doctor. In fact, she’s a little proud, in a shy way. It’s the Doctor. The best person she’s ever met, and Yaz gets to kiss her all the time.

There are just a lot of details to work out. Any relationship requires some navigation, but this time Yaz is dating an alien. Are they dating? What does dating even mean in Gallifreyan culture? She’s leery of making any assumptions, and the best way to avoid making them is to avoid making any statements about their relationship to other people at all. Thus: she doesn’t tell the boys.  

She’s not sure why the Doctor isn’t telling them, but she doesn’t think it’s for the same reasons. The Doctor is - skittish, sometimes. It makes Yaz feel skittish too; the Doctor brings a weight to every kiss. Two thousand years is a lot of baggage, and it’s strange to be in a brand new relationship and know, know, that there’s no such thing as casual to a person who has lost their entire world. There are pitfalls and triggers studded through the Doctor’s being that Yaz has no hope of avoiding entirely, and all they can do is move gently with each other.

Sometimes, when she gets wrapped up in all the weight and grief and magnitude, it’s overwhelming. Other times, like now, it’s the easiest thing in the world to drop a teasing kiss onto the Doctor’s cheek and intertwine their fingers as they walk back to the TARDIS in the late afternoon sunlight. 

“So what were those things called, anyways?” she asks, and swings their joined arms contentedly as the Doctor’s expression lights up with enthusiasm, the way it always does when someone asks her a question she likes.

 “Well they were definitely some sort of equichlorite, I don’t know the particular species - there are loads of things in the universe that eat sunlight, you know, you’ve got thousands of them on Earth alone.” 

“Yeah, plants, we’ve got plants that eat sunlight - not big unicorn things that can fly through space,” Yaz objects, because she thinks the Doctor is focusing on the wrong thing here for categorization. Sunshine-eating space unicorns, grass doesn’t feel like the most immediate connection to draw.

 “Shows what you know,” the Doctor retorts easily. “Just wait until you see what rhododendrons evolve into after a couple million years.”

Yaz eyes her suspiciously. The Doctor likes to come out with facts like that - the woolly rebellion and evolved rhododendrons and Elvis as an alien refugee - and Yaz is almost almost sure that she’s having them on, but maybe when you take the entire span of existence into account, the universe really is just that weird. 

“Rhododendrons,” she repeats, testing, and the Doctor nods confirmation. “Alright - add it to our list of things to see.”

“Done,” the Doctor agrees easily, and when she smiles at Yaz it’s still teasing, but it’s gone soft at the edges the way it does when the Doctor is feeling especially affectionate. “Getting to be a long list,” she says, and Yaz is still figuring out a lot about the Doctor, but this particular element of her has always been clear.

 The Doctor doesn’t like to be left alone.

“Well, we’ve got time, haven’t we?” she says, keeping her tone light. “I reckon we can take the rest of forever to make our way through it,” and that must push too hard, because she feels the Doctor go tense beside her.

“Forever’s a hard thing to promise,” she says after a moment, and Yaz tenses up a little too, as the words play upon her own anxieties - that eventually the Doctor will grow bored of someone so much younger and smaller than herself, that she’s going to be left back in Sheffield to pick up the pieces of the life she’d dropped so carelessly to the ground. 

She forces herself to relax. Life doesn’t come with any guarantees, but this - all of this, the unicorns and the sun drenched path they’re walking back to the TARDIS and the Doctor’s hand in her own - it’s worth whatever it ends up costing. She’d promised when they started that she wasn’t going to push for more than the Doctor can give.

“Alright, then - instead of forever, how about an hour?” she says, nudging the Doctor’s shoulder with her own. “I’d kind of like to get some dinner before we go pick up the boys, if we’re still getting them right after lunch Sheffield-time.” They’d all agreed to a 2pm meet-up when the Doctor dropped them off, but none of them actually believe she has that kind of piloting accuracy. She and Yaz will land when the TARDIS feels like landing, and hopefully its within a week of the planned pickup point.

 “Oooh…. dinner,” the Doctor takes the topic change as the peace offering that it is, letting herself be distracted. She thinks for a moment and then, “Oh! Have I taken you to Yaris VI yet? They have the best little cakes, sort of like if chocolate and asparagus had a baby, except not like that at all really.”

 “Chocolate … asparagus?” Yaz repeats skeptically, arching an eyebrow.

 “I can’t describe it, it’s not a flavor you have on Earth, you’ve just got to try it.”

 Yaz checks with herself and decides that she’s got the spirit left for another adventure. It’s becoming a habit, an extra internal audit the same way she might stop to notice if she’s getting tired or thirsty - she’s got to check if she has the emotional fortitude left to explore the unknown, or if she needs a brief return to familiarity. She checks, and finds that yeah, she’s intrigued. She wants to try the alien asparagus.

 “Yaris VI it is,” she says, and watches as the Doctor does an enthusiastic little jump. They’re both grinning like idiots when they get back to the TARDIS.

“Let me put the coordinates in, you might want to go change,” the Doctor says, bouncing over to the console the way she does when she’s excited. “Dress code’s a bit formal on Yaris VI, they won’t be nice about those muddy trainers. Strong etiquette tradition, think if Victorian manners stayed in fashion all the way up to 2019 on Earth.” She’s not really paying attention to what she’s saying, busy having a tactile love affair with her ship, running her fingers along every button and lever as she switches things around. The TARDIS begins it’s usual wheezing sound, and then as the Doctor pulls that last handle it pitches abruptly to the side and drops.

It feels like being on a roller coaster, unstrapped in - Yaz’s stomach lurches as her feet leave the ground. Her shoulder slams against a pillar hard enough to bruise, but she grabs onto it before she can go careening off. Then there’s a shuddering bump and she loses her grip with a single sharp wrench, like gravity has levered her off with a crowbar, and hits the ground even harder than she’d hit the pillar. She stays there for a minute, dazed, wondering if it’s possible to actually break her ass and if she’s achieved it.

 “Are you alright?” the Doctor calls out sharply.

 “Yeah,” she decides as the pain starts to fade. Bruised but unbroken. “ M’fine. What happened?” The Doctor’s fingers are already flying over the controls as she asks the TARDIS the same question.

“We got redirected,” she says. “Or more accurately, we fell, through a - through a hole….” her voice trails off and she goes still. Her face is utterly blank, and something must be truly wrong, because the Doctor does a lot of quirky things, but she never freezes like this.

“Doctor, what’s wrong?” Yaz asks sharply, and her tone seems to snap the Doctor out of it. She doesn’t answer, but her body flies into motion, six long strides across the room so she can fling the TARDIS doors open. Dread pooling in her stomach, Yaz peers out the door behind her, not sure what horror she’s expecting to see.

“It’s… London.” She steps out, still looking around for whatever crisis has brought on this new behavior. Nothing looks truly out of the ordinary to her, though she’s only in London occasionally. It looks the same as ever; if she had to guess, she’d say they’re still in the year 2019. 

“Not quite London,” the Doctor says, stepping out behind her. “Look.”

Yaz follows her finger up toward the sky.

 “Are those… zeppelins?”

 She looks toward the Doctor for answers - are they in the future by just a bit? Or on an alien planet that looks a lot like London? - and sees only her retreating back. She's walking, but at speed, her entire body tilted into it.

 “Oi - Doctor,” Yaz runs to catch up with her. Her behavior is a mystery, and try as she might, Yaz can’t spot the cause. “What's the matter?”

“Go back to the TARDIS,” the Doctor tells her. She hasn't slowed down in the slightest, forcing Yaz into an awkward half jog alongside her. “Wait for me there.” Her mouth is pressed into a thin line, so hard that the color is leeched out of her lips and they blend into her skin. She's not looking at her, but Yaz doesn't need eye contact to know that this is somehow different than their usual crises.

“I'm coming with you,” she says stubbornly, and it feels a little familiar, a conversation that is starting to become a pattern. Yaz isn't leaving the Doctor’s side.

“Fine,” the Doctor says shortly. It doesn't hold any of the cautious pleasure Yaz is used to from the Doctor when she surprises her with her loyalty; it’s more like she hasn't got the time to argue. “Just be careful.” There’s an odd, bitter quirk to her lips when she adds, “this place is like a gingerbread house - full of dangerous temptation.”

Yaz follows the Doctor in silence as they round corners and walk along streets. It really does look like London - in fact, a few parts of it are even familiar, Yaz is fairly sure, though they're heading into the poshest parts of Kensington, where she's rarely had reason to visit.

The Doctor knows exactly where she's going, and doesn't pause as she leads them through the open gate and up the winding driveway of a massive estate. It's the kind of place that must have security, but apparently it's not very vigilant, because nobody stops the Doctor from pounding furiously at the stately double doors, her whole weight behind her fists as though she's not so much knocking as trying to break through.

Yaz is just about to try grabbing her shoulders - she's afraid the Doctor is going to break skin - when one of the doors is flung open by an aging woman with dyed blonde hair.

“Couldn't wait 2 bloody minutes?” she demands stridently, getting right into the Doctor’s face to glare. “I don't know who you are, but it's not like you're expected, and here you are trying to break my door down before I can get down the stairs to open it.” 

“Jackie,” the Doctor whispers, and half reaches out, like she wants to touch her. The woman takes a sharp step back.

 “I'm sorry, do I know you?”

“Not really,” the Doctor says, voice thick. “Listen, is Rose here?”

Rose. The name sinks into Yaz’s chest and offers a glimmer of understanding. Somehow, they've gone backward or forward just the right amount and intersected with the Doctor’s lost love.  

The way the Doctor has talked about Rose, in brief whispered mentions, has always led Yaz to assume that Rose is dead, but -

What does death mean to a time traveler? Everyone is alive somewhere, if only you can get to them.

Jackie’s face has gone cold and suspicious. “You a friend from her travels, then?” she asks blandly, and something about her tone, and the way her arm is inching left behind the door frame, leaves Yaz suddenly certain that Jackie is a lot less defenseless than she looks. 

“Jackie, I'm no threat,” the Doctor says tiredly. “Not to Rose, not ever. I….” she sighs. “I shouldn't be here probably. But she's alright? She's happy?” 

Something softens in the corners of Jackie’s eyes as she observes the Doctor’s slumped shoulders.

“Well, alright then - she’ll be home in an hour or so, if you want to come in and have a cup of tea.” 

The Doctor doesn’t answer. She looks as though all energy has been sapped from her, the way that she has sagged into her own body. She sways just a bit, and Yaz and Jackie reach out in the same alarmed instant, afraid she’s going to fall, but she catches herself.

“Gingerbread houses,” she murmurs, and then turns to Yaz. There are tears brimming in her eyes, and the entirety of her long lifespan stretching back behind them. “I think we’d better just go.”

“Are you sure?” Yaz asks. She doesn’t understand what’s happening - she doesn’t know where they are, or why the Doctor suddenly looks her full age against a backdrop of mansions and zeppelins. She doesn’t know why Rose is here, or why the Doctor has always acted as though Rose is lost to her.

She doesn’t know any of that, but she does know the Doctor, and sometimes the Doctor flees from the things she wants most.

The Doctor doesn’t say anything, just stares at her like Yaz has asked her something incomprehensibly complex. 

“I don’t have the foggiest idea who either of you are,” Jackie says a little caustically, “but if you’ve changed your mind about seeing Rose, you’re running late for it.” She flicks her finger at them, and Yaz follows its direction to see a blue sedan pulling up the long driveway.  

The Doctor turns as well, and Yaz sees her grasp the side of the door for support as a blonde woman climbs out with a couple of shopping bag, slamming the door shut behind her.

“Mum, I’m home early,” she calls. “I’ve got a few birthday gifts I need to hide away before Sus gets home, can I stick them in your closet? I reckon it’s the only place she won’t snoop around.” She gets closer, and Yaz decides that actually, she bears more than a passing resemblance to the Doctor. She looks about 40, with the same pointed chin and high cheekbones as the Doctor, and the same large brown eyes. It’s a different nose, a wider mouth, but - Yaz might have assumed they were sisters, if she saw them out in public.

“Hello,” she says now that she’s closer, smiling at them both. “These friends of yours?”

“Actually, they said they were friends of yours,” Jackie says sharply, and it’s clear that Rose’s lack of recognition has made her nervous again. Rose looks suspicious as well, though it lacks the sharp edge of fear that’s making Jackie edge away from them.

“Sorry, have we met?” she asks.

“Rose Tyler,” the Doctor murmurs. Her voice has gone soft and reverent, like just saying the name is a religious ecstasy. “Look at you - look how beautiful you are.”  

Rose stops and stares at her. “I…” she only gets a word out before she trails off, and there’s a fight happening in the motion of her face, disbelief warring with recognition to produce uncertainty. “Who are you?” she asks, but somehow, she knows. Yaz can see that she knows. 

“It’s me,” the Doctor says, and then they’re magnetized, pulling into each other’s arms. The Doctor makes a choked sound as Rose’s fists clench in the fabric of her coat, and she buries her face in Rose’s hair.

“.... who the bleeding hell are you two?” Jackie asks Yaz. The fear has left her, and there’s something exasperated about her body language now. The face she’s making invites Yaz to share her irritation, and it makes Yaz smile a little in fellow-feeling. Of course she doesn’t begrudge the Doctor this reunion. Of course not. It’s just unpleasant to be smacked directly in the face by how thoroughly she isn’t the person the Doctor loves best.

“Uh, hi, sorry - I’m Yaz, and this is the Doctor.” Yaz does belated introductions, accompanying them with an awkward little wave. “Pleased to meet you.”

Jackie looks utterly gobsmacked.

“The Doctor? But that’s a woman!” she protests loudly, and Rose pulls back, keeping her hands on the Doctor’s waist but bringing her face into view.

“It’s true, you are,” she says, wide lips quirked into a contagious, silly smile. She makes a show of eyeing the Doctor up and down. “Definite upgrade, I’d call it.” She releases the Doctor at last, stepping back, and the Doctor’s hand reaches after her for just a moment, an instinctive reaction before she catches herself. 

“Yeah, it’s a lottery, regeneration, but this one’s alright,” she says, and she’s smiling at Rose, this tentative soft smile that Yaz has never seen before. “Mind, it’s odd to be looking across at you instead of down.”

“Oi! Enough of that, thank you,” Rose says. “You might notice that you’re insulting yourself as much as me now.” She turns to Yaz, and her grin fades, something shuttered and defensive coming up over her face. “And this’ll be a new friend, then?” she says with an arch of her eyebrow and a head jerk in Yaz’s direction. “Donna’s gone and you're back to 20 year old girls.”

“Yasmin Khan, Hallamshire Police. I'm 21 actually,” Yaz answers, hackles raising. She isn't sure who Donna is or exactly what is being implied, but it's clear from the Doctor’s face that Rose has scored a direct hit, and someone's got to defend her while she recovers. “Is that a problem, somehow?”  

Rose’s mouth pulls back in an expression that might be regret. 

“Sorry - I didn't mean that as a dig at you,” she tells Yaz. “I'm having a moment of deja vu. I think I understand Sarah Jane a lot better now.”

Yaz adds Sarah Jane to the list of people she's never heard of, and Rose must see it in her face because she laughs. It has a watery element to it, and the tension is racketing up so high that it’s possible all three of them are going to burst on the porch and spatter Jackie with their innards.  “You don't know who I'm talking about, of course - he doesn't talk about us when we’re gone. I bet he's never even mentioned me.” 

“She's mentioned you,” Yaz says. She leaves it at that. It's true - the Doctor has mentioned Rose, a name whispered in reverent tones and never elaborated on. Yaz knows Rose less from actual conversation and more by the spaces the Doctor leaves around her, by the permanently open wound that she is always working to hide from them.

“But not Donna?” Rose asks the Doctor. Her tone is gentler now, and Yaz is glad - realizes that Rose hadn't meant to strike as hard as she had.

“Donna was a long time ago, now. Lifetimes ago,” the Doctor says, and Rose looks shattered.

 “And so was I,” she says, as though she's completing the thought. “Why don’t you two come in?”

**

They settle on white couches in the parlor and Yaz doesn’t think she’s ever been in a house this swanky in her life. It’s an honest-to-god mansion, like something off the television, not anything that Yaz thought real people lived in.

“I’ll make us all some tea, are you hungry?” Jackie asks, and Rose looks grateful.

“Starving actually, thanks mum.”

“Why don’t I help you,” Yaz suggests, hopping up. She’s aware that the force cheer in her voice sounds borderline manic, but it’s the best she can manage, and anyways, Jackie winks cheerfully at her.

“Good idea,” she says in a way that immediately labels them as co-conspirators, and leads Yaz toward the kitchen.

“They need a moment alone, don’t they,” she says to Yaz, “and it might as well be now, because if you think this is awkward, just imagine how much weirder it’s going to be when our Doctor gets home.”  

“Sorry, your Doctor?” Yaz asks.

She’d been planning to gently interrogate Jackie in the kitchen anyways, and Jackie reveals herself to be an astonishingly easy target. It’s a wild tale, but Yaz doesn’t doubt its veracity. 

“So we’re in an entirely different universe… a Zeppelin universe?”

“That’s right…. the Doctor named it Pete’s World,” Jackie answers, a note of pride in her voice. It’s such a happy story, if Jackie Tyler is the main character - she’s gotten her husband back, with the added bonus of a few million dollars. In fact, it sounds like the whole adventure worked out perfectly for everybody involved. Rose has a version of the Doctor she can grow old with, all the Tylers have each other.

Everyone is happy, with one notable exception.

“That’s amazing,” she makes herself say. “Honestly, craziest story I’ve ever heard and after a few years with the Doctor, I’ve heard some wild ones.”  

“And what’s your story, then?” Jackie asks her. “Are you the new Rose? Innocent human wandering along, and then you got all caught up in the Doctor’s adventures?”  

It would sound snide if Jackie didn’t sound so sympathetic as she said it. She’s smart, Yaz thinks, eyeing the woman in front of her. She’s pushing into old age, enough that her thick layer of makeup can’t hide the paper thin quality of her skin. But her eyes are sharp, and there’s a wealth of understanding in her voice. She’s lived with some version of the Doctor for 18 years - she might, Yaz realizes with a twinge of discomfort, even know the Doctor better than Yaz does. How much does the Doctor change, when she changes faces?

That very first night, the first night they’d met the Doctor, she’d told them she was a stranger to herself. Is she a stranger to Rose and Jackie now, a new person holding someone else’s memories close to her heart like a treasured storybook? Or are memories the most fundamental part of her, a steady strand linking every incarnation of her into a single being?

Either way, one thing has always been very clear.

“I could never replace Rose,” she tells Jackie firmly. “No one could.”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Jackie says. “Here - why don’t you bring them in their tea and test the waters, and if you don’t flee back here in the next three minutes I’ll know it’s safe to follow with food.”

“Are you sure?” Yaz asks doubtfully. It’s been about half an hour, she thinks, which might mean Rose and the Doctor have had plenty of time for a reunion or it might mean they’re just getting started.

“Of course I’m not sure,” Jackie says. “If I was sure I’d be going myself instead of sending you in as cannon fodder.”

“Oh, thanks very much,” Yaz answers tartly, but she takes the tray of tea. Jackie’s easy humor makes it easier somehow, makes the stakes feel lower.

Still, Yaz is nobody’s fool, and she pauses shamelessly outside the sitting room to eavesdrop. She’s not about to walk in on a row, and she’s not keen to walk in on anything that falls on the other end of the spectrum either.

The first thing she hears is Rose giggling, and that feels like a good sign. 

“ - so then Graham says, ‘just keep your eyes on the ball,’ and the Zarbi goes -” the Doctor loses herself to laughter for a minute, “it goes, ‘ which ones?’”

There’s a moment of raucous laughter, and when Yaz peeks in, she sees that they’ve gotten closer together on the couch, that Rose’s hand is on the Doctor’s shoulder as they laugh. 

They sober up after a moment, and then Rose takes the Doctor's hand into her own as she says, “you sound happy, Doctor. Really really happy.”

“I am, most of the time,” the Doctor says hesitantly. “It’s…. a bit new, really. The last version I got wasn’t really happy by nature. I’ve come back calmer this time around.”

“I’m so glad,” Rose tells her, and Yaz pulls more thoroughly back from the room, out of sight if they should happen to glance up, because it sounds like maybe they’re getting around to the moment Jackie wanted to let them have.

“It’s because of you, you know. Any happiness I have, it’s because of you.” There’s a beat of silence, and then a nervous laugh. 

“I hardly think I can take much credit, these past years. I - I left you for yourself, and that’s…”

“You saved me,” the Doctor interrupts her, insistent and fierce. “Before anything else, when I still had that northern accent and all the leather - you gave me back the possibility of happiness when I thought it was beyond my reach for the rest of eternity. Any time I’m happy, for the rest of my existence, it’s a gift you gave to me.”

That’s more than Yaz wants to hear, and more personal than she should hear. She decides that discretion is the better part of valor and makes a strategic retreat to the kitchen before things can get worse.

She sits in the kitchen and drinks tea with Jackie, and tries to be calm about the fact that her girlfriend is in love with another woman.

That’s not really new information, and up until now, Yaz has always kept a balanced perspective about it. The Doctor is thousands of years old - of course there are people in her past and people in her future who will mean more to her, or something different to her, than what Yaz means. People who are special, or who meet her at her life’s turning points and become a part of the changes, instead of just joining the flow for a measly human lifespan. Yaz has always tried to be alright with that. She loves the Doctor, and she loves the adventures, and she loves knowing there are people and planets in the universe that she’s helped save.

It’s harder with the reality of Rose in front of her. It stops being mythical, the stuff of legend, on a timescale that Yaz knows her human mind can’t fully comprehend. Rose doesn’t have any advantages over Yaz, she isn’t special or eternal or godlike. She’s just another human woman, who got their first and beat Yaz out.

“Let it out, love - what’s put that look on your face?” Jackie asks, and Yaz manages a miserable smile.

“I guess I just…. it was easier to deal with not measuring up when Rose didn’t seem like a real person,” she admits, hoping it’ll feel sillier after she’s said it out loud. It does.

“I don’t think it’s that kind of competition," Jackie objects after a moment, and Yaz musters up a smile for her, because it’s beyond bizarre to receive comfort from her girlfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s mum.

“That’s probably true.” It is true, because the competition is already over, and the prizes are already awarded. Rose has the Doctor’s heart, but Yaz has the Doctor. She has the adventures and the TARDIS and the giddy rush of walking into disaster after disaster. There’s nothing Yaz can do to win the things she doesn’t have, and there’s nothing she does have that she would willingly give up.

And no matter what strange and complicated envy is twisting itself around her, she can’t begrudge the Doctor what Rose has given to her. There’s a measure of peace in the Doctor’s hearts, despite her infinite losses and tragedies, and if she is to be believed, that peace comes from Rose. Yaz would never want her not to have it.

They’ll stay as long as they need to, and it’ll hurt. But then they’ll move on to another adventure, and Yaz won’t have any less of the Doctor tomorrow than she had yesterday. She soothes herself with the thought, and manages a more genuine smile at Jackie.

“We must be interrupting your routine - what time does everyone else get home?” she asks. Jackie glances at her glamorous gold watch.

“Oh, it’s getting on, isn’t it - the Doctor and Susie will probably be home in the next half hour or so, I should think. Tony’s got soccer practice, but he won’t be much later than that either.”

“We should leave before they all get here.” Yaz looks up, startled by the Doctor’s voice, to see her entering the kitchen with Rose. They both look a bit red-eyed, but the Doctor is smiling. “I think it’s for the best. Rose says that Torchwood has been keeping an eye on holes between our universe - they open occasionally, as a kind of temporal echo of previous tears, but they don’t usually last more than a day. We wouldn’t want to miss it.”

“Are you sure you can’t stay? Long enough to meet Sus, at least. I’d like you to see her,” Rose says, and the Doctor’s lips give an odd twitch.

“Rose has a five year old daughter,” she explains to Yaz. “They named her Susan.” There’s a weight to the way she says it, obviously the name is important, but Yaz doesn’t know why and it doesn’t feel like the moment to ask.

“Do you want to stay and meet her?” she asks instead, keeping her tone supportive. She’ll stick around if it’s what the Doctor wants, although she’s eager to flee the complications of this universe and return to the emotional safety of her own.

But the Doctor shakes her head. “No, I think we better not risk it - could be months before another tear opens up, if this one closes. And…” she sends Rose an apologetic glance, “I think it might be easier not to. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Rose says immediately. Her lip wobbles a bit. “I shouldn’t be dragging this out. We’ve never quite managed a proper goodbye, you and I, have we?”

The Doctor smiles at her, cups her cheek with a fond hand. “Why don’t we settle for, ‘see you next time?’” she suggests, and Rose makes a little explosive sound.

“That sounds good,” she says. She turns her gaze toward Yaz. “Sorry we didn’t get to talk more. I’m trusting you to keep a close eye on this idiot, yeah?”

“I’ll do my best - she does get herself into some scrapes,” Yaz promises, and Rose smiles at her with such a wealth of wry understanding that half of Yaz’s resentment toward her is washed away by fellow-feeling.

The Doctor spins on her feet and walks determinedly toward the door. Yaz says a weak goodbye for both of them to Jackie before hurrying after. It’s a rude exit, but Yaz thinks she understands the carefully paced way the Doctor is walking, the fragility of it. She has to leave now if she’s going to leave at all. They make their way back to the TARDIS in a heavy silence.

It becomes oppressive as they walk through the familiar doors into the console room, and the Doctor starts fiddling with gauges, setting the course for their route home. She has her back toward Yaz, which means that Yaz can stare openly as she weighs her options.

The Doctor’s preference, she knows, would be to pretend it never happened. She runs from the pain she can’t fix, and looking at the hunch to her shoulders, the tense lines of her body, Yaz is tempted to let her. But if she doesn’t bring it up now, it will never come up again, and there are questions she needs answered, mysteries she doesn’t think she can just live with.

She decides to start with an easy one, diving in and breaching the silence. “You told Rose it had been lifetimes for you - how long has it been since you saw her?” The Doctor flinches when Yaz begins to speak, like it’s a hit she’d already been anticipating, and Yaz does her best to keep her tone neutral and calm, like nothing in her is hanging on the answer.

“Well…. discounting a couple anomalies, it's been eleven hundred years? Give or take a century,” the Doctor answers after a moment.

“Eleven hundred!” She’d known, intellectually, that the Doctor was thousands of years old. The Doctor had told them that. But somehow she hadn't quite thought…. “How do you even remember her face? Can you remember everything that happens to you?”

“Not everything, no,” the Doctor admits. She hits a final set of switches and then turns to face Yaz, finally. “But not all memories are created equal. I remember the important things - I remember all the people I've loved.”

“And how many people have you loved, in those eleven hundred years?”

“Does it matter?” the Doctor asks, and it’s the return to evasion that makes Yaz suddenly realize that for a brief moment, the Doctor had been uncharacteristically honest.

“You just said they mattered to you,” she points out. “So they ought to matter to me too, I think.”

The Doctor looks touched for a moment, and then pained. “Humans have this way of being jealous - and it's because your minds don't wrap around the time scale, not really. You think because I've loved and then moved on, I must have the capacity to drop you and forget you in the blink of an eye, and when I list names out for you, it sounds like confirmation - a blink for Martha, and one for Donna, and someday one for you, right? But time is an illusion and you're letting it fool you. The truth is that I can love you for your whole lifetime and then grieve for you twice as long, I can spend centuries grieving, and still, eventually, there's going to be someone else. I can't help it that I keep going while the rest of you fade, no other choice has been offered to me, so what else am I supposed to do? And it's all painful, all of it, and you want me to sit here and list their names.”

She sounds angry by the end, the words coming out in sharp bursts, and then she visibly starts trying to pull herself together with deep breaths.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. And… I’m not jealous, at least not the way you mean,” Yaz tells her. “I’m not jealous that you’ve loved other people, or that you’re going to love someone else when I’m gone. I just… meeting Rose, I’m a bit jealous that I won’t ever measure up.”

It’s a profoundly selfish thing to confess, she realizes, the moment after she says it. It isn’t right to ask the Doctor for reassurance when she’s hurting so much herself. Nonetheless, she’s glad she got it out - if she hadn’t, she’d have ended up keeping it inside herself for the rest of their relationship, which is going to be the rest of her life, if Yaz has her way.

“Yaz.” The Doctor looks startled and concerned. Her arms come up to rest on Yaz’s shoulders, so that they’re looking into each other’s eyes. “Do I make you feel that way, really?”

“Not all the time,” Yaz says. “And it’s not your fault. But the way you love Rose - it’s not the way you love me, I can see that.”

The Doctor sighs. “When I met Rose…. I had just lost my planet,” she says, and the words hit Yaz like they’re made of something solid. “There was a war, and my people, my way of life, everything good and bad about it, it was all gone - forever, I thought.”

“I didn’t know,” Yaz whispers, horrified. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s alright - it really is,” the Doctor says. “It’s - a lot has happened since then. But Rose saved me, taught me how to feel again. She taught me how to take my loss, and my sadness, and let those things be a reason to savor happiness, a reason to help others.”

“I’m so glad you had her when you needed her,” Yaz says, and she means it. She’s never felt so selfish in her life.

“I am too,” the Doctor says. “I didn’t have her forever, but I had her when I needed her most. It means that years later, with a brand new face, when I fell on top of a train and met this incredible, selfless police officer, who looks around the whole universe and asks the question, ‘how can I help?’ before she asks anything else...” The Doctor’s eyes are intent, trying to get across something that she clearly needs Yaz to hear and believe, and all Yaz can do is hang on. “When that happened, I was ready for it. I’m so grateful to Rose for making me into the kind of person who’s worthy of you, Yasmin Khan - for turning me into someone who can love you and love the universe as fiercely as you do.”

“Oh.” Yaz stares at her, dumbstruck, and then does the obvious thing and fits their mouths together, kissing the Doctor with all the passion that that speech deserves. “Good answer,” she murmurs when they separate, and the Doctor laughs, puts their foreheads together in a moment of warm affection.

“You’re never competing with my past, Yaz - it’s just the journey that led me to you, that’s all.”

Yaz smiles at her, feels the warmth of a lifetime together stretching out in front of them. “It’s been a hell of a day, huh?” she says, nudging the Doctor with her shoulder.

“Mmm… you know what’s going to be weird? When we get Ryan and Graham in a minute, and they think it’s been two hours and a trip to the chippie on the corner.”

The disconnect of that strikes her just right, and Yaz laughs harder than it really deserves. It’s going to be a relief having the boys back on board, she realizes. She’s got something she’s overdue to tell them.

“You know what’s going to be even weirder?” she says. “When I kiss you in front of them and it breaks Ryan’s entire brain.” They're both laughing as the TARDIS begins to spin, letting out its familiar, beloved wheeze.