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Constellation

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"Name's Doctor. The Doctor."

Once the woman standing behind the high fence in the middle of a vineyard finds the correct entry on the list of guests pinned to her clipboard, she wordlessly points to the Italian villa looming over them. Heading towards the entrance, the Doctor throws a grin over her shoulder.

"Always wanted to say that."

Graham and Yaz exchange an exasperated look, over Ryan's slow smirk. "Wait, does that mean your first name is The?"

"What?" She frowns, pulling a face. "No, it's not."

"I think it is." Ryan argues, strolling passed the unhappy Time Lord who's glaring at him, hands on her hips. "Come on, The. We can't be late, they're waiting for us."

"Tell him to stop." The Doctor turns to her other two companions, throwing her hands in the air.

"I'm not getting involved. Sorry, you're on your own..." Graham starts, shaking his head. "The." He adds under his breath, joining Ryan under the porch. His departure leaves Yaz alone with her friend, pursing her lips in a poor attempt to contain an amused smile.

"It's not funny." Scrunching her nose, she shifts to face the police officer. "See if I ever try to make human pop culture references again."

Looping her arm through the Doctor's, Yaz guides her forwards. "You'll live. Ryan is right, we can't be late."

Ignoring a low mumble about the fictional nature of time, she slides her fingers along the blond's forearm, grabbing her hand in a more comfortable hold. It quiets down the alien's protest, at least until they reach the front door and Ryan looks back, an infuriating smirk still clinging to his lips.

"Just knock." The Doctor sighs, bouncing on the ball of her feet as they move down a long hallway, after a man dressed in white allows them inside. "Going to be a long day." She complains in a whisper, ignoring the warmth radiating from the gentle squeeze of Yaz's fingers tangled with her own.

***************

"I can talk to him." Yaz offers, once they're settled in one of the many guest rooms in the villa.

Ryan went off to explore the Italian countryside, while Graham decided to take a nap before the evening's gala. The Doctor is poring over the pile of documents handed to them by their host, a middle aged man working for a semi-legal organization that replaced something called UNIT.

Yaz leans back against the headboard, watching her friend's chaotic research. The Doctor's suit jacket lays on a chair, leaving her in a crisp white shirt and a loose bow tie, sleeves rolled up around her elbows.

When she runs a hand through her hair, Yaz gulps, trying to keep her thoughts away from exposed, slender forearms. "If it really bothers you." She adds, clearing her throat.

The words draw the Doctor's attention. "If what bothers me?" She asks, raising her head from the long list of employees provided by Agent Mark Gomez. None of the names are familiar to her, which is not surprising giving the amount of time that passed since her last collaboration with UNIT.

"Ryan's fixation on your first name."

The man's teasing faded over their lunch with the owner of the villa, Ryan presumably impressed by his impeccable manners and charisma. As soon as they were left alone, he disappeared with Graham into the first bedroom, reminding everyone to meet up an hour before the gala, and wishing Yaz and "The" a nice afternoon.

"It's fine." The Time Lord dismisses, stretching her arms over her head as she glances to the bedside clock. She spent almost two hours going over the files, and couldn't find the smallest hint about who was sharing classified information online. The organization replacing UNIT managed to contain - or discredit - every leak so far, but the growing weight of the intel scattered around Internet leaves the Doctor concerned.

"What's wrong?" Yaz interrupts, sinking against the mattress and tucking one arm behind her head as she regards her friend warily. "And how bad is it?"

Standing, the Doctor faces her own bed and glares at the mountain of paper littering the surface. Yaz waits, eyes glued to the alien's back in the lingering silence.

"Come here." The dark haired woman sighs, palm raised in a wordless offer.

With a slow grin, the Doctor hops into the empty side of Yaz's bed, grabbing her hand and letting it fall in the small space between them. "Thanks."

Slotting their fingers together, the police officer tries to ignore the nervous flutter in her chest, her heart racing at the sudden proximity. "What's bothering you?" She tries again, once the Doctor closes her eyes, distracted from the initial question.

"Someone's infiltrated their organization."

"Yeah, that's what Agent Gomez told us." Yaz confirms, nodding. "Did you find clues?"

The Doctor blows out a long sigh, before replying. "Nothing. But whoever it is, they're clever. Their level of access to classified information is climbing, fast."

"Why don't they stop giving people promotion, if they know there's a mole?" Yaz frowns, familiar with the inner working of security agencies.

"They did." The Doctor tilts her head to meet curious dark eyes. "That's the problem."

"So, nobody is gaining more access..." Yaz starts, summing up the situation. "But the information that's leaked is more confidential?"

"Yep." The Time Lord drawls out, the corner of her lips twitching in a smile. "Any suggestion, PC Khan?"

Yaz grins back. The Doctor taking her opinion into consideration before settling on a plan is happening more frequently as time passes, but it never fails to fill her with a sense of confidence she couldn't even imagine, a year ago.

"You already plan on using the gala to gather more intel, right?" She asks, stifling a sudden urge to fidget under her friend's intense scrutiny.

"Yes."

"Well..." Frowning, Yaz scrambles for another idea. "I don't know what else we could do."

"Good!" The Doctor exclaims. "Have nothing else either. I just wanted to see what you would say."

"Good?" Yaz repeats, her eyebrows pinched together. "I thought I was forgetting something!"

Raising on her elbow, the blond offers a sheepish smile. "Sorry?"

With a few mumbled words, Yaz rubs her forehead. "I hate you."

"Do you?" The Doctor wonders, voice softening in the quiet room.

The younger woman's breath catches in her throat, her eyes snapping to emerald irises shining with gentle amusement. "No." Following a sudden burst of courage, she slides the back of her fingers along the curve of the Doctor's cheek, tracing her jawline with her thumb. "Of course not."

The Time Lord blinks, leaning into the touch with a wistful smile. She opens her mouth, lips parted on the beginning of a new question, when the sound of an open palm smacking against the wood of their room's door startles both women, propelling them apart.

"Yaz? Doc?" Graham's voice interrupts, from the other side. "Ryan is back, he's getting cleaned up and we'll be ready to go."

Gaze darting to the large bay window, the Doctor pauses when she catches a glimpse of the dying sunset, surprised by how quickly the afternoon slipped away. "Give us a minute, Graham. We'll be right there." She answers, clearing her throat.

Turning to the younger woman, the Doctor does her best to ignore the sound of Yaz's thundering heart and heavy, controlled breathing. "You..." She swallows audibly, gathering her thoughts. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, fine." Yaz dismisses, scrambling off the bed and smoothing the new lines creasing her shirt. She ties her shoes before turning back to the Doctor, who's making quick work of her bow tie, eyes searching the room for her jacket. "Here." She says thoughtlessly, fingers bunching into dark grey material as she holds up the coat for her friend.

Green-brown eyes flicker between Yaz's frozen smile and the offered jacket, the Doctor eventually moving forwards to slip into the sleeves, while warm hands tug on her shoulders, adjusting the collar and brushing away non existent dust. With a sharp intake of breath, the younger woman forces herself to step away, gulping. "There. Looking good."

"You look beautiful." The words tumble from the Doctor's lips before her brain can catch up, leaving her to stare at the floor in an attempt to ignore the raising flush coloring her friend's features.

"Thank you." Yaz hears herself replies, her mind reeling. "We should..." Trailing off, she points to the door. "Head out."

"Yes!" The Doctor approves, nodding vigorously. "Brilliant. Great idea. Ten points for you."

Feeling a bit better after the blond's flustered reaction, Yaz breathes out a relieved sigh and follows after the Doctor to find Ryan and Graham.

***************

"Why are you into the wall?" The Doctor asks, when she finds the woman she followed away from the reception room pinned on the opposite side of a half opened wall, the upper part of her body visible through a few missing planks. "Looks uncomfortable."

"It is!" The woman cries out, wriggling. "Get me out."

Frowning, the Doctor fishes the Sonic from the inner pocket of her jacket and scans the wood. "What happened?"

The stranger sighs, relieved by the prospect of leaving the narrow prison. "I was looking for the bathroom, when I heard voices coming from here." Vaguely motioning to the door with her chin, she draws the Doctor's attention to the empty storage space. "I found Mark, but there was nobody with him. When I asked who he was talking to, he panicked. Said I shouldn't be here, that I had to leave. I told him I could help, if something was wrong." She frowns, as the memory fleshes out in her mind. "There was this noise... Like a growl, coming from the floor. Mark just... Froze. He told me I was going to meet his new friends and the first thing I know, I woke up here."

"A growl." The Doctor repeats, angling her screwdriver downwards. "What sort of growl? Are we talking more like a dog, or a bear, or..."

"I don't know." The woman snaps. "I'm not an animal expert. Can you just... Do something? Or get help?"

"Well, I'm working on it." The blond frowns. "Not very patient, are you?"

"I'm stuck in a wall. It hurts, I can't ev..." The Doctor's attention slips away from the stranger's rant as she takes in the Sonic's display, unhappy. The scan isn't reporting anything out of the ordinary, leaving her to try and moves the planks by herself. "... and if you were stuck here, you wouldn't be happy either."

The Doctor tunes back into the woman's rambling complain, laying her palm against the wood over her head. A current of tingling energy travels from her fingertips to her elbows, and she groans at the familiar pull of teleportation. Blinking, she lets out a long, exasperated sigh once she finds herself on the wrong side of the wall, stuck between wood and a supporting beam of concrete digging into her back.

"Should have thought about that." The Doctor blurts out, letting her head rest against the hard surface behind her.

"That's it? We're going to die, and you..." The woman starts, before falling quiet and mustering up all her strength to push against the planks holding her prisoner.

"Stop that." The Time Lord directs, voice low. "Whatever is holding us lives into the walls. You don't want to hurt them."

Freezing, the stranger turns an alarmed gaze to the side. "Into... You mean it's here?"

The panicked, hushed whisper softens the Doctor's impatient glare. "Might be, might not be. But only antagonize aliens when they're not holding you prisoner."

"Al... Aliens?" She breathes out, gulping.

"Well, yes. Unless you know something from Earth that can trap people into walls. I don't."

"Help!" The woman suddenly shrieks, voice exploding in the narrow space they're caught into. "Someone help! There's an alien in the house."

"Could you..." Another round of screaming interrupts the Doctor's question.

"We're trapped! Help!" The stranger pauses again, filling her lungs with air.

"Stop. We're too far from the gala to be heard all the way over h...."

The Doctor trails off when the door of the storage room bursts open. Ryan's familiar shape fills the threshold for a second, drawing a relieved sigh from the blond. He peeks his head back into the hallway, calling out softly.

"Guys! In here."

A hand bats his shoulder, when Yaz appears behind him. "Doctor! We've been looking for you everywhere."

"Everything okay?" Another pair of footsteps grows louder, as Graham fits his way into the little space left in the room.

"Looks like you're stuck, The." Ryan comments, smirking slowly.

With a loud groan, the Doctor glares back. "We'll have a nice, long chat when I get out of here."

"Keep the banter for later, Ryan." Yaz approves, moving forwards. "And help me get them out. Take that si..."

"No, don't!"

The warning comes too late, Yaz's fingers making contact with the wall a few seconds later. She loses her breath at the cold pull tugging her down, closing her eyes against the electric current traveling through her. When her eyelids flutter open, she's stuck between the Doctor and the woman she doesn't know, her back lodged against a mess of electrical wires and pieces of metal sticking out.

Graham and Ryan freeze, eyes growing wide with the shock of watching their friend disappear.

"Are you all going to touch that stupid wall, or is anyone going to smarten up and look for competent help?" The stranger's sharp voice booms across the room, springing both men into action.

"We'll be back, come on Ryan." Dashing out, Graham runs down the hallway.

"Don't move." His grandson snickers, before taking off in the same direction.

***************

Seconds tick by, as the silence filling the room grows more awkward.

"Well, aren't you going to tell her?" The stranger speaks up, glancing to her side. "She has the right to know, she's stuck too."

"What are you talking about?" The Doctor sighs, wishing she could run a tired hand down her face.

"That there's..." Her voice drops, as she leans closer to Yaz. "An alien. In this house."

"Would now be a good time to announce I'm alien too?" The question earns the Doctor a loud gasp.

"You... You're with them! Tell your friends to let us go!"

"My what?"

"Your friends!" The woman insists, banging her hand against the wall as she tries to raise an accusatory finger in the Time Lord's direction.

"All right, just because I'm alien doesn't mean I know all of them. That's really ignorant."

"Shut up!" Yaz snaps, exasperated. "Both of you. Doctor, stop riling her up." A disgruntled agreement later, the police officer glances to the stranger, turning her head as much as she can in the confine space. "What's your name?"

"Are you like them?" The woman's eyes narrow, suspiciously. "An alien?"

"No, I'm all human. I'm a police officer." Yaz explains, her voice turning firmer. "What's your name?" She repeats.

"Agent Sofia Bianchi." Her shoulders loosen, the gripping fear slowing her thoughts fading a bit. "Do you have a plan to get us out?"

"I'll get back to you." Yaz shifts closer to the Doctor, wriggling on the opposite side. "Sonic?"

The blond shakes her head, activating the screwdriver still held tightly in her fist. The familiar orange glow brightens their makeshift prison, whirring uselessly. "Doesn't do wood."

"It what now?" Yaz blinks, with a deepening frown.

"It just... I never have time to put in a wood setting." She whispers, shrugging. "I'm busy!"

"Not right now, you're not. We're stuck." The dark haired woman blows out a long breath. "Do you know what's doing this?"

"No idea. It travels through the walls, whatever it is. Maybe some sort of shape shifter? She says it can growl..." The Doctor motions to the Agent. "I'd guess it has a solid form too."

"And Agent Mark Gomez can communicate with it." Sofia interjects, drawing both women's attention away from each other. The Doctor nods, while Yaz prompts further.

"What do you mean?"

"I caught him talking with the aliens, that's how I got trapped here."

Gasping Yaz turns back to the Doctor. "It's him! He's the mole."

"How d..."

"Think about it!" She continues, hand scratching against a loose plank as she tries to punctuate her theory. "He's friends with something that can travel through the walls. He can spy on any conversation happening in his house."

"The walls literally have ears." The Doctor approves, with a small smile. "That's clever."

"My friend is a spy, and I'm going to asphyxiate behind a wall with an alien and a police officer. This day just keeps getting better." Sofia sighs, disheartened.

"Sorry about your friend." The Time Lord tilts her head, offering a sincere apology. "If it makes you feel better, we won't die."

"Why n..."

"Hello? Aliens?" The Doctor raises her voice, tapping her fingertips against the nearest plank. "I know you can hear me." The surface under her hand seems to tingle, warming up slowly. "Yes, I'm talking to you. Why are you d..."

"Doctor." Yaz interrupts, slowly. "Is that a hand?"

Following her companion's gaze, the older woman carefully turns her head towards the empty space on her opposite side. There's the shadow of translucent fingers slowly taking shape, inches away from her nose. "Hi! Hello. I'm the Doctor. Erm..." She hesitates, eyes growing wide with a burst of cold fear. "Would you mind... Maybe you could tell us what you want?"

"I don't care!" Sofia frantically interrupts. "Just let us go."

The hand shuffles closer to the Doctor's face, flexing its pointy fingers in a vaguely threatening way. "Or maybe we can just exchange gossip. I've been a hologram, I know the kind of information you can ge..." Yaz's sharp elbow collides with her ribs, interrupting her proposition.

"Oi! All right, no gossi..." The Doctor stops, when the reason why Yaz tried to get her attention sinks in. Flattening itself against the wall, the alien limb slowly slides down, freezing once it gets level to the hand that's holding on to her screwdriver, before poking the cold steel curiously. "It wants the Sonic! It's mine."

"Yes. And you're going to give it to them." Yaz growls from between her teeth, trying to keep away a flare of panic when the wall holding them prisoner moves, closing in on her already squished body.

"I don't think so." The Doctor fires back, annoyed.

"Seriously?" Yaz snaps, feeling the piece of metal sticking out of the surface behind her digs further into her back. "You can build another."

"Not unless I find another Stenza transport pod, I can't."

"I'm not dying because some alien is too attached to a flashlight." Sofia objects, inching her way back from the moving wall.

"It's a Sonic screwdr..."

"Doctor!" There's a panic-filled edge to Yaz's voice that snaps the Time Lord's gaze to her friend's. When she spots the open, fearful look staring back at her, she sighs and pries her own fist open.

"All right, have it."

In a matter of seconds, cold, slimy fingers slide against her palm, snatching away the Sonic. The planks making up their prison shift away, leaving the three women to fall out against the floor in a heap of limbs.

Disentangling herself first, the Doctor flops to her back and stares at the ceiling, frown deepening. "I loved that screwdriver. It was my favorite."

With a breathless chuckle, Yaz crawls away from Sofia, blowing out a relieved sigh. "Sorry, Doc." She whispers, patting her friend's shoulder in honest apology.

"It's fine." She musters up a small smile, shrugging. "I like you better than my Sonic."

Dark eyes soften as the police officer raises to her elbows, slowly brushing through blond, tousled hair, letting her fingertips linger against the Doctor's scalp. "Thank you." She murmurs, gaze drawn back to the door when Ryan and Graham burst into the room.

"You're late." The Doctor deadpans, sighing.

***************

"What do we do?" Ryan asks, one of his arm thrown around Yaz's shoulders to support the woman leaning into his side. Being stuck into a wall with sharp pieces of metal digging into her skin left his friend on shaky legs, as they trudge their way up a twisty staircase.

"No idea. The Doc will think of something." Graham shrugs, waiting on the last step.

The blond stayed behind to convince Agent Bianchi to keep the evening's ordeal quiet, not before hustling the humans out of the room once she noticed Yaz's torn clothing.

"I hope it can wait for tomorrow." The injured woman sighs, slowly shaking off Ryan's hold. "I'll take a shower and clean up my back, you two try to get some sleep." She directs, slipping into the bedroom.

"Do you think it's safe?" Graham interjects, once he's alone with his grandson. "I don't know how I feel about staying in a house with sentient walls."

"We're fine." A voice answers further down, the Doctor pulling her bow tie loose as she emerges from the stairs. "Guessing they only attacked that woman because she surprised their conversation with Agent Gomez."

"What's the plan?" Ryan frowns, concerned.

"Sleep. You lot look like you're about to keel over." She replies with an awkward wave over her shoulder, peering into the guest bedroom she shares with Yaz.

Stepping through the doorway, the Doctor freezes once the spots her friend standing on the opposite side of the room, clad only in a black bra and trousers as she examines her back through a mirror.

"Doctor!" Yaz squeaks, scrambling to find her clothes.

"Wait." The Doctor protests, earning a confused look as Yaz holds her discarded shirt. "Your back." She explains, softly. Tiptoeing closer, she runs her fingertips across a smooth expanse of dark skin, gingerly swiping away a few droplets of blood. "You're hurt."

Yaz shakes her head, blaming the goosebumps trickling down her arms on the cold, instead of the gentle touch tracing her spine. "I know." She says, her voice shaky. "I should take care of it, before getting into the shower."

The Doctor purses her lips, considering the extensive injuries covering her companion's back. "Erm... I could help." She shrugs, struggling to keep her tone casual. "If you want."

With a steadying breath, Yaz nods. The glimpse of her back she caught in the mirror showed much deeper wounds than she anticipated, leaving her a bit queasy.

“Please.” She confirms, heading toward the en-suite bathroom when their gazes meet, the Doctor giving a tight smile.

Yaz finds a bar of soap and clean towels in a cabinet, neatly piling them next to the sink. Facing the mirror, she forces a deep breath into her lungs.

A familiar flutter below her ribs throbs almost painfully at the prospect of having the Doctor taking care of her wounds, especially now that Yaz thinks - or hopes - her crush is not as one-sided as it seemed.

Between the alien's social awkwardness and her murky grasp of human relationships, her emotions are hard to decipher. Near-misses situations where Yaz's confession dies on the cusp of her lips are growing more frequent, each occurrence leaving her a bit more flustered and confused over the intense hazel eyes that always faces her.

Remembering how her friend softened in the storage room earlier, when Yaz's fingers were slowly sorting through messy blond hair, her heart races. It takes the Doctor's head peeking through the doorway to snap her out of her memories.

"Everything all right?”

Yaz gulps, suddenly hyper aware of her shirtless upper body. "Yes." She responds stiffly, motioning to the medical supply on the counter.

The Doctor approaches, wincing in sympathy at a particularly deep gash between her shoulders. She grabs the bar of soap, scrubbing her palms up to her wrists, accidentally drawing Yaz's attention to her rolled up sleeves.

The younger woman indulges herself, eyes racking from slim forearms to the Doctor's strong hands, distracting her mind from the dreadful, upcoming process of cleaning up her injuries.

“Are you ready?” The Doctor checks, once she's done rubbing soapy foam under her nails, a wet towel clasped between her fingers.

Squaring her shoulders, Yaz steels herself and meets the Doctor's gaze through the mirror with a firm nod.

"Erm..." The Time Lord hesitates, eyeing the deepest wound on Yaz's right side. She decides to get it out of the way first, forcing her voice to sound casual. "Might sting a bit."

The towel dabs gently against torn flesh, drawing a loud hiss from the injured woman. "Sting? That hurt." Yaz protests, biting into her bottom lip.

"Sorry." The Doctor pulls away, wringing out a mix of water and blood from the cloth. "I lied."

"Do they teach that in med school?" Yaz grumbles, flinching when the towel circles another deep cut. "My family doctor could be cutting off someone's limb, and he'd still say 'Don't worry, it won't hurt." She complains, dropping her voice in a poor imitation of the man's Welsh accent.

Glancing into the mirror, Yaz smiles at the reflection of her friend's knitted eyebrows and peeked-out tongue, deep in thoughts. "I guess you wouldn't know, you've never been to med school." She adds, attributing her nervous rambling to the dull pain spreading through her sides.

The quip catches the Time Lord's attention. "Yes, I have." She protests, straightening her back.

"Doctor, you have the attention span of a five year old." Yaz points out, snickering. "How did you pass med school?"

"Didn't exactly pass the exam." The blond mutters, twisting the faucet to rinse traces of blood coloring her fingertips.

Yaz's burst of laughter turns into a breathless, choked noise when a hand settles where her neck meets her shoulder, holding her in place as lukewarm droplets make their way down her spine. The stark contrast between hot water and the Doctor's cooler touch ghosting across her back sends a shiver traveling through her, goosebumps littering the exposed skin.

Frowning at the sight, the blond steps back and shakes off her jacket, fumbling with the sleeves. Holding it in her hands, she drapes the coat over Yaz's front with a satisfied nod. "There. Can't have a cold Yaz."

The earnest smile she receives when their gazes meet through the mirror sends a flurry of nervous energy through Yaz's stomach, leaving her with a suddenly dry mouth. "Thank you." She breathes out, happy when the Doctor simply nods and tilts her head down, picking up her careful cleaning of Yaz's back.

“You should have told me.” The Doctor says, minutes later as she's applying antibacterial cream to the wounds. “About your injuries.”

Yaz shrugs. “There was nothing you could do.”

Snapping her jaw shut, the Doctor muffles a quiet protest. She can’t argue, whatever lives inside the villa’s walls held her powerless today.

“Doctor?”

Glancing down, the blond notices her hand hanging in the space between them, ointment dripping from her thumb. “Right. Sorry.”

She slips her hands under trickling water, before squeezing a bit more more cream out of the tube, focused on a superficial scratch below Yaz ribs.

“What’s wrong?” The dark haired woman prompts, noting the mechanical, stiffed fingers grazing her back, in sharp contradiction to the gentle, lingering touch from a few seconds ago.

“Noth...” The automatic response sticks through the Doctor's throat when she catches Yaz's arched eyebrow. “You’re right. There was nothing I could do. That alien could have decided to kill us, and I would have been stuck watching you die.”

“Did I say that?” Yaz shakes her head, eyebrow hitching further. “You talked to them, and you gave it what they wanted. Lost your Sonic, remember?" She adds teasingly, before falling serious again. "Not everything bad that happens to us is your fault. ”

When a stretching silence is her only answer, she half twists around, clutching the Doctor's coat against her chest as she focuses on her friend's dipped head. Hooking a finger under the Doctor’s chin, she guides shifty hazel eyes to meet her own.

“I’ve never felt safer than when I’m with you.” Yaz waits until she sees a spark of prideful satisfaction light up the Doctor’s gaze, before resting their foreheads together. Cold hands settle on her hips, pulling until they're properly facing each other.

Willing her own arms still, Yaz fights to keep her eyes from darting to nearby lips, struggling to keep her breathing steady.

The Doctor nuzzles closer, leaving the dark haired woman powerless to stop herself from reaching out. Finding the sides of the Time Lord's neck, she traces her fingertips down to her shoulders.

"I think we..." Yaz trails off, frozen by a sudden, gripping fear of putting the feelings between them into words. She nervously runs the tip of her tongue along her lips, scrambling for words.

Glancing up, her breath hitches when she spots an intense gaze following the movement, the hazel color she's used to clouded by a warm, vivid shadow.

"Tell me what you want."

"Kiss me." The rough edge to the Doctor's voice makes the request tumbles from her mouth before Yaz can think it through.

Arms crossing low on Yaz's back, the blond brushes their lips together teasingly. The fleeting touch draws them closer, the Doctor humming in satisfaction before sinking into a more solid contact. Yaz slips her fingers higher, tangling into messy hair as the kiss grows a little more heated.

Hissing when the Doctor shifts her hands, Yaz ignores the sting coming from the wounds scattered on her skin. The Time Lord freezes, feeling the grip on her shirt tightens into a fist.

Clinging to the white material, she holds the Doctor close for another lingering moment, fighting against her attempt to pull back.

Running out of air, Yaz breaks the kiss. "I'm fine." She whispers, responding to the silent, apologetic look sent her way.

"Forgot about your back, sor..."

"I know." Yaz interrupts. "I forgot too." She bites her lip, chuckling. "You're really good at that."

"Am I?" The Doctor wonders, with a slow smile. "Been a while."

"Yeah, well..." Taking a step back, she shrugs. "Couldn't tell." When the blond's grin turns into a smirk, Yaz pushes her out of the bathroom.

"Enough, or your head won't fit through the doorway. I need a proper shower, think you can keep yourself busy?"

Before the Doctor can reply the door closes in her face, drawing a burst of breathless laughter. Gingerly touching her own tingling lips, she falls into a soft mattress, forcing deep, regular breaths into her lungs.

***************

Toweling her hair dry, Yaz pads through the bedroom, still holding the Doctor’s jacket to her chest against the cold, humid air of the night. The other woman is sitting over the cover of her bed, still fully dressed with her back reclined against the headboard and legs crossed at the ankles.

With a pleased smile, Yaz sinks into the empty side of the mattress, discarding the coat before sliding between silky sheets. “You’re not sleeping.” She remarks, laying on her side.

“Not when aliens I don’t know are hiding into walls, no.” The Doctor shrugs, raising her head from a book she’s scrawling into. “I’m keeping an eye on you.” She explains, pointing to the door. “On all of you.”

“You can hear into the boys’ room?”

“I hear everything.” She replies, voice turned wistful. “I’ll listen for their heartbeats.” The Doctor specifies, before Yaz has a chance to question her definition of “everything”.

Nodding, the younger woman forces herself to relax into the bed, determined to postpone any discussion about what happened between them in the bathroom.

Her sore muscles protest when Yaz shifts in a poor attempt to get rid of a persistent twinge between her shoulder blades, slowly realizing that her injuries won't allow for her usual sleeping position. With a deep sigh, she tucks a hand under her chin and tries to get comfortable on her side.

Silently watching her companion fidget, the Doctor tilts her head, intrigued. "What's wrong?"

"I'm usually on my back." Yaz huffs in frustration. "How am I supposed to sleep?"

With another, longer glance, the Time Lord discards her journal, drumming her fingers against her knee in a purposeful motion. "Come here."

Yaz blinks, uncertain. "Are you sure?" She asks, contemplating the intimate position offered by the Doctor.

"We were snogging ten minutes ago. Might be socially awkward, but I think cuddling is less o..."

"All right, fine." Yaz sighs, flustered. Slowly, she shifts until she's laying on her stomach, cheek resting on the other woman's knee, before tilting her head up when the back of the Doctor's fingers ghost over the side of her face.

With a steadying breath, the blond speaks up. "Do you want to talk about it?" She gulps, uncomfortable. "We can, if y..."

"Can it wait?" Yaz interrupts nervously, enjoying the warmth of the Doctor's body pressed against her own. A conversation means risking this peaceful, fragile balance they just stroke, the prospect making her stomach drop.

"Are you worried?" The Doctor wonders, lowering her voice. "Don't be scared."

"I'm not." Yaz denies, weakly. "But I'm never so..." She pauses, looking down at her undressed upper body draped over the Doctor's leg. "Feeling so vulnerable. I guess." The confession lands heavily in the patient silence, earning her a knowing smile.

"I get that. Want me to switch to the other bed?"

"No!" Yaz objects, growing used to the light touch tracing her features. "I'll... I'm fine now. Just..." The jumbled words fade into a content sigh, when fingertips brush the soft skin under her ear. "Keep going."

Minutes tick by, leaving the police officer purring when the Doctor's movements turn methodical, the other woman combing through the hair at the back of her neck in broad, slow strokes.

“Where did you learn that?” Yaz mumbles, melting under the Doctor’s gentle touch.

“River used to do it for me.” The Time Lord’s eyes grow wide as the truth tumbles from her lips.

“Who?” Yaz fights against the pull of sleep in the lingering silence, yawning. She misses the Doctor's sad smile.

“River.” Whispering, she bends at the waist to kiss Yaz’s forehead. “Long story. Go to sleep.”

“Sounds nice. G’night, Doc.” She slurs against black trousers.

“Goodnight, Yasmin Khan.”

Chapter Text

Yaz sighs, throwing her head back against her cruiser's driver seat. The coffee-filled traveling mug that’s cradled between her hands is not enough to keep her alert, not with the cover of grey clouds and stormy atmosphere darkening the entire city.

The weather is nothing out of the ordinary for a Sunday morning in early November, but it’s the kind of days that makes Yaz longs for her bed, her laptop and a warm meal. Her opinion seems to be shared by most of Sheffield's population, judging by the empty streets laying in front of impatient, tired eyes.

Taking a bite from her leftover sandwich, she allows her gaze to drift to the luminescent numbers on the dashboard... Six hours, fifty-seven minutes left in her shift.

With a groan, the police officer is about to radio in for her hourly report, when the door of the car bursts open. Yaz startles, dropping her lunch as a grey-coat clad silhouette slips in the passenger seat. The newcomer slides off her dripping hood to reveal tousled, blond hair.

"Doctor!" Yaz exclaims, letting the defensive hand raised in front of her head fall against the steering wheel. "Don't do that."

"All right, sorry. It's my fault." The woman starts, distractedly adjusting her coat. "Listen, I know we said you had to be at work today. But I got a bit... Involved with a couple of Fravolians, and I think they think I stole their spaceship. Which is ridiculous, I have a TARDIS. Why would I ever need..."

The Doctor trails off when she catches a glimpse of Yaz's fast fluttering eyelids. "Right, I'm getting to the point. I'm fairly sure there's a point, and it's where I'm going." Tilting her head, she frowns. "Wait, what happened to your hair, it wasn..."

A whimper coming from under the Doctor's jacket interrupts her question, and Yaz's jaw falls open. "What was tha..."

"The point! Yes, so I know you're very busy. But the Fravolians are tracking me, and I need to either talk to them, or lose them, and it's definitely..." She grunts, tugging against the collar of her zipped up coat to reveal a small head of dark hair tucked into her neck. "Not safe for her."

"Where... What..." Yaz blinks, scrambling for words. "Doctor!"

"I know! I just need a few h..."

A chaos of lights, smoke, and the sound of metal clashing against pavement cut off the Doctor's explanation. The disturbance quickly fades, leaving the Time Lord to wriggle out of the baby's tight grasp, a new sense of urgency turning her movements clumsy.

When she hands the sleeping bundle over to Yaz, the Doctor offers an apologetic smile, peering through the passenger's window. "I'll be back tonight. Promise."

The police officer grabs the infant, stunned. "Wait, where did you ev..."

Before Yaz can formulate a complete question, the blond is out of the car, sprinting towards a side street with her coat flopping behind her. Yaz thinks she sees shadows dash in the same direction, but she narrows her eyes, and the blurry shapes vanishes, leaving her with a reeling brain and a brand new child.

***************

Yaz holds the baby at eye level, away from her body. Her hands are wrapped under the sleeping girl's arms, as she struggles to get her shallow breathing and racing heart under control.

"Right. A baby."

The combined effects of the sound of her voice and the awkwardness of the infant's position makes her stir, Yaz's breath catching in her throat when emerald eyes lazily flicker open, meeting her own.

The baby blinks, glances around and frowns when she finds herself in a foreign, cold car. Scrunching her nose, she lets out a high pitched sound that springs Yaz into action.

"Please, don't cry. I don't know what to do with a sleeping baby, I'm probably not the best to deal with a crying baby."

Her whispered plea draws the girl's attention, her unfocused gaze snapping back to Yaz. Silence lingers as they stare at each other, before the baby babbles, seemingly much happier than a few seconds ago.

"Oh. Thank you." Yaz says, frowning when the child squirms into her arms. "What... Do you want?"

More nonsensical sounds, before she loses patience and tips forwards, almost slipping from Yaz's grip as she leans her body upwards.

"Whoa, calm down."

Scrambling to adjust her hold, the police officer startles when the child cuddles against her chest, one little fist toying with the radio wire hanging from her yellow vest, the other wrapped into stray hair falling from her bun.

"You can't play with my radio." Yaz pauses, taking in the child's delicate features. "Where do you come from?" With a frown, she shakes her head. "Please, tell me the Doctor didn't kidnap you."

A happy gurgle, and Yaz smiles, her left hand absentmindedly traveling up and down the baby's warm back. "She would, you know, if she thought you were in danger. She's like that, save people first, and think later."

Gaze falling back to the rainy streets, Yaz bites her lip, deep in memory. "I think that's why Lancashire hit her so hard. She was really close to saving Willa's..."

Her radio crackles to life, bringing Yaz's attention back to her predicament. The noise disturbs the infant, who bunches her face and lets out a few faint whimpers. "Shh. It's all right, it's just a radio."

Changing the rhythm of her touch to soothing circles, Yaz lets the call go unanswered for a few more seconds, considering her options for the rest of the day.

"Well, I can't take you along for my shift. Let me just..."

A short conversation with the dispatching officer later, Yaz manages to escape the last six hours of her shift, after forcing a dry cough from her throat. The man doesn't buy her sudden bout of illness - though it does earn her a happy giggle from her new friend - but he stops questioning her motives when Yaz volunteers for the night shift over the next two weeks.

With a deep sigh, she coaxes the baby's grip loose until she can sit her in her lap. "Someone owes me a TARDIS trip of my choice." She mumbles, softening when the child's big, glassy eyes regard her.

"You're adorable. I need to get you home, mum can probably hel..." Interrupting herself, Yaz blows out a long breath and winces at the prospect of Najia's upcoming interrogation. "Do you have a name? I can't just tell her I picked up a nameless baby."

Hitting the car's light switch, Yaz slowly drives out of her parking spot, one hand on the steering wheel and the other firmly holding the girl in her lap. "Maybe I should let you answer all the questions." She sighs, her frown softening when tiny fingers wrap around her thumb.

***************

"I'm home." Yaz announces, using her foot to open the door as she shifts her grip around the wriggling body in her arms. Silent seconds tick by, while she continues down the hallway and lowers her voice. "They better not be out ag..."

"Who's that?" Sonya asks, head peeking from her bedroom's door.

The baby sticks her arms out, shifting away from Yaz as she tries to catch Sonya's shiny ear loops.

"No, that's not a toy either." Yaz whispers, cautiously steering away from her sister, who's regarding the child with a mix of curiosity and warning. "Are mum and dad arou..."

"Who's that?" Hakim repeats the question as he walks out of the kitchen, his much softer voice matching his slow approach."Hello."

Najia's attention is caught by the family gathering in the entrance, drawing her out of the living room. "What's happ..." Her eyes grow wide at the sight of her daughter holding an unfamiliar baby. "Yaz?"

"Yes." The police officer nods, grappling for an explanation that would satisfy Najia's curiosity. "It's erm..." She looks back to the infant, smiling when green eyes fixed on hers, a small hand patting her cheek not-so-gently. "The Doctor's niece."

Najia's eyes harden at the mention of the Doctor - her suspicions about the woman who mysteriously appeared on the same day giant spiders invaded her workplace never faded - and she prompts further. "Why do you have your friend's niece?"

"She had a thing." Yaz replies, gaze darting around the apartment. "Work. An emergency, and she needed someone to babysit."

The older woman's features are still schooled in a cold expression, raising Yaz's concern. When she gets hit in the ribs by a small foot, she glances between her new friend and her mum, biting her lip and closing the gap between them as she holds the baby at Najia's eye level. "It's not a problem, is it?"

"It's..." Najia's objection sticks into her throat when a fist raises in her direction, giving what seems to be a clumsy wave. Eyes falling to the child, she sighs when she meets a wide, innocent gaze staring back at her. "No, of course not."

The baby scrunches her nose, letting out a quiet cry that draws a panicked frown out of Yaz. Najia chuckles quietly, reaching down to hold the girl. "Does she have a name?" She asks, a reflexive smile on her lips when she feels arms wrap around her neck.

"Erm... The Doctor didn't say."

"Of course, she didn't." Najia quips, rubbing the nameless infant's back. "That woman can never answer a question, unless it's about giant spid..."

"Mum." Yaz cuts off, not keen on hearing the older woman complain about her friend. Again. "She had to run, and I didn't ask. It's only for a few hours."

"Fine." Najia grumbles, slowly making her way to the sofa. "We're going to need a few things. Hakim you're going to the store. I'll make you a list."

Nodding amiably, the man leaves in search of his jacket. Sonya goes back to her room, attention already snapped back to her phone, leaving Yaz to follow her mum. Maybe the day would be easier than she anticipated, after all.

***************

The day - in fact - was not easier than Yaz anticipated. Between a fast growing pile of dirty baby clothes, diapers that needed changing, Sonya’s constant nagging about the noisy infant, and Najia's odd attitude, the police officer is left laying on the sofa, fighting to keep her eyes open, hours after the sun set.

The child is finally resting against her chest, one fist peacefully tucked into her mouth, the other bunching Yaz's shirt collar. Her cold nose hidden into the crook of the dark haired woman's neck, she lets out a content sigh that earns her an involuntary smile, as Najia pads into the living room.

"Looking cozy."

Yaz rolls her eyes, whispering back. "After six hours of terrorizing four adults, I hope so."

"She's adorable." Najia chuckles, kneeling in front of the couch as her fingers gently trail along the baby's spine. "And she likes you."

"Mum." Yaz whines, letting her head fall against the armrest. "I'm only twenty, I should have a few more years before you start nagging me about grandchildren."

The older woman laughs this time, clamping a hand over her mouth as the infant's face scrunches up. Yaz presses her lips against the head of dark hair nestled against her cheek, humming quietly until her features soften again. When she looks back to her mum, she finds a smug smirk regarding her. "Stop it."

"I'm going to bed." Najia simply responds, getting back to her feet. "Wake me up if you need help. When is the Doctor supposed to be ba..."

Yaz's phone chimes in, drawing two pairs of dark eyes to the screen. "Right now. Can you hold her? I'll head out to her flat."

With Najia's help, Yaz leaves her family home a few minutes later. Emerging from the building, she winces when a cold, persistent drizzle greets her, yanking her leather jacket open to hide the baby from the rain.

Yaz closes the coat over the small body hanging onto her shoulder, before her feet guide her to the blue box parked in front of Park Hill.

When Yaz pushes the TARDIS' doors open with her hip, she's welcomed by a sheepish grin and a flow of apologetic words.

"So sorry. I know you said it was a big day for you at work, but I wasn't going to take her on a chase through the Time Vort..."

Yaz raises a hand, bringing her index to her lips as the Doctor approaches. Opening her jacket, she shows the sleeping infant to the Time Lord who silently nods, dropping her voice into a whisper. "Right. Didn't know she'd be sleeping already."

When the Doctor's arm falls around her companion’s shoulders, drawing her into a loose hug to press a pair of identical kisses to Yaz’s and the baby's forehead, chestnut eyes grow wide with shock.

"Come on, let's get her to bed."

Taking the infant from Yaz's slacked hold, the Doctor grins, turning on her heels. Yaz's eyelids flutter as she watches the other woman stroll to the stairs, the baby snuggling closer with a silent yawn, her tiny nose tucked against the side of her friend's neck.

Left alone in the quiet control room, Yaz's mind reels over the casual display of affection from the Doctor. The woman is not particularly touch inclined, - the memory of an awkward half-hug to Najia, comes to mind - except when she pulls a friend to safety, or pushes someone to run faster.

Between the nameless baby dropped in the middle of her shift and this new, startling step in their friendship, Yaz can feel questions zipping through her head. Where did the Doctor find a child? Why does she sleep on board the TARDIS? Since when? How did they go from practical touching to forehead kisses, in a matter of hou...

"Coming?" The blond sticks her head through the door leading to the ship's hallways, propelling Yaz forwards with a squeaked, dazed noise.

***************

The first thing Yaz notices when she enters the child's bedroom is the soft, glowing rainbow covering the ceiling. Her quiet gasp earns her a sudden whir of the TARDIS, colored with something that sounds a lot like pride. Shaking her head, Yaz observes the rest of the space.

Between the pile of soft toys near the door, the stars glowing over the sturdy, wooden crib and the rocking chair taking up a corner of the room, it's not hard to deduce the ship is the child's home.

Eyebrows pinched together, Yaz slowly approaches the Doctor who's leaning against the side of the bed, hair falling over her face as she gazes adoringly down to the sleeping baby.

Crossing her arms over the crib, Yaz stifles the urge to tuck strands of blond hair behind the Doctor's ear. The growing crush she’s struggling with flares up, stoked by the day’s events and by this foreign, open way the other woman displays emotions.

"She's so beautiful."

The whisper steals Yaz's breath, blown away by the genuine wonder coloring her friend's words. It reminds her of the Doctor’s first reunion with the TARDIS, back when they were stranded on Desolation.

Before she notices what she’s doing, one of Yaz’s hands drifts, gingerly touching the Doctor's back in a gentle circle. "Yeah. She is."

The police officer approves, glancing between the dozing baby and a pair of glowing hazel eyes. She allows a peaceful silence to settle over the bedroom, surprised to see the Doctor lean quietly into her touch.

The rational part of Yaz’s brain refuses to let her enjoy the moment, nagging questions suddenly flooding her head. Blowing out a noisy sigh, she speaks up when the Doctor offers an intrigued glance.

“Can you tell me her name now?" Yaz asks, with a teasing smile. "Which is information you should definitely share with someone before handing them a baby."

The Time Lord blinks, muscles stiffening under Yaz's palm that freezes on her back. "Doctor?"

Piecing together her disjointed memories of the day, the Doctor swears when her thoughts click. The foreign word uttered under her breath sounds more like music than anything in English, deepening Yaz’s frown.

"What's wrong?"

"Not here." The taller woman whispers, walking out of the room with a last glance towards the sleeping child. "Come on."

***************

Yaz follows her friend striding through the ship, her level of concern growing with every step. The Doctor going quiet happens on very specific occasions, she noticed, and none of them are good. Silence either means the woman has no idea what to do, or is mad at herself, or a mix of both.

Yaz struggles to understand how her simple question caused such an emotional reaction but before she can prompt further, the Doctor stops in front of a strange door. The same rounded shapes scattered around the control room are carved into the wood, glowing.

When the blond unlocks the door and motions her forwards, Yaz crosses the threshold, gasping as she takes in her surroundings.

The walls are covered in bookshelves, from floor to a glass ceiling that shows a sky of shining stars winking at them. There's a fireplace taking up the space in the middle of the room, roaring flames already flickering in the dimmed lighting. The fire casts moving shadows across the floor, beckoning Yaz closer as she slowly steps forwards.

"This is my new favorite room." She murmurs, in awe.

"Yeah." The Doctor's heavy sigh draws Yaz's attention to the blond alien lingering near the entrance. "I know." She disappears behind a shelf, head sticking back a few seconds later. "Tea?"

"I..." Yaz clicks her jaw shut, swallowing her curiosity. For now. "Yes, please."

"There's a sofa somewhere near the fireplace." The Doctor throws over her shoulder, vanishing again.

Frowning, Yaz scans the rooms as she inches closer to the fire, almost tripping when she realizes the furniture is hidden under a massive pile of books. She drops a couple in a neat pile on the ground, making enough space for them to sit, before sinking into the purple material.

When the Doctor returns, pressing a mug of tea into her open palm, Yaz fails to catch her attention. Taking a long sip, she almost chokes as a casual hand falls against her knee, brown eyes snapping to the Doctor's.

The Time Lord spots the movement, her gaze darting between her own limb and Yaz's frozen features, before she takes her hand back and wraps it around her mug, mumbling an apology.

Head tilted, Yaz gulps another sip of tea as she watches her friend in silence. Between her slumped shoulders, worried frown, and hands cradled tightly around porcelain, the Doctor looks... Small.

Yaz finds herself mirroring the expression, her eyebrows knitted together as her level of concern grows.

Small is not a term she would have considered using to describe the Doctor. Her best friend is anything, but small. She's brilliant, and full of energy, and wonderful, and so kind, an...

Yaz's chaotic train of thoughts comes to an abrupt stop, when a burst of protectiveness blooms through her chest. Before she can overthink the gesture, she covers the blond's knee with her own gentle hand.

The touch draws a pair of hazel eyes up, a hint of curious interest staring back at Yaz. "Can you tell me what's wrong? I feel like I'm missing something."

The Doctor purses her lips, struggling to find a starting point to the dreaded conversation. "How old are you?"

Yaz breathes out an incredulous chuckle, blinking. "Wh... What?"

"Right now." The Doctor repeats. "How old are you?"

"Twenty? The same age I was yesterday, when you dropped us home."

The Time Lord's shoulders slump at little further, as she settles her mug on a coffee table, fidgeting with her own fingers instead. "Wasn't yesterday. Where were we coming back from?"

"Lancashire."

"Right." She swallows audibly, steeling herself for Yaz's reaction. "We went to Lancashire twenty-two years ago for me."

"Tw..." Yaz gasps, letting her head fall back against the headrest. Her day has been filled with constants twists and turns, leaving her stunned - and a bit frustrated - and it takes every bit of her concentration to keep her voice even.

"All right. Why did you travel back to the past with a baby? Couldn't you go see the present version of me?" Yaz frowns, pondering her own words. "Your present. My future, I guess."

Inhaling sharply, the Doctor shifts to half-face her friend. "I'm really sorry, Yaz. I thought it's what I was doing. Should have checked the date before interrupting your shift.” She offers, scrubbing a tired hand down her face. “Fravolians were not happy with me, I think the TARDIS just went for the nearest version of you."

"Why me? Couldn't you go see Ryan or Graham?"

The Doctor's stare softens, as her voice drops. "She's not a baby, Yaz. She's your daughter."

There's a faint clicking at the back of Yaz's head, like the last piece of a puzzle sliding into place, and she almost chokes on thin air. "My... What..."

Breathless, Yaz slowly remembers the events of the day and the way the infant seemed to calm easier at the sound of her voice. The memory of a small body tucked against her chest, relaxed into deep slumber as a little fist clutched into her jumper fleshes out in her mind. "When?" She finally asks, still scrambling to process the mixed emotions.

"About twenty years into your future. She's eight months old."

Seconds tick by, to the rhythm of the roaring fire throwing shadows over the sofa. Ending her attempt to sort through the messy emotions tangled in her heart, Yaz wraps shaky hands around her forgotten mug of tea. She downs the rest of the cooling liquid, before taking a long look at her oddly quiet friend.

The Doctor stares back, mustering a small smile that contrasts the white knuckled grip she has on the sleeves of her shirt. Yaz reaches out, covering her nearest hand with gentle fingers as she follows a vague hunch at the back of her brain.

"When you say she's my daughter..." Yaz trails off, stressing the end of the sentence.

The Doctor sighs, the corners of her mouth twitching in a more sincere smile. "Yeah, well... She is."

When silence lingers again, Yaz's hitched eyebrow as her only reply, the Doctor turns her palm and tangles their fingers. "She's our daughter." She admits and watches her own knee bounce nervously, waiting for her friend's answer.

Yaz bites her lip, a poor attempt to contain a slow spreading grin. "We have a daughter."

The quiet amazement in her voice tames the bubbling anxiety filling the Doctor’s chest. "Yeah."

"Together."

"Yep." She replies, mirroring Yaz's grin.

"And we're..."

"Married." The Doctor confirms, with a nod. "Five years now."

"Oh my God." Yaz breathes out, trying to wrap her mind around the news.

A weight she never realized was settled on her shoulders fades away, with the knowledge that what she believed to be a one-sided crush turned into marriage with her best friend.

The feeling leaves Yaz lightheaded, once she loosens the tight reign she usually keeps on her emotions around the Doctor. "I get to marry you." With a grin, she catches the answering, bashful smile. "How is it?"

"It's all right." The Time Lord teases, caught in the moment. "You insist I sleep, which is such a loss of time, and you keep teaming up with Kira to complain about my driving, but besides th..."

"Kira?"

"Our daughter. We both wanted to name her Grace, but she hated it." The Doctor scrunches her nose at the memory. "Was quite rude about it too, she wanted to be called Nefertiti. Which I didn't mind, but you vetoed. We negotiated to Kira Grace, and told her she could change her name when she's old enough to say it."

"Wha..." Yaz interrupts herself, entangling the flux of sudden information. "Hold on. Our baby told us she wanted to be named Nefertiti." She frowns, considering her own statement. "How would she ev..."

"I speak baby. Sorry." The Doctor shrugs with a small smile. "Don't know why you're surprised, you've met her. Got a lot in common with the Queen of Egypt."

Yaz snickers at the comment, shaking her head. "She kept throwing toys at my dad when he refused to share his Chinese takeaway."

"See?" The Doctor laughs, rolling her eyes. "Now imagine when she grows up."

"Can I tell the boys?" Yaz wonders, missing the Doctor's dimming smile. "Not the entire story, just that there's a baby somewhere named after Gra..." She interrupts herself when the hand holding hers squeezes, the grip turning almost painful. "Doctor?"

"If you go home knowing what you know now... It might influence your decisions. How you speak to me, or act when we’re alone, or..." The Doctor breathes in sharply. "It might change your whole future."

"What are you saying?" Yaz clears her throat, afraid of the response to her own question.

"I have to erase your memory."

***************

The words land heavily in Yaz's chest. "I... No. I don't want that." She shakes her head, frantic. "I want to have something to look forward to. Please." Breathing out the last word, she finds the Time Lord's eyes with a pleading gaze.

"Yaz..." The Doctor drops her head, considering her options. "You understand the future you would be looking forward to might not happen at all?"

The dark haired woman sighs, sinking deeper into the couch. They shuffle at the same time, moving to face the fire as their joined hands rest in the space between them, the only point of contact.

"You've always been this impossible dream." Yaz starts, lost in the flames licking the glass of the fireplace. "I thought it was useless, that I was losing my time wishing for more with you. I tried to convince myself that friendship was enough, and it works. I’m happy, most of the time."

Yaz shakes her head, snapping out of memories of sleepless nights spent dissecting her every interaction with the Doctor. "But you've given me hope. Today has given me hope. I don't want to give it up." Blinking through the sting of tears at the corner of her eyes, she sighs. "Are you sure it's our only choice?"

"I'm not a dream." The Doctor replies, voice turned wistful. "I'm not even sure you'd take the same decisions, if you knew how much you're going to los..." She stops talking, shifting until she's sitting on the edge of the sofa, elbows settled on her thighs as she leans forwards.

"All right, Yasmin Khan." Turning hazel irises filled with glowing, golden specks to the younger woman, she whispers. "You want a choice, I'm giving you a choice."

Yaz freezes when she spots the foreign, sharp edge to the Doctor's voice. "What sort of choices?"

"Do you want to know how it started? Us, together?" The Time Lord steels herself with a deep breath at her friend's faint murmur of approval, attention glued to the warm colors waving in front of her eyes. "You died."

Yaz’s gasp registers in a far away corner of the Doctor's head, as she continues. "Or you were dying. In Graham's arms. I... We were in Russia, when a... Friend of mine showed up."

Biting back a growl, she battles a wave of emotions stirred up in her memory. "We had to stop him from destroying Earth, then things got very wet - and very out of hands - really quickly. I had to save Ryan from being executed by aliens, you had to get to a lever under water, and you were shot."

Despite her best efforts, the mental picture of Yaz's limp body forms in her brain, sending a mix of rage and hopelessness coursing into her. "When I found you, it was too late. You were bleeding out." She clears her throat, a poor attempt to keep her voice from breaking. "You were so scared. Then you saw me, and you asked if there was something I could do..."

Interrupting herself, the blond glances to the side and offers a sad smile, eyes shining. "You trusted me to save you, even with bullets lodged into your chest. I couldn't let you down. I was terrified, and angry, and..."

The Doctor pauses with a long sigh. "And I didn't think. I waited until you died, and I burnt through one of my regenerations, to bring you back."

"You brought me back... From the dead?" Yaz repeats, slowly.

The Doctor nods. "Only way I could save you. Problem is, you have the same life span as any other of my faces."

"How long?"

"Well, a regular Time Lord back home..." She tilts her head. "Each regeneration can live up to twelve thousand years. Never that much for me though."

"I'm immortal." Yaz realizes, eyes growing wide.

"No, you're really not." The Doctor counters sharply, throwing a frown over her shoulder. "Wish you would understand that. Your aging process is just very, very slow, but you can be killed."

"What? Am I the reckless one, now?" Yaz quips, falling back on familiar banter in a poor attempt to distract herself from the growing weight of the story sinking in her stomach.

The Doctor's features smooth, earning a small smile from the police officer. "You keep following me into the worst situations, and I have to find a way out without either of us dying."

Smirking, Yaz teases. "Do you want me to apologize?"

"Of course not. I like it."

"That's what I thought."

Yaz's arched eyebrow and sparkling eyes is a glimpse of her future self, and for a fleeting moment, the alien feels like she's having a conversation with her wife. She ignores the burn of longing and forces herself to face the younger woman.

"Living for that long... It's a curse, Yaz. You'll have to watch every friend you ever make die. You might have to watch your daughter die, I d..."

"Our daughter.” Yaz corrects, sternly.

"Yes. I don't know what her lifespan will be, and she needs to get a bit older before the TARDIS can tell us. Ryan, Graham, your parents, your entire civilization, everything is going to fade away around you. And you'll be the only one left standing, in the middle of all those ruins."

"You'll still be there." The police officer points out, ignoring her first, panic-filled reaction at the Doctor's description.

"Don't think I'm worth all that pain, love." She shakes her head, sending Yaz's heart racing with the casual term of endearment. "But it's your choice."

Choice. Yaz is starting to hate that word, as she has an inkling of where her friend's - and future wife - speech is heading.

"You said we just came back from Lancashire, in your time line. I'll be back for you next Sunday, yeah?" When a lingering silence is her only reply, the Doctor sighs. "You don't have to come with me. Stay home, and you can live a normal life."

"What am I supposed to tell you?" Yaz pitches her voice higher, a poor imitation of herself. "Sorry Doctor, I've changed my mind. Have fun traveling with the boys."

The grim smile sent in her direction forces an unhappy sigh out of Yaz. "I'm used to to it. Just... Tell me you've had enough."

"Then what?" Yaz wonders, frustration growing. "I get it, I'd be saving myself a lot of grief. But what about that little girl, who made my mum fall in love with her in six hours? If I don't come with you, she won't exist."

"Exactly." The Time Lord confirms, gently. "She won't exist. She will never have existed. The future is in flux. You make choices like that every day, you just don't usually know the consequences."

"What about you?" Yaz prompts further, shifting to the edge of the sofa to close the gap between them. "You'd lose your family again, I can't do that to you. We're married." She says, grasping for the Doctor's left hand, frowning when she finds it empty. "Don't we wear rings?"

The blond's gaze darts between her own ring finger and Yaz's questioning eyes. "Erm, not on my hand. I don't like people knowing how much I... How much it would hurt me to lose you." She replies, fumbling with the collar of her shirt until she digs out a thin silver chain.

Yaz reaches forwards, and the Doctor gets the chain over her head, dropping it into an open palm.

The ring is gorgeous, a thin, golden band, circled with the smallest gems the police officer has even seen. The stones twinkle red under the dimmed lighting of the fire, bringing Yaz's attention to the inside of the ring, where the same characters spread around the TARDIS' console and carved into the door leading to the room, shine.

"What does it mean?"

"The..." The Doctor hesitates, shuffling a little closer until Yaz's thigh is pressed against her own, and she can point out the different words. "It's our names. Yours is here." Yaz twists the band around, leaning her head closer to the Doctor's shoulder. "That one is mine. It's..." She gulps, heart speeding with the memory of the ceremony. "My birth name."

"Wait, your name is not Doct..."

"It is, now. I don't like talking about it." The Time Lord interrupts, and Yaz decides to let the matter go. "The last ones are more complicated." Bringing the dark haired woman's attention back to the ring, she continues. "That one is my oath to you, and this is your oath to me. It was all very... Gallifreyan. We had a Earth wedding later, your mum insisted."

"Galli- what?"

"Ah, yes. Haven't told you much about me, have I? Not yet." The Doctor sighs. "Gallifrey is my home planet. That's our language."

Yaz nods, head reeling at the avalanche of facts she's struggling to process. Each new bribe of information etches into her brain, fueling her insatiable need to learn more about this mad, impossible woman who fell into her life and twisted everything she thought she knew upside down.

"I want to know." The words tumble from her mouth before Yaz's brain catches up.

The Doctor frowns, tilting her head. "About Gallifrey? It's a long story, I'm n..."

"No." Yaz cuts off. "Not now. Later. I want to have those conversations with you." She whispers, progressively getting a grasp of the emotional chaos plaguing her thoughts. "I want us to get married, I want to know which oath we make to each other. I want so many things, Doctor." The dreamy, slow-spreading smile that blooms on her lips strengthens the declaration.

Inhaling sharply, the Doctor forces a deep breath into her lungs, her first one since she presented her options to Yaz. She struggles to fight back against the unexpected sliver of hope lightening her thoughts. "Are you sure? You won't have another chance at a normal life, Yaz."

"I don't want normal. I want you."

The Doctor closes her eyes, breathing out a wet chuckle with the wave of relief crashing through her chest. "I want you too." A lone tear escapes, sliding down her cheeks until Yaz's thumb catches it.

The action draws their gazes together, in a silent stare that stretches through a long, tense moment, until the younger woman flings her arms around the Doctor's shoulders. The returning grip low on her waist is tight, the alien burying her face into the crook of her neck with a shaky sigh, while Yaz allows her fingers to thread through soft, blond hair.

Minutes tick by as they quietly hold each other, until Yaz gulps. "I get that you have to erase my memory. I'm fine with that." She feels the Doctor nods against the side of her head, the woman refusing to budge from her spot. "Well, I'm not. But I understand why you have to do it. I have conditions though." Lips grin against her throat, leaving Yaz to will herself still as a shiver makes its way up her spine.

"Of course you do." The Doctor responds, the remark laced with fond affection.

"You only erase tonight." Yaz starts, smiling back. "I need to remember the baby when I'll get home. I told my mum she was your niece."

"Good thinking, we'll go with that story." Clearing her throat, the Doctor gives another nod.

"Wait, what's going to happen when we see each other again?" Yaz suddenly prompts, drawing the Doctor's head up to establish proper eye contact. "I'll probably ask about your niece, won't you think it's weird?"

Snickering, her friend shakes her head. "Not with the number of things that happen to me out of order. Might not even notice I don't have a niece." The Doctor shrugs. "Any other condition, boss?" The sharp elbow hitting her ribs doesn't erase the hint of a smirk that comes with the question.

"You have to tell me about what happened, later." Yaz declares, falling serious.

"I don't underst..."

"Future me. Your wife. Tell me about our talk, and about the choice you gave me."

Frowning, the Doctor considers the request. "Why?"

"Because you risked losing your family again, to make sure I'm happy." A dark gaze falls to the floor. "And you'll have to watch me forget who we are to each other. I know it's going to hurt you." Squaring her shoulders, she meets the Doctor's eyes again, pupils twinkling with fierce determination. "I don't care how old I am, if I can comfort you, I want to help."

"Always taking care of me, aren't you?" The blond wonders, a gentle undertone to the playful question.

"Shut up." Yaz mumbles, her forehead falling on the taller woman's shoulder.

"I'll do it." The Time Lord whispers, reaching to trace soothing circles on Yaz's back. "Thank you."

Sighing, Yaz stifles a jolt of disappointment at the back of her head. The Doctor's open affection - both through touch and through honest words she never thought she would ever hear from her friend - warms her heart in a new, addicting way.

The prospect of going back to their casual, almost nonchalant friendship leaves a bittersweet aftertaste in Yaz's throat. "I wish I could stay here."

"I'm not sure my wife would approve."

A genuine burst of laughter escapes a thankful Yaz. "I'm jealous of myself. How much madder can my life get?"

"You'll see." The Doctor grins, in that brilliant way that always sends Yaz's heart thundering. "I promise you all the madness you can handle, Yasmin Khan."

"I can't wait." She whispers back, tilting her head to meet emerald eyes. The warm breath hitting her chin beckons her closer, making words spill out of her mouth. "Kiss me?"

Gasping, the Time Lord hesitates. Their first kiss was built upon months of memories Yaz doesn't have yet, and there's a faint voice at the back of her mind wondering if she wouldn't be taking advantage o...

"Please?"

The hint of obvious longing swimming in Yaz's eyes takes the choice of her hands. There’s no universe in which the Doctor would deny the simple request to the woman she loves. Sliding her hands around her neck, she holds the younger woman in place as she brushes their lips together once, twice, until Yaz grips into her coat and guides her into a more solid contact.

When they pull back, there's a shared, dazed shadow darkening their eyes.

"Better be a lot more of that in my future too." Yaz breathes out, blinking lazily.

"There will be." The Doctor approves, biting her lip. "Trust me." Left hand drifting up, her fingers find Yaz's temple with a long sigh. "Ready?"

The younger woman gulps, inhaling sharply through her nose. "Ready."

A soft green-brown gaze is Yaz's last anchor, as her world turns black.

Chapter Text

The ray of sunlight hitting Yaz's closed eyes comes from the gap between twisted metal and shattered windows, drawing her slowly out of unconsciousness.

There’s a sharp soreness echoing through her head that blurs the edge of her thoughts, a nagging feeling she fights to will herself awake. She catches a glimpse of clumsy movements on her side, that ends with a firm grip holding onto her right leg.

"Wh..." Clearing her throat against the painful dryness of her mouth, Yaz blinks her eyes open. "Happened?"

"Oh, hello. You're awake."

The pressure against her knee fades, and the police officer shifts towards the voice. She finds a blond woman looking back at her, fingers tangled with pieces of torn, white material.

Casting it aside, the stranger fumbles for a flashlight and shuffles closer to Yaz, gently touching her forehead with the back of her hand. "How do you feel?"

"Ow."

Scrunching her nose, the woman approaches the light to Yaz's face, examining the pupils. "I know. Your leg is broken, and I think you hit your head against a seat."

"Against what?" Yaz repeats, growing more awake as she allows her gaze to wander.

Gasping, she realizes they're in the middle of what used to be the aisle of the plane she boarded in Russia... Except the front of the aircraft is nowhere to be seen, leaving only the tail and the last five or six rows intact.

Or mostly intact, Yaz corrects her own observation, eyes widening at the sight of her seat that's almost entirely crushed against the wall.

"We crashed. Over Norway, I think. We're on some sort of mountain." The stranger explains, sitting back as her voice softens.

"The others?" Yaz wonders, remembering the hundred or so passengers with whom she spent the first four hours of a perfectly normal flight.

The blond purses her lips, before offering a careful reply. "All alive. The front of the plane is in better shape. They left though. Didn't want to stay in the middle of nowhere, and they said they could send us a rescue team."

Nodding distractedly, Yaz sighs. She has enough years of police work under her belt to hear the truth behind the stranger's words, despite her concussion. The other passengers left, judging that a hike to the nearest town improved their survival chances, especially if they didn't have to carry some injured - and unconscious - woman.

"Why didn't you go?"

"You needed help!" The stranger fires back, a hint of offended pride in her voice. "I wasn't going to just leave you."

Touched by the kindness, Yaz lays a calming hand on a nearby forearm. "Thank you." She returns the answering, grim nod and shifts her attention to her body, making a quick inventory of any potentially serious injuries.

There's a couple of darkening bruises on her hands and arms, a faint soreness in her ribs whenever she breathes too deeply, but it's the sharp pain echoing through her right leg, almost as if a piece of metal was sticking through her calf, that leaves Yaz the most concerned.

The other woman follows her gaze, launching into her own medical assessment. "I think your femur is broken near the ankle, which isn't so bad. Still have to keep it steady, so I'm trying to make some sort of brace, but you should be back on your feet in a couple of m..."

"Are you a doctor?" Yaz interrupts.

"Used to be. In the military."

Nodding, the police officer groans when she tries to get her body into a prone position. The sound springs the stranger into action, palms settling high on Yaz's back.

"Careful. I'm worried about your ribs, they might be fractured."

"Thanks." Yaz murmurs, with a white knuckled grip around a nearby armrest.

Prompting herself up comes with a dizzying wave of nausea, and she forces a shallow, slow breath into her lungs. She's thankful for the other woman’s quiet support, raising her head to meet a worried hazel gaze. "Do you have a name? Or do I have to call you doctor?"

"Jo. Jo Smith." The blond supplies, grinning when the injured woman pries one of her fist open, bringing her right hand forwards. She shakes the offered limb and returns the question.

"I'm Yasmin Khan. Yaz, to my friends."

"Are we friends? Do I get nickname privileges?" Jo wonders, eyes lighting up as her shoulders loosen. She was worried about Yaz's state of mind - not everyone can handle that kind of semi-significant injuries without panicking - but her level headed attitude is the best reaction she could hope for.

"You're the only one who stayed behind to help me. You can call me whatever you want."

"Well, abou..."

A voice coming from the open end of the plane interrupts her reply.

"All right, Doc. I found some wood, and Ryan got a handful of dried leaves, but we didn't und..." The man slows when he notices the injured passenger now conscious and talking. "You're awake." He blinks, drawing a smile out of Yaz.

"And you have a lot of branches." The police officer remarks, pointing to the pile tucked under his arm.

"Right. For a fire." He turns to the blond, dropping his cargo on the ground. "But I'm not sure I understand what kind of support you can get fr..."

"It's fine, I'll go." Jo cuts off, dusting the snow glued to her black trousers as she gets back to her feet with a last glance towards Yaz. "Don't move. I'm serious." The dark haired woman sighs, with a mock salute. "Graham, you're in charge."

Another man, much taller and with a pale beanie covering his head enters the plane. "Why him? I can be in charge."

"Next time." The doctor discards, attention falling back to Yaz as she steps out of the aircraft. "And you're in charge of not moving."

Rolling her eyes, Yaz smiles. "Are you always that bossy?"

Peeking her head back in the plane, Jo winks playfully. "Yes. Part of my charm."

***************

Yaz chuckles, facing the two newcomers when Jo disappears again. For a stretching moment of silence, they exchange gauging stares, as lost snowflakes swirl through the air, carried by gusts of cold wind.

"She's odd, but she looks like she knows what she's doing." The youngest man speaks up, clearing his throat.

Yaz shrugs. "Well, she was in the army."

"She was?" Graham repeats, sitting in the row of seats on Yaz's left side. "Do you two know each other?"

The younger woman shakes her head. "No. She just told me." She pauses, regarding the older man. "You're Graham, right?"

"Yeah, and I'm Ryan." The second man interrupts, sinking into the seat on her right.

"Yaz." Her eyes flicker between the two strangers, surprised by the easy familiarity between them. "Do you two know each other?"

"He's my grandson."

Yaz catches a glimpse of Ryan's answering eye roll, choosing to ignore the odd reaction. "Do you remember what happened?"

"You mean the crash?" At the dark haired woman's nod, Ryan sighs. "It's a bit blurry, but we lost an engine and the pilot tried to land. The plane broke when we hit the ground. You were the only one with serious injuries though."

"Lucky me." Yaz replies with a self-depreciating chuckle that breaks the background tension.

"Yeah, sorry about that." He smiles. "Anyway, the pilot gathered everyone and said we should go down the mountain. There's supposed to be a village nearby, so everyone decided to..." Trailing off, he winces as his gaze falls to the floor.

"I know how people get in emergency situations, I'm a police officer. They didn't want to die here, and I would have slowed down the group." Yaz reaches to hit the back of her hand against his ankle. "I get it. I can only thank you for staying wi..."

"You should thank the Doc, more than us." Graham objects. "She made a mad speech about humans and how we had a duty to help each other." He pulls a face. "We were going to leave, and..."

"You were going to leave." Ryan corrects with an unhappy frown, and Yaz suddenly feels like she's caught in the middle of years of built up family tension. "I don't leave people because they're hurt."

"Well I stayed, didn't I?"

"Shut up, both of you." Jo intervenes from the entrance, dropping two long pieces of tree bark on the ground as she takes off her gloves.

"You'll have to start trusting each other, if we want to get out of this alive. Which, I don't know about you..." Pausing, she sits next to Yaz's boots and picks up the torn bandages she abandoned earlier. "But it's my preferred outcome."

The men offer a dual, mumbled agreement, still carefully avoiding each other's gazes.

"That will do. For now." She brings her attention back to Yaz, who's eyeing the first aid material suspiciously. "I'm going to make a splint, for your leg. I want to keep it stable, if we can."

"Is it..." Gritting her teeth together, Yaz swallows through a sudden burst of fluttering anxiety. "It's going to hurt, isn't it?"

The doctor sighs. "I can give you painkillers. But we have seven pills of Paracetamol, that's it. I'd like to save them for later." With a grim smile, she gently squeezes Yaz's left knee. "But if you feel like you nee..."

"It's fine. I'll be fine." Yaz assures, glancing at her swollen ankle. "Just be quick."

"Boys, come here." Ryan and Graham huddles together in the middle aisle, waiting for instructions. "Graham, you hold her leg steady when I tell you." Grasping the scraps of tree bark, she leaves one on either sides of Yaz's injured limb. "I'll wrap up her leg."

"How can I help?" Ryan inquires, earning a smile at the earnestness of his voice.

"You get ready to hold Yaz's hand, if she needs it." Sitting back, Jo tilts her head to meet dread-filled brown eyes. "Heard that? You can crush his hand, if the pain is too much." Yaz nods, mustering a smile. "And you're in control. Stop me if you want Paracetamol."

"Can't I just keep my leg like this?" The younger woman suggests, nervously running the tip of her tongue across her lips.

From her spot at Yaz's feet, Jo drops the white tape wrapped around her hands, gentling her voice. "Sure, you can. But it means we can't travel, and we're stuck waiting here until someone rescues us. Or not."

Not an option, then. Yaz admits to herself. Shifting back until she can lean against the side of one of the intact seat, she blows out a long sigh and squares her shoulders. "I can do this. You..." She trails off with a frown. "Do know what you're doing, right?"

"Yep. Done this a lot." Jo settles back on the ground, promptly showing Graham how to place his hands once she gives the signal. "Ready?"

Yaz gulps, fingers already searching for Ryan's nearby wrist with a mumbled apology. "Ready."

"On 3." Jo gives an pointed look to Graham, holding up two fingers of the hand she keeps hidden from Yaz's view. "1. 2..."

Slipping her grip around the injured ankle, Jo braces the leg between the pieces of wood and wraps a bandage around the articulation.

Her loose knot is enough to force a strangled scream from Yaz, and Jo winces in sympathy as she makes quick work of the other tie, further from the break in the bone. The action still draws a quiet whimper, before a few seconds of shocked silence follow Jo's last tug on the tape, Ryan's hand falling limp on the floor.

"Let go, Graham."

The older man does as he's told, and the doctor gauges her own work with a critical nod. The splinted leg can’t bear any weight, but they should be able to carry Yaz safely. How exactly is a problem for tomorrow, as she notices the dark, cooling atmosphere enveloping the group.

With a pained breath, Yaz blinks away the layer of tears pooling in her eyes, before she allows herself to reach out.

Fingers gripping into the sleeve of Jo's coat, she pulls until the woman follows and sits besides her. Yaz nudges her way under her arm, leaning against Jo's chest while the pain still echoing through her entire body fades, to the faint sound of a racing heartbeat under her ear.

"Yaz?" The confusion in the doctor's voice snaps her back to reality, Yaz suddenly noticing just how intimate the position is.

"Sorry. I'm... Sorry." She shuffles in place, about to lean away, when the arm that fell across her shoulders tightens its hold.

"It's fine. I'm a trained medic, and we're in the middle of a plane crash. I'd stick close to myself too." Jo smiles. "Maybe not that close."

"Yeah, well... I'm not usually that clingy." Yaz clears her throat, ignoring the smirk she can hear in the other woman's voice.

"Don't worry about it. You're keeping me warm."

Raising her head to watch the two men silently observing the conversation, Jo's grin turns softer. Ryan and Graham share the same air of dazed shock, still reeling from the brutal crash course in first aid.

"Do we have to worry about hypothermia?" Graham blinks, catching the last few words.

Jo purses her lips as she considers the question. "Not yet. We're protected from the wind, and we can make a fire over there." She replies, motioning to the cleared ground just outside the wreck. "The smoke will get blown away, and it's going to keep us warm."

Ryan nods, already heading in the pointed direction with the wood brought back by Graham earlier.

"I'll go check for food. I'm getting hungry." His granddad quips, already strolling towards the tail of the aircraft.

"Bring back everything you find, we need to ration it." Jo interjects, raising her voice and earning a thumbs up as only answer.

"Ration it." Yaz repeats, frown deepening. "How long do you think we'll be here?"

"I'd like to be on the move by tomorrow, if your injuries allow it."

"I don't think I'll be able to climb down a mountain by tomorrow." Yaz states, glaring at her leg.

Jo hums, patting her back distractedly. "I know, we'll have to carry you. Somehow. Working on it."

The police officer pictures the situation, shaking her head. "I don't want to be a burden to you."

"You're not."

"Not now, but tomorr..." Yaz's reply is cut off by Jo's stern voice, their gazes meeting when the doctor shifts back.

"I don't give up on people, Yaz. We'll have that talk as many times as you want, but I'm not leaving you behind. I'll get you home, or we'll both die trying."

There's a quiet intensity in the emerald irises regarding her that makes Yaz believe the odd promise. "Why? It's not like we know each other."

"Because it's who I am." Jo pauses, a small smile spreading on her lips. "And I think it's who you are too. Would you just leave me here, with a broken leg?"

"Maybe." Yaz mirrors the expression, feeling the tension coiled in her stomach fades. "How would you know?"

"Because you haven't told me I'm an idiot yet."

"I'm a police officer." Yaz admits, shaking her head.

"Ah, a fellow idiot." Chuckling, Jo catches sight of Graham heading back their way, arms full of canned food and plastic-wrapped bars. He crouches in front of the two women.

"There's a lot of food back there. I don't know how much we can carry, but I reckon we could last a few weeks if we stayed here."

The blond sighs. She was afraid someone would bring up that idea, and she doesn't want to share how precarious their situation is.

Four people lost together in a broken plane, with very little options to defend themselves present an easy target for predators, human and animal alike.

"We'll see what we do tomorrow. Let's eat for now."

Graham nods, bringing his findings closer to Ryan's glowing fire.

"All right, want to try moving over there?"

Yaz nods, scrambling to her feet with the help of solid arms protectively hanging onto her waist. Making their way out of the wreck, Yaz spares a grateful thought for her newfound friends as the warmth of the fire soothes her aching muscles.

***************

Seeing Ryan blow into his gloves as he makes his way back into the wrecked plane, Jo nods in his direction, earning a low grumble when the man sinks into an empty row and crumbles to the ground in exhausted sleep.

The group established a schedule of rounds over dinner, each member volunteering to stay awake for a few hours to keep an eye on potential rescue teams. Ryan insisted to stay up late, while his granddad decided to get up early.

It left the doctor with the middle-of-the-night shift, and she muffles a yawn into her shoulder, trying to pull herself awake.

Blindly searching for the flashlight that was clutched into her fist when she nodded off, Jo does her best to keep still, mindful of Yaz's dead weight against her chest.

After long minutes of restless shuffling earlier, the police officer found herself unable to sleep. The only position that would keep both her ribs and leg stable was to rest against one of the few intact wall.

The cold, hard surface against Yaz’s back only worsened her insomnia, freezing her features in an unhappy glare.

Jo watched her new friend pointlessly twist and turn for a while, from the opposite side of the aisle. Seeing Yaz wince as an armrest poked into her shoulder, she offered to help, biting her lip when her brain caught up with her mouth.

The faint, worried voice at the back of her head that was nagging Jo about minding her own problems faded with Yaz's grateful nod.

The doctor moved, Yaz settling between her legs and leaning back against her chest with a mumbled thank you. With a distracted nod, Jo gulped as she did her best to keep her mind away from the warmth spreading through her stomach, allowing her arms to make their way around Yaz's waist.

You would develop a crush on a woman in the same plane crash as you.

Jo's inner voice quips again, before being brutally silenced. She stretches along the ground, hand flat against under the nearest seat, still searching for her flashlight as Yaz quietly complains.

“Shh. It’s all right. Just sleep.”

The comforting words fade into the night, useless. Jo scrunches her nose when the younger woman's eyelids flicker.

“Jo?”

“I’m sorry. Was just going for my turn outside, but I can’t find that flashlight.”

“No!” Yaz half turns, gripping the collar of her coat with a strength that catches Jo off guard.

“Ryan came in, I have t...” The doctor tries to argue, reasonably.

“Please, Jo.” Vehemently shaking her head, the dark haired woman tightens her grip on the thick material. “You don’t have to be outside to hear if someone is coming. They’ll call out.”

Water pooling in her eyes, Yaz’s sleepy mind fills with fearful dread, at the prospect of sleeping alone in the dark plane. “Don’t leave. I can’t even see the boys from here, I don’t want to be alone. Please.”

A flurry of valid arguments about why she should really go outside floods through Jo’s brain, until she spots Yaz’s heaving shoulders and the sweat gathering on the palms touching her neck.

“All right, okay. I’m not going. I’m staying with you.” She frames Yaz’s face with gentle hands, holding a teary brown gaze steadily. “Breathe. Last thing you need is a panic attack.”

The early symptoms register in Yaz’s brain, and she falls back on the soothing technique she learnt in her teenage years. Breathe in for 7 seconds, hold, exhale for 5 seconds and hold again.

“That’s it. You’re doing so well.”

Yaz narrows her thoughts to Jo’s quiet praise, until she feels her mind click back into place. She opens her eyes, forcing a small smile.

“Sorry, I don't know what...” Embarrassed, she clears her throat. "You should... Erm. Do you want to go?" Scratching the back of her neck, Yaz shakes her head. "I'll be fine, of course. I'm not usually needy, I don't kn..."

“It’s fine.” Jo assures, interrupting the rambling apology. “I’m not usually on plane that crashes.”

Glancing into the stormy night visible through the open end of the plane, she tightens her grip around the other woman. "You're right. I can hear what's happening outside from here."

Yaz nods, muffling a relieved sigh as a lingering silence falls, Graham and Ryan's heavy breathing the only noise disturbing the peaceful moment.

“So, who’s waiting for you at home? Have you got family?”

“Not much. I’ve got friends and a sister. And a puppy.” Ignoring the intrigued look thrown her way, Jo returns the question. “What about you? Family? Boyfriend? Girlfriend?”

Sensing the hint of self-interest, Yaz pauses to consider the question. “My mum and dad are waiting for me. And my sister." Biting her lips, she drops her voice. "And a date with you.”

Jo chokes on thin air. “A what?”

“Date. With you.” The police officer repeats, allowing her sleep deprived brain and the intimacy of their position to fuel her action.

“Ah, Yaz.” Jo shrugs. “I’m terrible at dating.”

“Are you?” Seconds tick by, as Yaz’s small smile spreads. “That’s not a no.”

“It’s...” Jo sighs, reluctantly mirroring the expression with a grin of her own. “Yeah. Yes.”

Satisfied, Yaz's shoulders loosen as she sinks back against Jo’s chest, resting her head on her collarbone. “Don’t worry.” She says, through a yawn. “Nothing fancy. We can go to the cinema.”

“I always talk at movies.”

“- and I’ll throw popcorn at your head.”

Jo’s silent chuckle echoes through Yaz’s back, an unexpected spark of comfort in the middle of the cold, dark airplane.

The blond’s thoughts seem to follow a similar pathway. “Nice, isn’t it? To think about home?” She wonders, wistfully.

“Yeah. I’m craving popcorn now.”

“And sweets. And those really comfy seats they h...”

Wind suddenly seeps through the wreck in a harsh reminder of the dire situation they're stranded into. The loud, whistling sound fuels the uneasy hunch twisting Yaz’s stomach, a violent shiver racking up her spine as goosebumps make their way down her arms.

Jo frowns when she feels the other woman tremble. “Still cold?”

Yaz nods, melting further into the loose embrace, greedy for every trace of shared body heat. The doctor shifts one of her arms to circle her waist, the other drifting to the back of her neck.

Pushing away waves of useless worry, Yaz settles her ear under the collar of Jo's coat, glad for the steady heartbeat that buries the noisy wind.

“Thank you.” Yaz whispers.

Jo inhales sharply, clutching the other woman closer as she settles her chin against the top of beanie-covered, dark hair. “For what?“

“Being here.”

Jo considers the reply and gives Yaz a hearty squeeze, the hug prompted by a protective instinct that catches her off-guard. “Know what, Yaz? Not only will I bring you home, but I’m going to make sure that date is amazing.”

“Yeah?” The younger woman challenges sleepily, her eyelids turned heavy.

“Hmm.” Jo nods, humming. “Best date of your life.”

“Can’t wait.” Yaz mumbles, muscles loosening as she slips into slumber.

“Me neither.” Jo mouths to the empty plane, thoughts filled with images of stolen kisses and hands held over the armrest of a cinema seat.

Vowing to make the mental picture a reality, she nods, keen hearing focused on every sound coming from outside the wreck.

Chapter Text

"No, Ryan." Yaz rolls her eyes, ignoring her friend's impatient sigh.

"Please. I can't not go."

"Why not?" She prompts, as they duck into a side alley on their way back to the TARDIS.

Ryan passes through the door first, scanning the thankfully empty control room. "You didn't see her yesterday." He continues. "She couldn't wait to show me her restaurant."

"Her very posh restaurant, where a dinner is probably going to cost you a month salary." Yaz points out, as they climb the ship's stairs.

"It's free!" He insists, grinning. "You can't say no to free food."

"Yes, I can. I'm not Graham." Snapping her fingers, she turns to face him. "Why don't you go with him? Make it a family bounding trip."

Ryan clears his throat, searching for an excuse. The free meal offered to him by the owner of a car he helped drag out of a mud puddle - the woman turned out to be a chef in Paris' newest bistro - is the perfect opportunity to test the theory elaborated by Graham.

When silence lingers and Ryan's eyes glaze over, Yaz frowns. "It's not... A date, is it?"

A panic-filled, dark gaze lands back on the younger woman, Ryan scrambling for an answer as she winces.

"Ah, I don't really... I'm sorry. But I don't have..." Yaz clicks her mouth shut, leaving an awkward silence to stretch over the hallway, until Ryan gets his thoughts together.

"No! Yaz, no!" He shakes his head, insistently. "No offence mate, but that would be weird." Scratching the back of his neck, he forces himself to look back at his friend. "And a bit incestuous."

Yaz blows out a relieved breath. She's grown attached to their family dynamics, and putting a strain on her relationship with Ryan is the last thing she wants. "I agree!" She adds quickly. "Know what, I'll go with you."

"Really?" Ryan frowns, caught off guard by the sharp turnaround. "I mean, great. Good. I'll see you in an hour, in the control room." He takes a step back, raising his thumb.

Yaz waves and retreats to her bedroom, sinking into the mattress with a groan.

Their weekend in Paris was supposed to be a fun holiday, but between Graham's enthusiasm for arts and history, and Ryan's interest in science, she found herself dragged around the city, hopping from one museum to the other. She barely had time to relax - or to see the Doctor - and she sighs at the prospect of spending their last evening in a posh restaurant.

"Oh, Yaz." The woman pries one eye open, watching Ryan's head peers through the doorway as he drops a folded paper on her desk. "That's the address of the restaurant, with the entry tickets. Don't forget to dress up."

"Dress u..." The police officer groans again, louder. "Ryan!"

The man has already closed the door behind him, rubbing his hands together with the hint of a smirk.

***************

"No, Graham."

"Come on, Doc." He rolls his eyes as she glares at him through a welding mask. "I can't go alone."

"I'm busy." The Doctor sticks a hand in his face, wriggling her oil-tinted fingers. "See? She'll get cross if I don't finish fixing the Artron energy drive."

"Your ship can wait a few hours, surely."

"No, she can't. She's very sensitive, you know." When the TARDIS whirs loudly, the Doctor frowns. "I meant it as a compliment, no need to shout."

"See, she's already cross!" Graham sizes the occasion, pointing to the ceiling. "An evening won't make a difference."

Slowly straightening her back, the Time Lord steps away from her spot under the console as she raises her mask. "All right, what do you want?"

"Wh..." He forces a chuckle, shrugging. "What do you mean?"

"We don't do that. Go out for dinner. Why do you want me to go to this restaurant with you?"

Graham clears his throat. "Well, maybe we should start. We're mates, right?"

"Yes." The Doctor confirms, narrowing her eyes when she notices his obvious discomfort. "You don't have a crush on me, do you?"

"Sorry?" He blinks, stunned.

"A crush? On me? Because I'm terrible at dating, and you're still grieving Grace." She purses her lips. "And I'm mostly attracted to women anyway. Well, I have been historically. Been a while now, I hav..."

"Stop." Graham hastily interrupts, shaking his head at the alien's usual bluntness. "That's already too much information, please stop. I'm not asking you on a date, Doctor."

"Oh, good." She smiles, shrugging. "Still not going though." Reaching for her mask, she's about to slam the visor down when Graham interrupts.

"You owe me." He says, words spilled out of his mouth before his brain catches up.

"I, what now?" The Doctor repeats, crossing her arms.

"You owe me..." Graham trails off, grappling for an excuse. "For that time you... Erm." He frowns, clearing his throat. "Broke my chair! It was my favorite one, Doc. I was very attached to it."

"Not my fault you left it in the middle of the room." She grumbles, peeling the gloves off her hands with a deep sigh. "All right. One hour. You better eat fast."

Smiling, he clasps her shoulder awkwardly. "Great! You'll need to dress up. I'll be back in twenty minutes, be ready." He's already sauntering up the stairs before the instructions sinks in.

"Graham, no. I'm not weari..." She sighs as he disappears from her view. "Guess I am. You better have a suit that fits me, old girl."

***************

Yaz closes the door of her room behind her with a sigh, hoping her combo of trousers, white polo shirt and black tie will fit the restaurant's dress code.

The TARDIS' wardrobe could have helped, she knows, but searching for a specific room on the ship always leaves her disoriented and late to wherever she's heading.

Fiddling with her loose tie, Yaz twists her head, looking for her friend as she makes her way into the control room. "Ryan, how am I supposed to turn this into a bow t..."

Yaz glances up, tripping on the last step when she spots the Doctor leaning against the console. Clumsily finding her footing, she gulps when the blond turns to face her, both women freezing in similar, dazed confusion.

For a reason Yaz's brain can't sort out at the moment, the Doctor traded her usual rainbow-littered clothing for dark blue trousers and a crispy white shirt, that peeks out from a fitted jacket falling snugly over her shoulders.

"You... Need help?"

Yaz's gaze darts between the Doctor's raised hands and emerald eyes, as she pads closer. The question kick-starts her brain, reminding her of the tie hanging loosely around her neck.

"Ah, yes." Yaz nods. "I don't.. How do you tie this? It's a bow-tie, I think. I didn't expect to actually wear it."

The police officer fumbles through an explanation, blinking. The formal clothes she once threw in an overnight bag, back when she decided to keep some of her stuff on board the TARDIS, was always supposed to stay hidden at the bottom of her closet.

"Used to wear a lot of them. I can do it, if you want." The Doctor offers, with a casual shrug once she's standing in Yaz's space.

"Please."

With a shaky smile, the blond grips both ends of the undone bow-tie, letting her hands loop the material in a pattern etched in her mind. "Going somewhere?" She whispers, as she works.

Yaz breathes through the teasing sensation of fingertips brushing against her throat, when the Doctor's quiet words hit her cheek, making her brain stutter. "Wh... What?"

"The clothes." The Time Lord repeats, tongue peeking out as she tries to ignore the way Yaz's heart starts racing. "Where are you going?"

"Ryan has tickets for a free meal at some fancy new rest..."

"The new bistro? Near the Eiffel Tower?" The Doctor frowns, giving a soft tug against Yaz's now perfectly even bow-tie.

"How did you know?" The dark haired woman's eyebrows hitch, a sinking feeling in her stomach.

"Would you believe Graham won the same thing? At a festival."

Sighing, Yaz eyes the blond knowingly. "The boys are not going to show, are they?"

"I don't think so." The Doctor replies. She might be socially awkward, but she's seen enough traps to recognize a set-up when she's caught in the middle of it. Meeting Yaz's gaze with gentle determination, she does her best to sound casual. "Do you still... We could go together." The Time Lord shrugs.

Yaz blinks, intrigued. She expected the Doctor to leave, go change and complain about Ryan and Graham's suspicious sense of humor. "Are you sure?"

No. "Yes. It's just dinner, right?" The blond forcefully shoves away a burst of nerves. "We've been to dinner before." She turns and strides towards the door, careful to keep her eyes glued to the floor.

Not with you wearing that. Is what Yaz wants to answer, but she only nods. "Just dinner, right. Let's go."

Stepping into her friend's - or date's? - footsteps, Yaz leaves the control room, intrigued to see the other woman waiting for her outside the ship. There's a second of frozen silence, until the Doctor inhales sharply and offers her arm.

Yaz's eyes grow wide in pleasant surprise, glancing between the blond’s limb and stormy pupils as she bites back a grin.

"What? I'm a gentlema..." The Doctor pauses, furrowing her brows. "Or not anymore. Can I be a gentlewoman? Is that a thing?"

The earnest confusion swimming in green-brown irises tugs at Yaz's heart, leaving her smiling softly. "You can be whatever you want." She answers, wrapping a hand around the offered elbow. "As long as you take me to dinner."

***************

“Are we going to talk about it?” Yaz finally wonders, head leaning against her fist as she watches the Doctor shove spoonfuls of chocolate mousse into her mouth with a small, fond smile.

“Talk about what?” The Doctor frowns, pausing between two bites.

Yaz stares at her friend, unimpressed. “About Ryan and Graham setting us up on what’s obviously a date.” She says, motioning to their booth in the dimly lit restaurant crowded by other couples.

The Doctor clears her throat, methodically cleaning all traces of chocolate from her spoon before meeting her companion's eyes. "Do we have to?" She asks, voice lowering in a noise embarrassingly close to whining.

Yaz sighs, shaking her head. The crush she's consistently denying to Ryan and Graham is slowly growing out of control, with every day that passes. Despite the boys' reassurances that the feeling is not one-sided, it's hard to tell how the woman sitting on the opposite side of the table really feels.

Yaz hesitates, caught between her fierce protectiveness over what grew into the most important relationship in her life, and the persistent sliver of hope that her best friend could become more.

Despite the voice echoing at the back of her head, - a nagging reminder that the Doctor is a thousand-year old, time-travelling, universe-saving alien - she inhales sharply, choosing to follow the thread of optimism.

"Yaz, you..." The Time Lord swallows, a heavy motion that interrupts Yaz's musings. "You have no idea who I am."

The police officer raises a dubious eyebrow, unhappy. "Whose fault is that?" Pausing, she tames the accusatory spark behind her words. "You're always talking, Doctor. But you never really say anything."

The Doctor leans back in the booth, crossing her arms as she warily regards her companion. "Maybe I'm enjoying it."

"Enjoying what?"

"The image you lot have of me." The blond confesses, words spilling out of her mouth. "You think I'm some sort of hero, traveling in a blue box to save planets.”

The Doctor shuffles forwards, eyes catching Yaz's across the candle burning on the table. "Truth is, I've done terrible things. Made awful, selfish choices that killed people. I'm not a good person."

Pursing her lips, Yaz blows out a controlled breath as she glances into hazel irises darkened by a foreign shadow. It's not often her friend lets her true age show, and there's a magnetic pull drawing the dark haired woman closer.

Yaz gulps, battling a sudden understanding of how moths can be attracted to a flame, as she tries to push away her own fascination for the dangerous, gleaming edge staring back at her.

Then the Doctor blinks, and Yaz is facing the usually guarded eyes she knows.

"I don't believe that." She finally voices, cutting through the tense silence.

"What?" The Doctor frowns, confused.

"Graham once told me nobody could know the truth of their own life, because we're too busy living it from the inside. Maybe the image we have of you is wrong, but the image you have of yourself can't be true either."

"Yaz, I..."

The younger woman raises a hand. "Listen, for once."

When the Doctor snaps her jaw shut, crossing her arms, Yaz pieces her thoughts together. She swallows through a flare of nerves, ignoring the weight of the conversation that's slowly sinking onto her shoulders.

"We all do terrible things in our lives. But I'm never going to believe the woman who spends half of her life standing between her human friends and unspeakable alien threats, the woman who agreed to marry Prem and Umbreen out of kindness - knowing they were doomed - and the woman who deliberately got trapped in the Solitract is a bad person."

The Doctor flattens her drumming fingers against the table with a shaky sigh. Remembering the choices made by her previous faces always sends a mix of fear and dread coursing through her, - she knows more impossible dilemma lay ahead, and she doesn't like being reminded of looming threats - and she can't remember the last time someone confronted her so openly. It's dizzying, and scary, and she doesn't know what to do with Yaz's gentle, earnest eyes glued to her own.

"I don't... How d..." She runs a tired hand down her face. "You're nineteen, of course you can't understand."

The angry response the Doctor was expecting is replaced by a quiet chuckle.

"Don't I?" Yaz watches as confusion plays across the blond's face. "I know you, even if you try your best to keep us away." Yaz's voice softens, as her hand lands over the Doctor's. "I know you're kind. I know you have a temper that you try to keep under control. I know you lie, whenever we ask about something that makes you uncomfortable. "

The Doctor interrupts, mumbling about the different definitions of lying, drawing an indulgent eye roll from Yaz.

"All right, you don't lie, you just ignore our questions."

With a sharp intake of breath, Yaz launches from the emotional ledge she's been hanging onto since a certain trip to the Punjab, and a speech about love that etched into a corner of her heart. "I don't care about who you used to be, I care about who you are now. Maybe you're right, and I'm young, and naive. But I think you're overthinking this."

The Time Lord considers the words, while Yaz falls silent. Her friend's fingers covering her own act as an anchor, slowing down the mess of emotions that was swirling through her head, earlier.

"What am I overthinking?" The Doctor whispers.

"I'm not asking to spend the rest of my life with you. I want us to go on dates, talk, get to know each other. Maybe you'll even let me know you, the real you." She corrects, once the Doctor tries to interrupt. "The person you think is a monster."

Blinking, the alien toys with the proposition in her head, carefully examining the idea. She hasn't properly dated since her last night with River, centuries ago. The prospect of getting close to someone on that level again sends her hearts racing with a mix of anxiety and... Hope?

A faint voice in her head reminds her that it's Yaz, the strongest, kindest, most amazing woman she's met in a very long time. It would be so easy to trust her, to allow her through the walls she carefully built around herself.

There's always a chance her friend will change her mind once she gets to know the darker bits of her past. Their inevitable parting might be easier for Yaz, if she decides she can't handle dating the Oncoming Storm. The Doctor’s hearts would still be broken, of course, but the dull pain of grief is as familiar as breathing by now.

She'd be all right, in the end.

Her shoulders slump in relief, mind settled on a decision, leaving the Doctor to tilt her head and grin once she catches the dark haired woman's shifty eyes. "Dating Yaz? Amazing."

Groaning, Yaz muffles an exasperated smile into her palm. "I'm never inviting you for tea again, I hope you know that."

***************

When they stroll back to the TARDIS, there's a mixed crowd of Parisians and tourists mingling in the streets, attention glued to the sky as a rain of colorful fireworks brightens the mid-summer evening.

"Want to watch?" The Doctor asks, ducking into the flow of people filling the boulevard.

Yaz shakes her head, thoughts fixed on the cool fingers weaved between her own. She shuffles closer, leaning in to whisper against the taller woman's ear. "This is cool, but I've seen cosmic fireworks."

Chuckling, the Doctor's gaze drifts to the sky. "Nothing like a good, old human fireworks. You lot put so much thoughts into fitting colors together, it's beautiful."

"You just like watching rockets blow up."

The Time Lord concedes the point, tugging Yaz into the alley where the TARDIS landed.

"Nothing wrong with enjoying a harmless explosion, Yasmin Khan." She fires back, enjoying the way the dark haired woman shivers as she lowers her voice on her last name.

"You did that on purpose." Yaz grumbles, cheeks flushed and breath caught in her throat.

"Did I?" The Doctor teases, letting go of her date's hand to reach for her key, when they arrive in front of the ship.

Inspired by a sudden burst of courage, Yaz steps into the Doctor's space. Palms settling on her hips, she nuzzles down her neck, brushing her lips against the sliver of bare skin under her shirt’s collar. The Doctor’s hands flatten against blue wood.

"I win." Yaz whispers, biting back a grin at the quiet gasp drawn by her action. She slowly loosens her grip, allowing the alien to gather herself.

Making quick work of the lock, the Doctor motions Yaz forwards. "Winners go first." She says, features slacked in an unreadable expression.

Suspicious, Yaz slips through the gap between doors. Stepping across the two steps, she drifts towards the stairway that leads to the TARDIS’ hallways. A firm grip around her wrist makes her pause, gentle fingers pulling until the police officer backs into the console.

Before she can react, Yaz is pinned against cold metal, the body pressed against her own seemingly warm in contrast. The Doctor's arms land on either side of her, leaving her with a speeding heartbeat and held breath.

The Time Lord freezes, eyebrows knitted together. "Your heart is going really fast."

"Yeah, well..." Yaz starts, with a shaky bout of laughter. "You're really close."

"I do that to you?"

Yaz tilts her head back, taking in the Doctor's growing eyes that reflect a mix of surprise, joy and a hint of pride.

"Yes, you clueless nutter." Fingertips grazing the woman’s shoulders, Yaz pushes. "Are you going to properly kiss me, or are we spending the rest of the nig... Hmph."

The question hangs in the control room, unfinished, as the Doctor sneaks her arms around her waist and presses their lips together.

Biting back a breathless sigh at the warmth flooding through her chest, Yaz's fingers bunched into the Doctor's dark jacket, tugging her impossibly closer.

A palm shifts to cup the side of her neck, before Yaz mirrors the action, her fingers tangling with stray, short hair. The blond leans their foreheads together, prying at Yaz's lips until she's allowed to explore further, tongue carefully sweeping against the roof of her mouth.

A yelp interrupts the Doctor's slow exploration, leaving her frowning as Yaz gently pushes her back.

When she picks up on two more heartbeats coming from the top of the stairs, the Time Lord turns to find Ryan standing in front of Graham, his granddad's hand shoved against his mouth.

"Hello, boys." She offer, clearing her throat and ignoring the way her legs tremble. "Need anything?"

Ryan shakes his head, the edge of his knowing grin visible from under Graham's palm, as he's dragged back into the TARDIS' hallway. "We're good. Thanks, Doc."

Once the door slides shut, the Doctor turns to find Yaz openly glaring towards the spot where both men were standing. She chuckles, drawing brown eyes back to her.

"I was enjoying this." Yaz explains, fighting the heat she feels coloring her features.

"I could do it again." The Doctor responds, with a slow smirk. "If you want me to."

Grinning, Yaz pecks her cheek before entangling their fingers. "Not here."

Chapter Text

Yaz distractedly toys with the strap of her black helmet, hitting the heel of her boot against the red carpeted floor.

Her fingers itch for the weapon usually filling the holster on her right hip, a natural resting spot for her hand when she's wearing her uniform.

She's unarmed today though, a mandatory requirement of her first job after completing military school. Thoughts of that assignment tortured Yaz over the last week, as she went through all the protocol and traditions involved in graduating from training.

Few opportunities await new recruits, and the prospect of patrolling through a desert, or being in charge of security in a dull Gallifreyan town left Yaz indifferent. She was dreaming of something more... Exciting, no matter how unlikely her friends deemed her aspirations.

Of course, now that she's standing in the hall of the highest tower in the Citadel, Yaz longs for a boring, dusty tank that would take her to the Drylands.

Balancing her weight on the ball of her feet, she scans the empty lobby with a deepening frown.

"Oh, hi."

Startled, Yaz watches a man appear through a side door, almost dropping the loose helmet from her head.

"Sorry. Erm, just a minute." He says, scratching the back of his neck.

The stranger circles Yaz, heading for a table on the opposite side of the hallway. He falls heavily into a chair that protests with a loud squeak, rolling his eyes at the chaos of papers in front of him. "I leave for twenty minutes, and th..." He stops himself, as if remembering the soldier’s presence.

"Hello. Do you need help?"

Yaz wills her hands still, stifling the urge to fidget with a loose thread on her sleeve. "I'm sergeant Khan."

"Ryan Sinclair."

She nods, reaching for the sheet folded in the inner pocket of her heavy, black jacket. When she finds it, she hands the paper over to the man. "I've been assigned to the High Council protective detail, but I don't know where to go."

"You're working with my granddad!" Ryan exclaims, clasping her wrist with a happy grin after skimming through the first few lines.

The enthusiasm draws a genuine smile out of Yaz, as he awkwardly takes back his hand. "Sorry. I'm not good with all the protocol yet. It's a lot."

Ryan pauses, in an attempt to gauge just how honest he can be with Graham's new partner. "I was never supposed to work here, my granddad got me the job. My parents are from MidTown."

Yaz visibly brightens at the revelation, smiling. "It's all right, I'm from the Drylands. I don't think I'll be very good with any of this, don't know why they gave me this job." She blows out a long breath, shaking her head. "It all seems a bit... Posh."

Ryan laughs. "It is, I hate it. There's a couple of good people, if you know where to look. I'll introduce you to my granddad, he should be coming down in a mome.." He interrupts himself when he spots Graham’s clumsy fall through the last steps of the marble stairs. "Granddad!" The older man stumbles to his feet, raising his left thumb.

"I'm fine." Approaching the desk where Ryan is seated, he tilts his head when he notices the woman standing in front of him. "Hello."

"Sergeant Khan is your new partner."

Graham's shoulders slump in relief, as he rummages through his jacket's front pocket. "About time!" He says, taking out a sandwich and biting into the crust with gusto.

"I've been working both shifts for two days now. I love the Doc, but a man needs to sleep." Graham speaks through his first bite, pausing to gulp down the food before he goes on. "And she's the Doc, so keeping up with her involves a lot of running around the cit..."

"He always says that." Ryan cuts off, rolling his eyes.

"Yes, because it's the tr..."

"And complains about how sore and hungry he is."

The dark haired woman bites back a smile. "Explains the sandwich."

Ryan grins when she takes his side, offering a fist bump that Yaz returns with quiet laughter. The prospect of working with a partner already makes her new job less daunting, and the tension coiled in her stomach fades at the men's easy family dynamics.

"You can call me Yaz."

"She's been here for five minutes, and I'm already being ganged up on." Graham complains, his gruff voice contrasting the good natured smile twitching at the corners of his lips.

Once he's done with his lunch, he claps his hands together. "All right, cockle. What do you know about the job?"

His first day after training still haunts him, whenever Graham remembers a younger version of himself stuck between a merciless commanding officer and a vague assignment he had to fumble his way around, before an older soldier sat him down and explained how patrols were organized.

Turning to Yaz, Graham promises himself he'll keep an eye out for the young woman.

Yaz meets his gaze earnestly, mentally reviewing the short briefing she went through before leaving military school for the last time. "It's personal security, yeah? We're supposed to protect a member of the High Council."

"Is that all they told you?" Graham blinks, when Yaz nods. "Starting from the beginning, then." He sighs, sparing a disgruntled thought for the army's poor preparation of new recruits. Spotting the half panicked look his reaction prompts, he raises both hands calmly. "Don't worry. I'm here to help."

The woman gives a tight smile. "Thank you. Can you..." Yaz hesitates and swallows back her first question. 'Explain what I'm supposed to be doing' doesn't sound very professional. "Why are we working in teams?"

Graham's eyes widen in surprise, a reflex he quickly gets under control. "Well, you know who's nominated to the High Council, right?"

"Time Lords." Yaz responds, eyebrows knitted together.

"Yes. What do you know about them?"

"They're trained to be commanding officers, and politicians. That's all I know. I've heard rumors, but I tried not to pay attention."

"Why not?" Ryan asks, bluntly. "You're the first person I've met who isn't curious about them."

"I..." With a heavy sigh, Yaz forces away the long buried memories from her early childhood, along with the sting of emotions stirring in her chest. "I had a best friend, when I was little. She left for the Academy, and I never saw her again.”

"Sorry, Yaz." Graham sympathizes, lowering his voice as Ryan pats her shoulder.

"We can look for your friend. They have registers in the library, with every student that went through the Academy."

"Maybe." Yaz nods, tucking the subject in a corner of her mind.

No matter how hard she tried, staying completely away from gossip was impossible. The few bribes of information that trickled to her about Time Lords and their academy left Yaz terrified - both for what her best friend was going through, and for what she would be turned into - and unwilling to blindly accept Ryan's suggestion.

Instead, Yaz steels herself and steers the conversation back to her new job. "Can you explain why we work in teams?"

"Oh, because they don't sleep." Graham shrugs. "Unless they want to. Sleeping is a hobby for Time Lords. Guards work in teams, I cover the night shift and you have the day shift."

"Right." Yaz tilts her head, reviewing every bit of information she gathered. "Is there any specific threat I should know about?"

Graham rolls his eyes. "The most dangerous threat to the Doc's security is herself. There are rules though, that we both agreed on. I'll send you a copy, I made her write everything down."

"Rules?"

"Oh, yes. She used to drive me insane, kept sneaking out because she hates having someone follow her around. I give her time by herself, and she's more... Agreeable when I ask to slow down. She stopped disappearing too, it makes the job a lot less stressful."

Yaz blinks, confused by the dynamics described by Graham. Today is her first day though, and asking to change the rules might not be the best way to integrate what looks like a well oiled team.

"You'll be fine." Graham adds, when he spots the shadow of uncertainty in brown irises. "Promise. I'll even introduce you to the Doc."

When the older man regards her silently for a stretching moment, Yaz reaches for the helmet she placed on Ryan's desk. "Now? I'm ready, and you look tir..."

"Oh, no." Graham shakes his head. "First tip, if you're looking for the Doctor in any building, just wait near the door. She'll eventually walk - or run - out, and you don't have to search the whole place. That woman can't stay still for more than two minutes." He grumbles, drawing a chuckle out of Yaz.

Nodding, she crosses her arms and leans back against the nearest wall, joined by her new partner who closes his eyes and rests his head against the hard surface. Blowing out a long breath, Graham tries to ignore the exhaustion tugging at the edge of his thoughts.

"You'll hear stories." Ryan suddenly raises his head from where he's buried under a pile of papers, looking up at Yaz. "About the Doctor. I hear them everyday." He vaguely motions to the main entrance, and to the steady flow of visitors passing by his desk.

"Don't believe them." He states firmly, after a second of silence. "She's one of the good people working here." Pausing, Ryan gauges Yaz's reaction.

When he finds only a patient, dark gaze waiting to learn more, he lowers his voice. "The Doctor is the only person in this place who knows my name, besides my granddad. The others, they just go through the hallway and act like I'm part of furniture."

"I'm sorry, Ryan." Yaz smiles sadly. The man's job reminds her of the first days she spent away from home, lost in a crowd of faceless recruits. His advice slowly sinks in, and she frowns. "What sort of stories?"

Ryan and Graham exchange a knowing glance.

"I think she liked to cause trouble at the Academy. The reputation carried over to the High Council."

"It would help if she stopped sneaking into Low Town." Ryan confirms, shaking his head.

Yaz pauses at the mention of the sinister city. "I thought Time Lords weren't allowed in Low Town."

Graham's eyes grow wide, snapping to the young guard as his hands frantically wave around. "Never, ever tell the Doc she can't do something."

"Why not?" Yaz asks, raising a dubious eyebrow.

"She stole the moon last time it happened." Ryan offers offhandedly, going back to his mountain of paperwork.

"She what?"

Graham sighs, running fingers through his messy hair. "The man who worked with me before, he told her stealing a moon was impossible. She decided to prove him wrong."

Yaz's frown only deepens. "A member of the High Council stole Gallifrey's moon out of spite?" She repeats, shaking her head once Graham confirms. "Are we working for a Time Lord, or a five year old child?"

"Bit of both, if we're honest." The Doctor interjects, sauntering up to Ryan's desk.

***************

"Don't know what story you've been telling her, Graham, but you could at least give me a day before scaring off new people. I'll tell the General to complain to you, next time she has to change my security team."

Yaz's breath catches when she turns to face the newcomer, hit by a wave of recognition as she takes in the woman's hazel eyes, bright hair and the Northern accent coloring the quip.

"Hello! I'm the Doct..." The Time Lord freezes, blinking when the faint tug of distant, buried memory echoes through her head. "...tor. I know you." Whispering, she gasps as her voice breaks on the last word. "Yaz?"

Before the realization can sink in, the Doctor’s feet guide her forwards, until she's standing in Yaz’s space.

"You two know each oth... Ow." Ryan's question is cut short by Graham's sharp elbow hitting his ribs. At his granddad's insisting glare, he falls quiet.

Yaz doesn't even register the interruption, frozen. She gulps, shaky fingers slowly reaching for the Doctor's cheek as her mind grapples with the concept of seeing her long lost friend again. Pausing a breath away from skin, she's grateful for the steadying touch that circles her wrist.

The Doctor gasps as a spark of energy travels from her fingertips to her hearts, once she makes contact with Yaz's forearm.

Before she can wonder if the other woman felt it too, she's dragged forwards and squeezed into a crushing hug. With a noise embarrassingly close to a whimper, she reciprocates, tugging Yaz closer until there's no space left between them.

Sniffling, the dark haired woman takes a shuddering breath from her spot against the Doctor's collarbone. "You're taller. It's weird."

The blond's shoulders shake with a burst of silent laughter, as she rests her forehead against the side of Yaz's neck. "Would be a lot weirder if I was still the same height."

Yaz snickers, pushing gently until they're far enough to stare at each other in a loose embrace. Time seems to stop as she falls into soft, familiar eyes regarding her like she's the only person in the room. She struggles to string a sentence together, caught in a whirlwind of emotions when a voice cuts into their reunion.

"Are you having emotions?" A low drawl interrupts, from the main door. Yaz feels the Doctor stiffen, muscles going rigid under her hands as she steps back. "You know I hate when you have those, reminds me I can't."

"Not my problem, Master." The Doctor clears her throat, and Yaz can almost see the shift in her childhood friend. Taking a steadying breath, the blond sticks her hands in her pockets, balancing on the heels of her boots as she regards the stranger with the smallest smirk. "She's security, no reason to be jealous."

"Since when do you hug soldiers?"

Yaz twists her head when the stranger casually strolls closer, circling her with an interested gaze. Slowing once he faces the new guard, the Master dips his head and stares into dazed, dark eyes with an intensity that forces Yaz to consciously flattens her palms against the side of her leg to keep from fidgeting.

"She's not even your type."

"Stop it." The Doctor bites back her instinctive answer, scrambling to get the Master's attention away from Yaz. "I don't have a type. Are we going out, or are you going to stare at her all day?"

"We're leaving. I need to meet with Rassilon later." The Time Lord finally takes a step back, and Yaz blows out the breath she never realized she was holding.

"You're on first name basis with the Lord-President now?" The Doctor frowns, distracted from her concern for a split second.

The Master smirks, throwing a hand over her shoulders as his own security guard follows them to the entrance. "Ah, Doctor. He has a mission for us, I'll tell you about it once he gives me the details."

Ignoring the burst of dread suddenly twisting her stomach, the Doctor glances back at the group gathered around Ryan's desk. "Be back in an hour. I'll meet you in my chamber."

Her eyes linger on Yaz's, still grappling with the reality of seeing her again after almost twenty years. The younger woman barely has time to muster up a smile before the door closes over the Doctor and her friend.

Before Yaz can make sense of the mess of conflicting emotions running through her head, Ryan is excitedly speaking.

"You were friends with the Doctor! That's so cool!" He grips her wrist, with a playful grin. "Do you have any embarrassing stories?"

"I.. Yeah. I have a few." Flashes of memories Yaz forced herself to forget slowly emerges from the depth of her brain, and she has to bite back a smile when the image of a small, blond girl clinging to her at every occasion comes forward.

The Doctor lived in a barn, with a few other orphans Yaz liked to play with. She never joined in though, satisfied with watching other children from the safety of her room.

Yaz's curiosity brought them together, when she stayed behind one day. It took a lot of patience, a bit of gentle nudging, and a dash of persistence, but the girl confided in her, on a stormy day, while the rain was keeping most kids inside. She talked about how her parents died, how she was alone, and how scary the world was.

Yaz's intuitive problem-solving skills kicked in, and an oddly strong friendship was born from a child's promise of safety to another.

The dark haired woman still has no idea why the Doctor chose to trust her, but she can still remember years of laughter, and adventures, and a tiny hand gripping hers with all its strength along the way.

To this day, the last evening they spent together is still the worst moment of Yaz's life, between the tears and the knowledge that they wouldn't see each other again. It left her heartbroken and terrified for the girl she had sworn to protect, knowing she wouldn't be able to keep that promise.

Or so she thought.

"Hello? Gallifrey to Yaz?"

Ryan's voice snaps the young guard out of her memory. "Sorry." She shakes her head. "It's just... She's not really like I remember." Her frowns deepens as she's reminded of the way the Doctor casually discarded her, the moment that odd man entered the room. "I don't really know her, not anymore."

"It's been what, fifteen years?" Ryan shrugs. "People grow up."

"Bit more than fifteen. And I know, it's j..." An arm thrown over Yaz's shoulders interrupt her answer, dragging her in a half-huddle with Ryan and Graham. "Whoa."

"Shh. Listen. I've never seen the Doc react like when she recognized you." Graham whispers. "That's your friend, and that's who she really is. The Master..." He trails off, lowering his voice. "Nobody understands their relationship. They used to be best mates, now it's a lot more complicated. I tried to ask, but she keeps avoiding the subject."

Yaz grips his elbow. "Is he dangerous?"

"Yes." The reply is instant. "She won't admit it, but she knows. She runs interference whenever he talks to me."

"What can we do?" Ryan asks, and Yaz smiles at the eagerness in his voice. The Doctor's safety doesn't concern him, not with his paperwork-filled job, yet the quiet determination in his eyes leaves no doubt about his involvement.

“Nothing, until we know more." Graham smirks, turning to the woman at his side. "Maybe someone else could get answers."

"We haven't seen each other since we were children. She might not talk to me." Yaz frowns, and Ryan mirrors his granddad expression at her awkward shuffling.

"Can't hurt to try."

"Exactly." Graham takes a step back, motioning Yaz forwards. "Come on, I'll show you where the Doc's quarters are."

***************

Feet dangling from a balcony, Yaz enjoys the warm wind blowing through her hair from the highest tower of the castle. The Doctor still hasn't returned from her outing with the Master, allowing her to delve through memories of their shared childhood.

Her gaze catches somewhere in the sky, where the globe of glass covering the Citadel distorts the light of Gallifrey’s twin suns. Rays break out in tiny particles of light suspended through the sky, a sight that takes Yaz's breath away for a moment of amazed silent.

"Yaz?" The Doctor chances, hesitantly walking through her bedroom towards the wide-opened side door. "Sorry, I tried to get back as soon as I cou..." Emerging on the balcony, she freezes as she meets her childhood friend's startled gaze.

Snapped out of her musings by the Doctor's voice, Yaz glances back, scrambling for words for a long, stretching moment that reduces her entire world to a bright smile burnt in her memory.

"It's really you." The Time Lord breathes out, breaking the quiet standstill.

"Yeah. Hi."

"Hello." The Doctor's grin clings to her lips as she sinks to the floor, slinging her legs next to Yaz's under the balcony's gate.

After a dragging lunch with the Master, she slowly drifted through the city's empty streets, piecing together countless speeches. All the planned words fade from the Doctor's brain, leaving her to join her friend's contemplation of the landscape as she struggles to put order in her jumbled thoughts.

Silence lingers until Yaz's helmet beeps, the younger woman frowning as she grabs it. When the screen in the corner of her visor lights up with a new message, she snickers, scanning through the first lines.

“What is it?”

Yaz raises her head to find intrigued emerald eyes observing her. “Graham. He wants to add new rules to your agreement.”

“Like what?” The Doctor frowns, distracted from her quiet reflection.

“Stop teasing him about his reserves of snacks, no going to Low Town at night, no running away from him, n...” Yaz starts reading.

“Oi, hold on. Does he think I’ll just listen to everything you say?”

“Won’t you?” The challenge is punctuated with a hitched eyebrow that makes the Doctor bat at her shoulder.

“Shut up. He should be thanking me for all the running. It’s keeping him young.”

Yaz hums, smiling thoughtlessly as she goes through her list of messages. “According to Ryan, it’s mostly keeping him sore. And hungry.”

The Doctor huffs, leaning in to get a better look at Yaz’s helmet. “You can communicate with each other.”

“Yeah.” Yaz confirms, clearing her throat when she turns her head to find the Doctor’s practically resting on her shoulder. She clears her throat. “Yes. Messages pop up on the screen, but we have built-in earpieces too.”

“Can I see?”

Yaz hands over the helmet, watching the Doctor’s fingertips map out every angle, before she tries it on.

“Erm...”The Time Lord hesitates when her vision turns black. She tilts her head back, watching Yaz laughs from under the visor. “How do you see?”

“It’s all voice or touch activated. Just...” The dark haired woman interrupts herself, taping a finger over the side. “Visor off.”

The Doctor grins when the colored glass retracts into the helmet. “Clever. Can I keep it?”

“No!” Yaz exclaims, gently gripping both sides to take the equipment back. “No stealing either. You have a reputation, you know.”

The Doctor’s smile fades as she runs her hand through tousled hair. “Yeah. I know.”

Ryan’s first advice echoes in Yaz’s mind - “You'll hear stories, don't believe them” - and her fingers find a stray lock of blond hair, tucking it behind the Doctor’s ear.

“It used to drive me completely insane.” Yaz whispers, her touch lingering on the Doctor’s cheek.

“What?”

“That I couldn’t protect you anymore.”

The Doctor blinks, catching the fingers ghosting along her jawline. She takes Yaz’s hand and turns it, pressing a soft kiss against her palm to soften her next words. “I had to learn how to take care of myself.”

“I know.” Yaz nods. “I do. But I used to lay in bed at night, and think about all the rumors we heard. Time Lord Academy sounded awful, and I just wished I could help you. Somehow.”

“You did.” With a firm shake of the head, she halts Yaz’s attempt to protest. “No, you really did. Whenever I got scared, or sad, or when I just felt alone, I would remember you. Sometimes it’s almost like you were there.” The Doctor swallows through a wave of emotions as painful images of her time at the Academy flood her brain, stirring up an uneasy feeling she thought buried for good.

“I could almost feel your hand in mine sometimes, or hear your voice telling me I’m stronger than I think. You’re the only reason I even made it through initiation.” She shrugs, clearing her throat. “Then I met the Master on our first day of class. Having a friend helped.”

Caught somewhere between gratefulness and a bit of envy for a man she plans on investigating, Yaz repeats. “You've been friends since the first day.”

“Oh, yes. Think I had a bit of a crush on him, at first.” The Doctor smiles sadly, missing Yaz’s little frown. “We clashed in every class for years, but we still promised to travel together.” Hazel eyes raises to the sky. “Every star, he said. Every planet.”

“Sounds nice.” Yaz says once silence stalls, a growing tension in the background.

“It was. But lately...” The Doctor’s shoulders slump. “He’s been...” Glancing to Yaz, she lowers her voice. “I’m scared.”

“Of him?” Yaz suggests, body already humming with a mix of adrenaline and a fierce protective instinct she thought forgotten. “How scared ar...”

The Doctor shakes her head. "Not like you're thinking. They're turning him into everything he - we - used to hate. A power-hungry, vicious politician."

Confused, Yaz frowns as she struggles to follow the blond’s train of thoughts. "Who's they?"

Freezing, the Doctor's gaze snaps to the soldier’s, suddenly hyper aware of the sensitive information she's sharing with a woman she hasn't seen in almost twenty years. She hesitates, taking in the deep, brown eyes etched in her memory, the warmth of her friend's hand enveloping her own, and the way Yaz has already moved to angle her body between her and the balcony's only door.

Sighing, the Time Lord smiles despite herself. Trusting Yaz has never been a choice, it's an instinct engraved in her hearts for as long as she can remember. She meets Yaz's gaze, lowering her voice as she explains the recent predicament occupying most of her thoughts.

"The High Council. Well, I say that, but it's mostly the Lord-President." The Doctor sighs. "They used to push us out of the way, the Master and I. Give us harmless tasks that would keep us busy, and far from Gallifrey. One of our mission went wrong, we landed on a planet that was on the cusp of war."

Green-brown eyes harden as she remembers the specific mission. "We were supposed to check on their time traveling experiments, come home and report to the High Council. I went down to the labs, he decided to go talk to the King, and the next thing I know, there are tanks, and soldiers, and bombs everywhere." Consciously fighting back mental pictures tinted with fire, smoke, and the faint, metallic scent of blood, she continues.

"We made it back to the TARDIS - still not sure how - and I'm standing there, with the screams of injured people looping through my head while I'm trying to drive." The Doctor’s stare drifts towards the double sunset, glad for the growing cover of shadows. "Know what he did?"

"What?" Yaz murmurs, blinking.

"He laughed, and went on about how much fun he had."

There's a vague, dreadful impression seeping through Yaz's thoughts, but she forces herself to lighten the mood. "He likes trouble, then." Mustering up a smile, she squeezes the fingers tangled with her own. "Sounds like someone I've heard a lot about today."

"I'm reckless, Yaz. And I can't say no to a challenge." The Doctor breathes out, eyes shining in the near darkness. "But him... He loves chaos. He's fascinated by war, and destruction, and power." With a self-depreciating grimace, she shakes her head. "Guess I should have known when he decided to call himself the Master."

"But..." Yaz starts, still struggling to gauge the threat level for the Doctor. "You're friends, right?"

"That's what scares me." She admits, biting her lip. "What if it's in us? I don't want to be like him." The Doctor whispers, wording the fear nestled deep into her brain for the first time. "But we used to be the same, and now he's lost. What if they get to me next?"

“I won’t let them.” Yaz states, voice wobbling with fiery determination. “I swear.”

It’s a ridiculous promise to make, Yaz realizes. If the Lord-President or any member of the High Council were to enter the room and send her away, she would be powerless. Which doesn’t keep her from continuing, bringing her hands up to frame the Doctor's face with gentle determination. “I won’t let them separate us again. I’m your friend, whatever happens.”

The Doctor leans in, resting their foreheads together as she basks in the easy, steadying relationship she always had with the younger woman. The warmth of their bound quiets the worried voice in her head, slowing the racing hearts in her chest. “I’ve missed you, Yasmin Khan.”

Yaz’s breath catches at the name. She’s Yaz to her friends, Khan to her more casual coworkers. Nobody has called her Yasmin since the day she left her family home.

“I’ve missed you too, Theta.” She murmurs low in her throat, almost mouthing the words. The Doctor touches her index finger to Yaz’s lips.

“You have to forget that name. I’m sorry.”

Yaz’s smile spreads against her fingertip. “I know. I had to, just this once.”

The Time Lord mirrors the expression, surprised by the affectionate understanding that replaces the resentment she usually feels, whenever the Master throws her real name around.

“You’re going to change everything.” The Doctor whispers in a moment of rare self-awareness, her voice showing no trace of worry.

“Is that bad?” Yaz frowns.

The Doctor pulls her friend closer until she’s nestled against her side, head bending to rest against a nearby shoulder. Yaz circles her waist with one hand, using the other to card through soft, pale hair.

“It’s amazing.”

Chapter Text

Yaz's world is on fire when she comes to, blurring the edges of her vision.

Forcing her eyes open, she vaguely registers the weakness in her legs when her boots drag against the floor, as she's carried by two faceless shadows up a long set of stairs.

Head lolling to the side, Yaz pulls a deep breath into her lungs, whimpering when a bolt of pain ignites the side of her chest.

The sharp ache in her ribs travels through her brain, piercing through the foggy sleepiness slowing Yaz's thoughts, once she's forced to stand on the highest step.

The pairs of foreign hands gripping her upper arms dig into her skin, blunt nails cresting a mark in Yaz’s star littered jumper. With a silent grunt, she blinks and kick starts the part of her mind shaped by police training. Carefully observing her surroundings, she wills herself still in an attempt to look unconscious to her captors.

Besides the two people on either side of Yaz, there's a tall silhouette standing directly in front of her - a redhead man, wearing some sort of cape, clasped to a medieval style armor - that throws a shadow over the small crowd huddled in the stairs behind them.

About a dozen faces stare at the dark haired woman from afar, all with different degrees of compassion, she notices. The pitying looks lurking in the strangers' eyes don't reassure Yaz about the fate awaiting her once they reach whichever destination she's being carried towards.

Closing her eyes, she gathers her most recent memories, struggling to remember how she fell prisoner to those people.

Between a competition of some sport halfway between tennis and football, an attempt to cook lunch with Ryan and the Doctor, and an afternoon spent in front of an odd VR game, Yaz can only remember bribes of a regular day on the TARDIS.

Since the Doctor loosened her rules about how much time the humans can spend on board, - the alien used to cling to a vague limit of two days before she returned her friends to Sheffield, Yaz still doesn't know why - they found themselves hanging around the ship often.

Her attachment to the down time they spend together grows a little more with each of their adventure, as the realization that her newfound family could be taken away in a split second sinks in.

Nothing in the mundane activities of the day explains how Yaz finds herself held up by two strangers, a sharp pain burning through the side of her torso.

When the man standing in front of her fidgets with the hem of his cape, straightening the shiny material before moving forwards, she notices the massive castle door looming over the group.

Knocking, the man exchange a grin with the stranger grasping her right arm. Following his gaze, Yaz’s breath catches in her throat. The glimpse of the other man's black beard, pointy teeth and ring-pierced eyebrow sends a flow of memory running through her brain.

***************

Ryan throws the controller on the ground, exasperated when the screen goes black and his character falls off his horse. Again.

"Stupid game. How's anyone ever supposed to make it throu..."

"Think you're just rubbish at it." The Doctor interrupts his complain from her spot on the purple sofa, tongue peeking out of her teeth as she tries to follow Yaz's instructions. The younger woman snickers at Ryan's offended frown.

"Stop laughing." The blond sighs when her friend's head moves. "This is way harder than I thought."

"Maybe you're just rubbish at it." Ryan fires back, stretching his arms over his head. "Why do you want to learn how to plait hair anyway?"

"Shh. I'm trying to think."

Yaz leans back against the Doctor's knee, doing her best to stay still as the other woman's fingers wrap around a few strands at the back of her neck.

"You're doing good, don't listen to him." She encourages, ignoring the pleasant shivers running through her neck when fingertips brush against her scalp.

Ryan rolls his eyes, falling back into an armchair. "You just want someone to do your hair for you." He says, with the hint of a smirk.

Yaz does her best to fight off a blush under Ryan's knowing stare, conscious of her friend's awareness of her complicated feelings for the Doctor. He confronted her about her crush a couple of weeks ago, and her babbling denial did nothing to change his mind.

"Shut up." The weak answer only brightens the playful spark in the man's pupils, but she's saved from further teasing by a shrill alarm echoing through the TARDIS.

The Doctor jumps to her feet, almost kneeing Yaz in the head as she scrunches her nose in apology.

"Sorry. TARDIS picked up on something, see you in the control room."

Graham sticks his head through the door a few seconds later, while Yaz is still trying to tame her tousled hair in a style that's at least presentable, Ryan waits patiently.

"How concerning is the alarm? Should I get an extinguisher? First aid kit?"

"The Doctor says to meet her in the control room." Yaz shrugs, throwing her leather jacket on her shoulders. "We should go."

When the group finds the Time Lord, she's pursing her lips and giving a disgruntled look to the console. She raises her head when she notices her friends' presence.

"It's a distress call."

Yaz, Ryan and Graham gather around, scattering on the platform as an odd, charged silence lingers.

"What's the catch?" The police officer prompts, when the Doctor keeps quiet.

Yaz can differentiate the sorts of distress calls by now, and this is definitely a tricky one. The kind that makes the Doctor hesitates, before diving head first into danger to save people.

"It's on Raegol. I don't like that planet at all."

"Why not?"

The Doctor sighs. "They're very hung up on hierarchy."

"What’s that supposed to mean?" Graham wonders.

"They rank species. If you're low on their scale, you don't get much rights."

"Much rights..." Ryan repeats. "Are we talking slavery, or being a second class citizen?" His voice turns pensive with the bittersweet memory of their trip to Alabama.

The casual contempt lurking in strangers' eyes as they wander the streets of Montgomery left a burning imprint on his brain, but he knows visiting the same place just a century earlier - before the american Civil War - would have been much, much worse.

The Doctor meets his gaze with weary eyes. "Depends on how low you are."

"And how low are we? Humans?" Yaz asks, practical.

"Erm..." The blond musters a smile, scratching the back of her neck. "You're pretty much the worst one."

"Oh, great. Nothing to make us feel welcomed like being told we're on the low end of the social scale. What do we do? We can't just ignore a distress call." Graham points out.

"No, we can't." The Doctor confirms, pausing as she takes in the determination shaping her friends' features. "I'll go. See what's happening, and I'll come back for you. Maybe we can find a way t..."

"You're not going alone." Yaz states, eyes hardening. "Where's your species in their hierarchy anyway? Maybe you're at the slave level too."

"I'm not ranked." The Doctor shrugs, with the same casual dismissal she hides behind, whenever personal information is relevant. "I'll just do a bit of recognition, it's not dangerous."

Graham and Ryan nod reluctantly, with Yaz eventually joining in a mumbled approval. The Doctor smiles, ghosting her hand along the police officer's back on the way to the door.

"I'll be fine. See ya" She says, her body already halfway out of the ship before she slows, peeking her head back into the control room. "Do not follow me. I'm serious."

Graham rolls his eyes. "I know we're only humans, but we got it the first time. Go."

The Doctor nods, the door clicking shut behind her as she leaves a disappointed silence behind.

***************

The Doctor's departure is the last solid image in Yaz's mind, the rest of her day more fragmented sensations than real memories.

An agreement to take a look outside the TARDIS, a loud scream drawing the group away from the safety of the ship, a woman wearing a heavy leather collar being beaten by the bearded man now standing on Yaz’s right side, and his toothy, sinister grin.

The cape wearing stranger interrupted what turned into a brawl, with his booming voice, seconds before the police officer shoved Ryan and Graham back towards the alley where they landed.

Unfortunately for Yaz, a shadow towered over her before she could dash in the same direction, leaving her surrounded by a crowd of angry Raegolians.

The man who seemed to be in charge whipped out some sort of scanner from his cape, jotting down the names and species of every person involved in the altercation in a little notebook.

Once the dark haired woman’s turn came, the man's face hardened. After a quick, hushed conversation with the first stranger and his victim, - the girl’s swollen eyes glued to the ground - he pressed the sharp end of his device against Yaz’s ribs.

The current of electricity that sparked through her body left her too weak to resist the two tall silhouettes gripping her upper arms, as she was carried away on the cusp of consciousness.

Which is what brought her here, along with the small crowd of bystanders who witnessed the altercation, facing what seems to be a castle's metallic gate.

The door squeaks open, drawing a low groan out of Yaz when one of her captor yanks her forwards. The next part of her journey is lost to a blinding agony, as she tries to shake off his grip and walk on her own. She earns a sharp elbow to her ribs for her efforts.

When the pain dulls and Yaz feels like she can breathe again, she is being held up in the middle of a room that leaves her breathless, despite her dire situation.

Between the sparkling marble floor and rows of pillars stretching across both sides of a rich, burgundy carpet, it's the beautifully carved golden throne that catches her attention. It reflects the sunlight coming through the panel of glass covering the opposite wall, glowing like a firefly in the middle of a warm, summer night.

The chair is prompted up on a wooden platform, where a man clad in all black is standing. He promptly makes his way down the three steps, gaze flickering between Yaz and the small crowd gathered around her.

"What is it, Breo?" He asks, addressing the man wearing a cape. "I'm holding audiences."

Yaz perks up at the new information, eyes searching through a long line of people stretched near the opposite wall. The Raegolians regard her with a wide variety of emotions, going from polite curiosity to a disapproving shake of the head. Nobody moves to help, and she lets out a disappointed sigh.

"This won't take long, Sir. James wants to claim the girl. She's human." The man - Breo - replies, the material fastened to his armor swirling behind him as he approaches the king.

"Oi, hold on." Yaz objects, a spark of fear traveling up her spine as she assumes James is the cruel man she stopped from beating the girl. "I'm not from this planet, I hav..."

Another elbow to her ribs, and Yaz tries to bend over, whimpering as she’s held forcefully upright.

"You don't have to hit her." The King pauses, capturing Yaz's attention. "And the random claiming of humans have been outlawed. You're Hand of the King, Breo. I'm expecting you to enforce my decrees, not act like some sort of thug."

"The human stops him from disciplining one of his slaves. Interference is a crime punishable by..."

"I know the law, thank you." The King interrupts, worrying his bottom lip as his eyes slide to the floor. "Witnesses?" He finally asks, with another, longer sigh.

"All those people, Sir." Breo replies, gesturing to the small group bowing behind Yaz and her two captors.

"He was hurting that kid." She protests again, grinding her teeth when she spots James’ glare. He shakes his head, but doesn't hit her, a small victory that serves as encouragement.

"I don't know about your planet, but hurting children is wrong, where I'm fr..." She cuts herself off, catching a glimpse of Breo's hand disappearing into the inner pocket of his cape.

The Hand of the King flaunts his device, pointing the sharp, glowing end in Yaz's direction. Scrambling back, her feet slip against the floor as she's held in place by the tight grip around her biceps.

"I wouldn't do that."

Yaz freezes, shoulders slumping with a long, relieved sigh, as her tired gaze finds the Doctor and watches her slow approach of the group.

Tilting her head, Yaz narrows her eyes. The hurried, chaotic - almost clumsy - energy she associates with the Doctor is replaced by measured, controlled steps. There’s a sharp edge that turns the usually sparkling emerald gaze cold.

The Doctor practically prowls until she standing in Breo’s space, the man backing away on instinct. The corners of the blond’s mouth twitch in a smirk that makes a shiver run down Yaz’s spine.

"You're not... Allowed to interfere." Breo hesitates, frowning.

"People have been saying that to me for a very long time. I don't usually listen." The Doctor fires back, meeting the man's uncertain words with smooth confidence that leaves Yaz reeling.

"Do you know that girl?" The King cuts into the conversation, running a hand through his thinning hair.

"She's mine." The growled possessiveness steals Yaz's breath, her eyes going wide as her beard-sporting captor complains.

"Now, wait. I'm trying to be patient, but I petitioned the King first. I was legally disciplining my slave, and she tried to stop me." He pauses, his frown deepening at the prospect of an easy addition to his household sliding through his fingers. "And I have Thijarians ancestors, so whatever species you are doesn't hav..."

"We’ll see about that." The Doctor ignores the half-threat, facing Breo with a more relaxed posture. The Hand of the King stares until she raises an impatient eyebrow, hashing out her next words. "Look my species up."

He fumbles for the device, shining its light into green-brown eyes, while the Doctor crosses her arms. Taking a look at the display, Breo's jaw slacks as he stumbles away from the alien.

"The girl is yours." He whispers, grasping for both men still hanging onto Yaz's elbows. "Come on. We're leaving."

"What? No, I'm n..."

"You're on your own, James." Breo replies as he leaves the room with a dismissive shrug. "I'm not fighting a Time Lord."

"A Ti..." Bravado draining out of him, the man gulps, dipping his head as he flees the confrontation.

His friend scurries after him from Yaz's other side, leaving the younger woman to crumble on the floor as her weight lands on weakened legs.

Shuffling to her knees, Yaz is grateful when a pair of brown boots appear in her line of vision. The Doctor crouches in front of her, features scowled in a neutral expression while her fingers bunch into the collar of a leather jacket and pull roughly. Yaz's arms reflexively shoot up, gripping the blond's hips to steady herself.

"Sorry." The apology whispered in her ear does nothing to tame the dark haired woman's racing heart, when a warm breath ghosts along her cheek.

"Bit of a tight spot, Yaz. I'm fairly sure the king is on our side, but all the other people expect me to threaten you. Think you can look scared until we're alone with him?"

"How..." Yaz starts, wincing at the sore ache in her throat as she tries to form words. "You want to be alone with the K..." She coughs, gritting her teeth together. "Him."

The Doctor's grip shifts to her shoulders, putting the smallest distance between them. "What's wrong?"

Yaz breathes out a weary chuckle, vaguely motioning to her stomach. "You were right. They don't like humans at all."

Fingers itching to examine her friend's injury, the Doctor frowns and smooths back stray, dark hair against Yaz's forehead, distracting herself. "What did they do to you?"

The police officer blinks, caught in the contrast between the gentle touch and the cold anger coloring the alien's words. "Don't. We need to focus, someone needs our help."

A grim nod before a steady arm curls around Yaz's back. "All right. But I'm taking a look later."

Nodding, Yaz clumsily gets to her feet, doing her best to support her own weight. She wants nothing more than to lean on the solid, friendly presence at her side, but part of her brain reminds her that she should be acting wary of the Doctor.

Staying upright is a challenge, as Yaz trudges her way to the line of people expecting an audience with the King. She fights against a blur traveling through her vision, pushing away the burning sensation sparked along her torso.

The Doctor notices her friend's tentative steps, biting back the pull drawing her closer to Yaz's side. She glances around the room in search of a distraction, when she spots the crowd openly gawking at her.

With the smallest grin, she decides to use the attention to her advantage, raising her voice to address the King.

"Can w... I request an audience, Sir? A private one."

"Yes, of course." The man's shoulders sag a touch, and the Doctor frowns at the hint of relief in his voice. "Public audiences are over for today. I'll be happy to meet with all of you tomorrow."

Lining up at the announcement, the Raegolians exit the room in a contrasting mix of disappointment, and excited whispers. The King sends away the two soldiers guarding the entrance with a swift wave, leaving him alone with the Time Lord and her exhausted human. Wringing his hands together, he approaches the two women.

"I'm very sorry about all this. It's just... Our laws..." He stumbles, shaking his head.

"With all due respect Sir, your laws ar..." The Doctor starts, anger flaring up in her eyes.

"Barbaric. And vile, and the disregard for certain alien species makes me sick." He completes her thoughts, palms rubbing against his wrinkled forehead. "I know. It's why I need your help."

The request is the last thing Yaz's brain registers, before the pain screaming through her body wins the fight against her desire to stay conscious, leaving her falling against the Doctor's side.

***************

When she comes to, Yaz's eyelids flutter open to see a stone wall flying through her field of vision.

Moving her feet, she frowns when she understands she's suspended mid air, only for a voice to protest somewhere over her head.

"Hmph." The Doctor objects, shifting her grip under the younger woman's knees. "Stop wriggling. This was a lot easier when I was a bloke."

"Carried a lot of people around?" Yaz teases, fighting the heat coloring her cheeks when she realizes the Doctor is carrying her through a long hallway.

"Yes. Wasn't that hard though, I was a lot taller back then." She pauses, scrunching her nose. "I miss being tall."

Yaz chuckles, shaking her head as she tries to get her bearings. "I can walk, I'm fine." She protests, weakly.

"You're definitely not fine. The King offered us a room, it's not far." The Doctor frowns, unhappy. "At least I don't think it's far. The TARDIS has shorter corridors than th..." She trails off once she reaches the red, wooden door mentioned by the apologetic man.

"There we go." Biting her tongue, she shuffles the key in her right hand, leaning back to support most of Yaz's weight against her upper body.

The door gives way after a few seconds of fumbling, and the Doctor steps closer to the bed, gently letting her friend fall against the mattress.

When Yaz tries to sit up, a firm palm covers her shoulder. "Don't move." With a nod, she relents and watches the alien take off her coat, throwing it on a nearby chair.

Kneeling next to the bed, the Doctor tugs her sleeves up and reaches for the hem of the police officer's jumper, waiting for Yaz's mumbled consent before slowly rolling up the material.

The Time Lord gasps when she finds the source of her companion’s pain, a sizable burn that spreads from the bottom of her ribs on the left side, covering the skin down to her hip.

"Yaz." The Doctor hisses, poking the skin with the tip of her thumb, drawing a whimper. "What did they do to you?"

"It's not that bad. Honest. It just hurts when I breathe."

"All right then." The Doctor lets out a chuckle, a strangled sort of noise that earns her a concerned stare from Yaz.

Shaking her head, she snaps out of whatever sad memory she was caught into. "I can help, if you want." Punctuating the offer with a wriggle of her fingers, the Doctor's hand starts glowing in the darkened atmosphere of the room.

Yaz gasps, touching golden fingertips gently. "What's that?"

"Regeneration energy."

"Like, when you..." Yaz hesitates, frowning. "Die?"

"Hm. It can heal too."

"And it won't hurt you?" The younger woman clarifies, a serious lilt in her voice.

"Nah. I've got plenty left. Let me help?"

A fleeting nod later, the Doctor flattens her palm against her stomach. Her touch is cold and light against Yaz's torso - a welcomed relief after almost an hour of scalding pain - and she fails to bite back a thankful moan.

The Time Lord waits until sparkling particles weave through every part of the injury, watching as the burn slowly fades into smooth dark skin. Once she's done, she inhales shakily and raises her head to meet a curious brown gaze.

"What's wrong?" Yaz wonders. There's an underlining of seriousness in her friend's attitude, her careless quips from earlier dimmed by a shadow swimming in her pupils. "You're being quiet."

"I'm not..." The Doctor trails off, sighing at the easiness with which Yaz can read her. "The King asked for my help."

"Our help." The police officer corrects, raising a dubious eyebrow when the Doctor shakes her head.

"It's too dangerous for any of you here. I'll drop you lot home, and come ba..."

"Nope." Yaz cuts off, unwavering. "I'm with you, remember?"

The Doctor screws her eyes shut against the mental image of Yaz's steady support on Ranskoor Av Kolos. "You can't. Not this time."

Deciding to change her approach, Yaz avoids a direct confrontation. "What does he need help with?"

"He's trying to outlaw slavery." The Doctor blinks at the sudden twist in the conversation. "From what he s..."

"What do you mean, trying?" The younger woman interrupts. "He's the King, slavery is wrong. It's not a hard decision to make."

The blond smiles at Yaz’s usual visceral reaction to any sort of unfair situation. "He's going to have a revolution on his hands, if he just declares slavery illegal. It takes time to change an enti..."

"I don't care. Did he go outside? Because that man was about to beat a teenager with a stick, Doctor. And I was wrong for stopping him."

"Yaz, I'm not advocating for slavery." Biting her lip to hold back a fond smile, the blond shrugs. "And I'd probably go faster than what he wants to do. But I don't help with that sort of things anyway, takes too long."

"Hm." Yaz nods, clearing her throat when she realizes she went off on her friend about something she has no control over. "Right. Sorry. What does he want with us then?"

The Doctor sighs, catching the way Yaz included herself in the solution. "There's been a few assassination attempts. He wants to know who's behind it."

"Police work." Grinning, Yaz ignores the tired hand scrubbing down the Doctor’s face. "You know I'm the best person to help with that."

"You can't stay. They... Yaz, people know you're human, and that we're together."

"Is that..." Yaz frowns, her brain stuttering with the Doctor's last sentence. "A problem? They can't know we're friends?"

"We can't be friends. You're not even considered a person here." Pleading hazel eyes snap to Yaz's, begging the younger woman to understand. "I can't protect you."

"But the same people..." Yaz pauses, remembering what happened in the throne room earlier. "They think I... I'm yours"

She swallows, meeting the Doctor's gaze as she breathes out the end of her sentence. "And they were scared of you."

The memory fleshes out in her mind, Yaz making a mental note to question the alien about Time Lords later, once she agrees to let her stay. “They’ll leave me alone.”

"Well, yes." The Doctor reluctantly confirms. "It's not helping, they think you're my... They think you belong to me." She scrunches her nose, unhappy. "I don't want to treat you like they treat humans here."

"You have to." Yaz states, gaze steady when she watches the blond head shake. "To keep me safe. Because I'm not leaving you alone, Doctor. There's a killer running around, someone needs to watch your back."

Lips parted on a last attempt to protest, she quiets when Yaz raises a bold hand to cup her cheek and rubs gently under her eye.

"And what if the assassin is human?” Pushing, she finds her voice after a lingering silence. “You'll never be able to approach them."

She watches the Doctor's features twist as her last argument lands, before she leans into Yaz’s touch.

"You understand how your species is treated here, right? You'll only be able to talk to other humans, you'll have to do whatever I tell you to do, and I'll..." The Doctor trails off, pursing her lips in disapproval. "I can't be your friend in front of them. I'm your..."

"Owner. I know." Yaz completes, with the same contempt in her voice. "I don't like it, but those people need help." She snaps, mind filled with flashbacks of a girl in an alley, being beaten by an angry man. "I trust you."

"What if I don't trust myself?" The Doctor breathes out, and the wobble in her voice guides Yaz's empty palm to the ones still covering her stomach. She presses against her friend's fingers, waiting until hazel eyes open to meet her own.

"Then trust my judgement. You won't hurt me."

"Fine." The Doctor gives in, forehead falling against the mattress from where she's kneeling on the floor. "You're right."

"We're staying?"

"We're staying."The Doctor confirms, and Yaz moves her hand to the top of a blond head.

Her fingers tangle in short, tousled hair, as Yaz focuses on the soft texture to silence the little voice in her mind, wondering exactly what she got herself into.

Chapter Text

"Captain Log, Day 1013." Yaz starts, sinking into the worn out leather of the cockpit's seat.

The computer comes to life, reflecting an image of her worn out features that matches the old equipment littered around her. With a sigh, she ignores the bags under her eyes and wills herself to focus.

"No incident to report today." Which is a small miracle, considering the condition of their ship, the USS Sheffield.

What was supposed to be a week-long exploratory mission through the galaxy of Thunder Bay turned into an almost three-year stay away from Earth, when their light-speed navigation system fell apart.

Neither the spacecraft nor the crew was ready to handle that sort of long trip, and as the captain, it was Yaz's job to keep everything in working condition - including team moral.

Yaz purses her lips as she tries to remember the new trajectory they settled on over dinner.

"Our new course will take us closer to the galaxy of Agrao. We're hoping to find assistance, or at least a form of life on one of its seventy-two habitable planets. People could help us procure the necessary equipment to repair the navigation system. Or at least a way to communicate with Earth..." She pauses, lowering her voice. "Or just someone new to talk to."

Fingers aimlessly twitching on the arm chair, she blows out a long breath. "Anything."

While Yaz is grateful for Ryan and Graham's - the mechanic and pilot, respectively - steady support, spending years talking with the same two people can be exasperating. There's only so much they can learn about each other, and the number of distraction on a ship like theirs is limited.

Rubbing her temples with her index fingers, Yaz falls back against the backrest. A blossoming headache burns through her thoughts, leaving her in a struggle to conclude her logs.

"Over." She mumbles, the screen turning back to black in the next second. "I'll do better tomorrow." She sighs to herself, looking around the empty control room.

Most instruments are powered down, their default state when the ship is drifting. She'll give instructions to get on their new course tomorrow, knowing Graham and Ryan are already trying to establish a protocol that would allow them to use as little fuel as possible.

Not that it matters, since the ship is mostly powered by solar energy - which makes it quite easy to recharge - but Yaz prefers to stay on the safer side of procedures. The light-speed system had three fail-safes, and it still wasn't enough to prevent it from overheating.

Lost in her memory, the captain almost jumps out of her chair when the communication light turns to blue, Ryan's voice filling the room.

"Yaz?"

The woman insists members of her crew call each other by their names, leaving the stuffy ranks for official reports.

"Yes, Ryan?"

"Well... Erm... You better come see this. In the engine room."

Yaz frowns at the uncharacteristic hesitation. "What is it?"

"No, really. You won't believe me."

"Ryan, if it's another one of your pranks, I'm putting you on cleaning duty for the next mon..."

"No, cockle." Graham's deeper voice interrupts her threat. "You need to come see this."

Yaz frowns. Ryan's habit of playing pranks is part of her routine by now, but Graham never encourages him. With a sigh, she stands and heads for the exit, hoping she's not about to walk into a trapped room.

Between the pain in her head, the recent lack of sleep and the heavy burden she carries daily on her shoulders, her patience is wearing thin today.

***************

"It's a police box." Yaz states, circling the odd object.

Both men nod silently, wide eyes glued to the blue box, a safe distance away.

"You're telling me it just... Appeared in the engine room."

Again, a pair of identical nods is the only answer Yaz gets, when she stares suspiciously at them. "You can't be serious."

"Look at the size of it." Ryan counters, finding his voice. "It's not us."

"He's right, Yaz. We have four rooms, don't you think you would have seen it sooner?"

The dark haired woman has to reluctantly agree, frowning at the foreign object. "I guess. What is it then?"

"Maybe it's a spaceship." Ryan whispers.

"A space ship that looks like a police box." The older man repeats, skeptical.

"Well, it teleported here, Graham. It's some sort of ship."

The grumpy reply is lost, when Yaz advances and Ryan protests. "What are you doing?"

"I'm pulling to open." Yaz shrugs, pointing to the sign. "That's what it says here."

"What if it's a trap?" Ryan suggests, taking a step back.

"We've been stuck here for three years, Ryan." The captain gently reminds him. "If this... Thing is a chance for us to get home, I'm taking it." She sizes the handle, pulling carefully, before putting a bit more force into it when the door refuses to budge.

"Well..." Graham frowns, after joining Yaz's efforts with his grandson. "I don't think it opens. Maybe it's just a box."

"That randomly popped up in the middle of our spaceship." Yaz adds, scratching the back of her neck as Ryan leans back against the sign. "We don't even have them on Earth anymore, not since everyone has personal com."

"It looks cool. Can we keep it? I could use it as stora... Whoa." His initial sentence ends abruptly, the door bursting open and leaving him to land clumsily against a... Metallic floor?

Frowning, Ryan raises to his elbows, jaw slacking once he takes in his surrounding. "Oh."

"Wow." Yaz completes, as she tries to jump start her brain, her eyes travelling across the massive room hidden inside the police box. Graham’s grip on her shoulders tightens by the second.

"It's bigger on the inside." He whispers to himself. "How can it be bigger on the inside?"

The stranger standing in the threshold seems just as stunned, green-brown eyes flickering between Ryan and the two standing crew members. "He... Llo? This is not London, is it?"

"London?" Graham repeats, frowning. "We're in space!"

"Oh." The woman replies, eyebrows knitting together. "Did you send out a distress call?"

"Three years ago." Yaz answers this time, clearing her throat. "Can I ask who you are, ma'am? And why did you land on our spaceship?"

Scrunching her nose, she shakes her head. "I'm the Doctor. And I guess I'm here to answer your call? Bit late though, sorry about that." She lowers her voice. "She's not as reliable as she once was."

"The Doctor? What kind of name is that?"

The newcomer frowns. "I don't go around making fun of your name... ?" She trails off, a lilt in her voice.

"Graham."

"Yaz."

"Ryan." The younger man adds, scrambling to his feet. "When you said ‘she's’ not reliable, you're talking about your ship, right? I can take a look, if you want." He creeps closer to the stairs, stepping on the first one before a hand firmly grabs his left shoulder and guides him to the door.

"No, thank you." With a shake of her head, the Doctor pushes him, shutting the door behind her back. “I wish it was a mechanical problem." She sighs. "Now, how can I help?"

"This is the USS Sheffield. We left Earth three years ago to explore the Thunder Bay Galaxy. Our light-speed navigation system broke down in the first week, and we've been drifting since then." Yaz automatically recites, still trying to wrap her mind around how this impossible woman just appeared out of thin air.

The Doctor seems to take the quickly unfolding events in stride, tilting her head to examine the room. "It's there, right?" She asks, tentatively poking at the mess of tubes and levers powering the ship. "That's the drive and that's... Oh." She scrunches her nose apologetically. "It overheated. There's nothing anyone can do. You'd need to build a new one."

Yaz muffles a disappointed groan against the palm of her hand, caught in a roller coaster of conflicting emotions. Despite herself, there's something about the stranger's take-charge attitude that made her believe for a second that they could be on their way ho...

"So, you can't help us?" Graham clarifies, with a deep sigh.

"Well, not with your ship. I can take you home though."

"Really?" Ryan wonders, while his granddad clamps a hand over his arm in shock. Yaz finds herself blinking again, the constant feeling of being tipped out of balance by the Doctor's every sentence grating on her nerves.

"Yeah." The blond strolls back to the box, knocking against the side. "Still the best ship in the universe, not matter how old she's getting."

"What are we waiting for?" Ryan jumps, a slow grin spreading over his face. "I'm so ready to feel solid ground under my feet again."

"I miss my bed. And real food." Graham adds, both men turning to get Yaz's approval.

The captain waves them off. "Go. I just need to get... Some stuff. I won't be long." The dark haired woman turns her back, the heels of her boots clicking as she makes her way through the single hallway of the USS Sheffield.

***************

Slumped in the captain's chair, Yaz squeezes her head between her hands in a poor attempt to compose herself. She lost all sense of time a while ago, when her gaze was still aimlessly traveling through the room.

Taking in every instrument that would never serve again, she tried to understand the knot of sadness tightening her chest, until the background pain in her skull burst into a full headache, leaving her cursing the pounding against her temples.

The familiar beep signaling the opening of doors snaps Yaz out of her thoughts, and she raises her eyes to find the odd stranger strolling into the room, trailing her fingers along the walls.

"I took a closer look at your drive." The Doctor says, sinking into Ryan's chair, and giving it a twirl. "There's nothing you could have done. It was always going to blow up the second time you activated it." Her feet land on the ground, bringing the chair still when she faces Yaz. "Wasn't your fault."

Yaz breathes out through her nose, curiously observing the woman staring at her. Between her tousled blond hair, gentle smile and understanding gaze, she looks young. But there is something else - an out-of-place spark in the depth of her hazel eyes - that intrigues the human. "Who are you?"

"Told you." The alien fires back, dropping her head against the backrest. "I'm the Doctor."

"And you just... Travel around to help people."

"Well..." Scrunching her nose, she ponders the statement with a slow spreading grin. "Yes. It's exactly what I do. I love it."

The joyful answer coaxes a reluctant smile out of Yaz. "You're a bit odd."

"Thanks!" The Doctor retorts, grin clinging to her lips until she spots the other woman's empty hands. "Weren't you getting... Stuff?"

"Yeah, my logs." Yaz confirms, motioning to the central computer. "It's loading."

"Hm." The Doctor nods, gauging the captain's expression. "You don't look happy."

"What?"

"Both of your friends can't stop talking about what they miss about Earth, and what they'll do when they get home. You..." Pausing, she shrugs. "Don't look happy."

"I think I'm in shock. I was expecting another couple of years, before we even had a chance to go back. You just show up today, and... That's it. I can be home with my family tonight. It's a lot to take in." She snaps her mouth shut, sinking into her seat before more words can slip out of her mind.

"And?" The Doctor prompts again, when silence lingers.

Yaz blows out a long breath. "Anyone ever told you you're annoying?"

"Loads of time." She laughs. "What else?"

"I've wanted this for so long." Yaz whispers, bittersweet sadness knotting her stomach. "Stars, galaxies... The universe. I enrolled with the Space Agency, and I've been nagging them for years for a real, long-term mission."

"Years." The captain repeats, pursing her lips as the prospect of going back to the Agency's headquarters fleshes out in her brain. "They reluctantly gave me a two-week mission, and the light-speed system ended up overheating not even halfway through. They're never going to let me fly again."

Yaz pauses, blinking away the tears building in the corner of her eyes. "I'm not ready to say goodbye to this." She ends her speech, hands waving towards the stars twinkling behind the bay window.

When Yaz turns her attention back to the Doctor, she's surprised by her half open mouth and wide eyes. "Doctor?"

The woman blinks, attention snapped back to the control room. "Want me to speed it up?"

"What?" Yaz frowns, mind spinning at the sudden turn in the conversation.

"The transfer of your logs? Do you want me to speed it up?" The Doctor explains, jerking her head towards the main computer.

"It's loading, how co..." She stops talking when the other woman whips an odd, grey device from her coat's pocket. She fiddles with the top part, until it glows orange. "Go on. Just don't touch th..." Before Yaz can complete the instructions, the instrument is pressed against the computer's screen.

Barely a minute later, the Doctor is shoving Yaz's recorder into her hands, tugging her up, and marching out of the room. The captain throws a long look to her favorite part of the spacecraft, ignoring the pinch in her chest as the doors slide closed one last time.

***************

They enter the engine room still holding hands, a confused Yaz struggling to keep up with the Doctor's strides.

"Your friends are waiting, come on." Pushing against the door, she shuffles to the side to allow Yaz to enter first. The younger woman lingers on the threshold, examining the ship.

"Why are you pushing the door?"

"What?" The Doctor frowns, tilting her head.

"Your box says 'Pull to open'. But you're pushing the door."

To Yaz's surprise, the Doctor scowls. "Don't be rude to my TARDIS when your ship has a blown up light-speed navigator."

Barely controlling the upward twitch at the corner of her mouth, Yaz clears her throat. "I didn't mean to insult your ship."

"She has... Quirks. Part of her charm." The Doctor replies, nose scrunched as she leaps through the stairs. "Home then. That's Earth, right?" She bounces to the other side of the central column, disappearing from their view.

"Yeah, Earth." Ryan replies, expectantly.

The Doctor's head peeks from behind the opposite side of the room. "How long are you lot going to stand there? Come on."

The younger man hurries closer to the console, taking in the odd mix of controls with a wide grin. He reaches for what looks like a wheel, curious fingers poking the cold metal before his hand is batted away.

"No touching, except the handles." The Doctor indicates metallic bars screwed between different panels. "Especially you." Pointing to Ryan, she saunters to the lever behind him, ignoring his silent pout. Graham chuckles as he joins his grandson with Yaz on his heels.

"Now what?"

"Now..." The Doctor trails off, fingers wrapped around a small time turner. "You hang on." She says, giving the instrument a solid twirl and sending the TARDIS into chaos.

***************

The flight is a lot bumpier than Yaz expected, leaving her weak in the knees as the ship stabilizes.

"Are you sure you can drive that thing?" Graham wonders, both hands clinging to one of the handles while he tries to catch his breath.

Ryan hangs onto his shoulders, swallowing through the dizzy sensation weakening his legs after he gave up on his own grip on the ship's console, midway through their trip.

"Oi!" The Doctor protests. "I told you, she's quirky. She didn't want to go back to Earth."

"Why not?" Ryan asks, curious.

"Because we just spent a week there. She gets bored."

"All right." Graham cuts off the conversation, deciding he doesn't need more information about the eccentric woman who believes she drives a sentient ship. "I'm very grateful, Doc. But I've missed that boring planet, so let me just..." He pulls the door and gasps at the rush of blinding sunlight.

Blinking away a burst of tears at the sudden brightness, he stumbles into Ryan, who raises a protective hand over his own eyes. Sticking his head through the doorway, the younger man lets out an incredulous chuckle, gently pulling Graham into the busy street with him.

"Bit of a hot day, but it will do." Ryan laughs, turning an excited grin to his granddad. "We're home! We made it back." Graham tentatively steps on the sidewalk, head swirling to take in his surroundings.

Yaz watches both men from the entrance of the ship with an indulgent smile, that fades a little once she's reminded of the looming prospect of their return to the Space Agency.

They'll go through a quick debriefing, before being sent home to reunite with their friends and family. Yaz inhales sharply and squares her shoulders, about to join the rest of her crew outside when she loses sight of them behind the dark grey of the ship's door.

Frowning, she looks up at the arm holding the door closed over her shoulder, eyes trailing up to see the Doctor stepping in her space. "Wh..."

"Come with me." The blond whispers, words hanging in the small gap between them. "You said you weren't ready to give up the universe. You don't have to."

"Doctor, I... My family..." Yaz fumbles, scrambling to remember what's anchoring her to Earth.

She misses her parents, of course - even her sister - but there's a voice screaming at the back of her mind, a faint reminder that the offer might be her last chance to explore the universe. "Ryan and Graham will need me, and I have to... There's a debriefing at work."

"The TARDIS travels through time. I can bring you back to this specific moment whenever you want."

The captain forces a couple of deep breaths into her lungs, taking in the impossible ship she's standing into before returning her attention to the other woman. "You're not human."

"No."

"Are there..." Yaz hesitates, biting her lip. "Others? Like you?"

The Doctor shuffles her weight on the ball of her feet, uncomfortable for the first time since Yaz met her. "Not specifically like me, no. But other aliens? Oh, yes."

"Really?" Yaz breathes out. Intergalactic traveling is still new to humanity - at least it was three years ago - and the USS Sheffield didn't come across any signs of an alien life form. The possibility used to keep her awake at night, mind reeling as Yaz imagined what civilizations on other planets would look like.

"The universe is crowded, Yaz. Let me show you. Please."

Yaz steps forwards, tilting her head to observe the Doctor. She catches the way her throat bobbles at the sudden proximity, eyebrows pinched together and eyes shining with a glimpse of something that looks a lot like longing.

"You're lonely." The captain guesses, following a vague hunch.

A shadow falls across the Doctor's features, darkening hazel irises for a fleeting moment before she gives the smallest nod. She raises her palm, repeating her previous offer without words.

Yaz's gaze flickers between twitching fingers and the other woman's spreading grin. Breathing in, she grasps the Doctor's hand and whispers. "Show me."

Chapter Text

"Did they see you?" The Doctor asks urgently, slamming the TARDIS' door shut after Ryan ducks into the ship, before dashing to the console. "Any of you?"

The three humans hurry to the handles scattered on the TARDIS' dashboard, exchanging a look that's a mix of concern and confusion.

"I don't... Think so?" Yaz replies, voice lilting on the last word.

"It's important." The Time Lord freezes, bringing the takeoff lever down with much more strength than necessary. "Did they see you?" She repeats, hastily.

"Who, Doc?" Graham prompts, keeping his words gentle once a hint of fear seeps through the Doctor's usually steady voice. "I don't think anybody saw us, except the woman in that shop where you found us."

"Good, that's good." She answers distractedly, jumping around the controls as she widens the gap between the ship and the tracking device chasing them.

Inhaling sharply, the Doctor’s gaze flickers between members of the group staring back at her with different level of concern. "Not great news. We're being chased by the Family of Blood."

"The what?" Yaz frowns.

"Essentially, three aliens that want to eat me."

Ryan snickers, freezing when his granddad and Yaz join forces to glare at him. "You're not joking."

"All right, what do we do?" The police officer grabs the Doctor's arm when she passes behind her, stalling the frenzied driving. "How do we lose them?"

"Can't lose them. They're tracking us."

"Like Kerblam?" Graham suggests, earning a swift nod in answer.

"Yes." She confirms, carefully dislodging Yaz's tight grip on her wrist. "Except not as fast, so I can keep them at a distance. For now." The Doctor sighs, remembering her last encounter with a faction of the Family. "I need to hide, they won't give up."

"Hide... How?"

"They're after my species. They hunt us down, eat us, and they use our energy to live longer."

"That's not an answer, Doc" Graham cuts off, watching the woman flattens a bright, red button.

"I stop being a Tim... Alien. I have to stop being alien. If I'm human, they'll lose track of me."

"You can do that?" Ryan asks, eyes wide with a slow spreading grin.

"For how long?" Yaz wonders, concerned.

Graham frowns. "How?"

"Yes, I can do that. For three months - that's their average lifespan. And..." She trails off, finding the device tucked under the TARDIS' console. "With this. It's called a Chameleon Arch, can rewrite every cell in my body."

"That... Sounds painful?" The older man says, tilting his head. "Will it hurt you?"

The Doctor's frantic movements falter, as she tries to organize her jumbled thoughts. Answering the question honestly will prepare Graham for the procedure, but she doesn't have time to fight Ryan and Yaz's combined argument, if they catch on with the unbearable pain she’ll have to suffer through.

"Remember when you told me I didn't look like an alien, the night we met?"

Graham nods. Every minute of his last night with Grace etched through his heart, and the speech the Doctor gave about regeneration is easy to recall. It's the point when he started believing this mad stranger might really be an alien.

There's this moment when you're sure you're about to die and then, you're born.

He clears his throat as the memory of the conversation fleshes out. "You're not going to... Change, are you?"

"Not my face, not this time. Just the inside." The Doctor replies, tapping against her chest with an open palm. "I won’t remember anything though, except fake memories from my human life."

Digging through the pockets of her coat, she blows out a controlled breath when her fingers touch cold metal. The fob-watch weighs heavily against her skin, dragging up memories from lifetimes ago.

"All right, you lot." The Time Lord takes the watch and sticks it into the Chameleon Arch, turning back to find three worried gazes. "Oi, what's up with your faces? I'm not dying, cheer up."

Hitting two fingers against the watch, she continues. "This is where... Well, where I will be. This me." She says, pointing to her head. "Do not lose it. Don't open it before three months pass either." She adds, after a long hesitation. "Or if they find us. Definitely open it, if they find us."

"What happens after you turn human? Are we going home?" Ryan wonders, eyes darting between the watch and the Doctor.

"The TARDIS will build me an identity and integrate me into reality on Earth. I don't know where - or when - b..."

"What about us?" Yaz chimes in. "Because if you're in danger, I'm staying with y..."

"I know." The Doctor pauses, raising a hand. "You will all be there, I made sure of that. We all have a new life waiting for us. I'm not sure if I'll know who you are or not, but don't let me abandon you." She frowns, eyes falling to the floor. "I'm sorry for dragging you int..."

"I'm not." Ryan cuts off. "Yaz is right, you always protect us. We're not leaving."

"We're not." Graham confirms, leaving the Doctor to nod with a small smile.

Turning to the device waiting for her, she glances over her shoulder to her friends as she fights a burst of nerves. "Group hug?"

In the same movement, Graham, Ryan and Yaz scramble forwards and she's crushed by three pairs of arms tangling together.

Swallowing a lump of emotions, the Doctor messily reciprocates the embrace, before wriggling free to fasten the Chameleon Arch around her head. "Here we go. Wish me luck."

Her companions barely muster shaky smiles before the alien flips a switch on the TARDIS' console, leaving her screaming and grasping at the pieces of metal wrapped around her ears.

Ryan and Yaz charge forwards, held back by Graham's firm grip squeezing their arms. A few seconds of painful convulsions later, the Doctor's limp body crumbles against the floor, leaving a shocked silence to fill the eerily quiet control room.

***************

"I wasn't expecting that." Ryan says, once his racing heart settles. "Do you think it's broken? The Chameleon Arch?" He frowns, considering the thought. "It didn't kill her, did it?"

Yaz swallows through her own teary, sympathetic reaction, carefully padding closer to the Doctor. She catches the watch falling from the device, holding it in her fist as she kneels down.

Her empty palm finds her friend's cheek, breath hitching when she touches warm skin. Yaz's knuckles trail down the Doctor's jawline, down the column of her throat to seek her pulse.

"One heart. And she's warm." She announces, looking over her shoulder.

Graham still has one hand holding on to Ryan's shoulder, loosening his grip after Yaz's observation. Both men step forwards until they're crouching on the opposite side.

"She was expecting it." Graham informs them, his low voice echoing loudly through the room. "What she said... The night we met, she told Grace and I about how her body changed. She said it was like dying."

"You could have told us." Yaz cuts through the tension, eyes flickering between her friend and the unconscious Doctor.

"Not my decision. I think she didn't want to worry you."

A sudden tilt of the TARDIS’ floor interrupts the useless argument, propelling Ryan to the ground with a loud thud. Graham helps him up, while Yaz hangs onto the edge of the console with one hand, the other bunched into the Doctor's coat.

"Do you think we've landed?" Ryan asks, once he's back on his feet. "In our new lives?"

"If we did, we better get the Doc out of here." Graham points out. "She won't understand how the TARDIS works, without her memory."

With a solemn nod, Ryan crouches kneels at Yaz's side. He covers her clenched fingers with his own. "Come on, Yaz. Take her feet."

The younger woman sighs, snapped out of the protective instinct jumbling her thoughts. "Right." Remembering the object tucked into her closed fist, she casts an anxious gaze at Graham. "You should probably keep the wa..."

"Oh, no." He shakes his head, approaching to close Yaz's fingers around the fob watch. "You keep the Doc. My pockets are strictly for food storage."

Blowing out a breath she didn't notice she was holding, Yaz nods when she feels the comforting weight of cold metal slipping into the inner compartment of her leather jacket. She faces Ryan, wrapping her hands around the Doctor's legs as he settles his grip under her arms. "Ready?"

***************

Yaz and Ryan stumble their way out of the TARDIS, stepping into a cramped room full of cleaning products. Narrowly avoiding the brooms scattered on the floor, the police officer presses a shoulder against the nearby door, pushing until they're standing in the middle of a bland hallway. Carefully propping the Doctor against the closest wall, they wait for Graham to emerge from the closet.

"I think the TARDIS is locked." He says, kneeling at the Doctor's side and patting her coat's pockets.

"Graham?" Ryan interjects, while Yaz scouts their surroundings.

Metallic walls stretching on both sides, she frowns at the dull, white neon hung around the ceiling. The artificial glow, dusty tiles covering the floor and seemingly endless maze of corridors around her reminds Yaz the holding cells in her police station. Sticking her hands in her pockets, she wanders back to her friends. Further exploration can wait until the Doctor awakes.

Yaz watches Graham stand, Sonic in one hand and psychic paper in the other. "What are you doing?"

"I don't like it." Ryan grumbles, crossing his arms.

The older man eyes them warily. "Which one of you is going to explain to our human friend why she has alien tech in her coat?"

"I still don't like it." Ryan repeats, frown deepening.

"No, he's..." Yaz pauses, unhappy. "Graham is right." Padding closer, she grabs the screwdriver and forces it into Ryan's left hand. "Keep it." She turns to his granddad, nodding. "You keep the paper. If something happens, you can both get out of trouble."

Graham softens at Yaz's hesitant voice. "What about you, cockle?"

She taps the fob-watch over her jacket, smiling sadly. "I have the Doctor. I'll be f..."

"Fine. I'm fine."

Startled, Yaz, Ryan and Graham jump to face the slowly waking blond. Her eyelids flicker before slamming shut, with a low groan. Seconds tick by, until the Doctor pries her right eye open.

"Why are you all looking at me like that?" Her attempt to stand ends in a grunt, as she falls back against the wall. "Did someone hit my head with a shoe?"

"You... Erm." Ryan starts earnestly, scratching the back of his neck as he scrambles for an excuse.

"Fell. And hit your head." Graham fills in, crouching as he follows a hunch. "I need to ask you a few questions, to know if you're okay."

"You're not a doctor, Graham." The woman objects, earning a stern look from her friend.

"No, I'm not. Do you want me to fetch one?"

"No!" The objection comes with a firm shake of her head, a barely noticeable wince twitching the corner of her mouth. "I'm fine, I tell you."

"What's your name?"

"Jane Smith."

Ryan bites his lip, a doomed attempt to contain his snickering reaction, while Yaz rolls her eyes. "Of course." She whispers.

"Do you know who I am?" Graham insistently clears his throat, glaring at the two youngest members of the group.

"Graham. You're Ryan's granddad. "

"How do we know each other?"

"How long are you going to interrogate me for?" Jane asks, blowing out a long sigh. "I work in the same repair shop as Ryan, we met at the party."

"The party?" Graham repeats, allowing his confusion to seep into his voice. The blond catches it, tilting her head curiously.

"Are you sure you didn't hit your head too?"

The older man hesitates, before falling back on his gruff interrogation. "We're almost done, just answer the question."

"The party for our new job. We're going to design a new research probe for the Empire."

"Yeah, granddad. The new research probe. I told you already." Ryan cuts into the conversation, smirking and earning another glare.

"Can I get up now?" Jane wonders again, too impatient to wait for a reply before leaning against the wall and dragging herself up. Once she finds solid footing, she shakes off Graham's supporting grip.

"One last question." He interrupts, motioning to Yaz. "Who's she?"

The woman blinks, gaze flitting between the younger woman and his knitted eyebrows. "Really, Graham?" Jane eventually huffs, shaking her head. "Come on, you lot." Starting towards the end of the hallway, she throws over her shoulder. "We're still not registered."

***************

"So, I'm a mechanic and her coworker." Ryan whispers, standing with Graham and Yaz as the Doctor joins a thinning line of people waiting in front of a glass counter, somewhere in the middle of a posh lobby. "And I think you're just my granddad."

The last sentence snaps Graham out of his interested observation of the intricate design of the glass ceiling. "Right. We still don't know how Yaz fits in, or where we are."

"On a cruise, maybe?" Yaz suggests, pointing to a sign hung on the wall. "It says we're on the main deck."

"Makes sense, it would explain why there are no window anywhere." The younger man shrugs. "We should probably go with the Doct... Jane." He corrects himself, wincing. "This is going to be hard."

"We'll help each other." Graham replies, squaring his shoulders. "Let's go."

"I know we're late, sorry."

They hear Jane apologize to a bored employee absorbed by his computer, his head lowered towards the screen.

"Someone will be there to guide you to your cabins shortly, please wait on the side. Thank you for choosing the Romano Fleet." He replies from behind the counter, glancing to the family huddled behind the blond. "Can I help you?"

"Nice bloke." Jane whispers, stepping back to find her friends standing behind her. "There you are."

Tilting her head, she frowns at the identical, concerned gazes staring back, a stretching silence falling over the group. "Is everything all right?" Jane asks, eyes lingering on Yaz's. "Are you all being weird because of my head? I swear, I'm fine. It's just sore for n..."

"Hello." A woman interrupts the conversation, shyly. "I will be taking care of you for the duration of our stay with us." Her frozen smile catches the former alien's attention.

"Hi, I'm Jane." Stepping forwards, she points to her companions. "These are my friends, Ryan and Graham, and my wife, Yaz."

Ryan chokes on thin air as he tries to bite back a burst of laughter, grimacing when his granddad elbows him in the ribs.

"I'm Kira, welcome. I will guide you to your cabins, we will be taking off shortly."

Jane follows, already engaging the woman in a conversation about the ship and its mechanic, Ryan in toes, listening keenly. Graham walks behind his grandson, before noticing the empty spot at his side. He turns, catching a glimpse of Yaz's frozen feet.

"Yaz?" Retreating, he grips her wrist and tugs the dazed woman forwards. They stroll through a few corridors, down a large set of stairs, before stopping midway through another bland hallway. Kira opens the first door on her left, with a polite smile as she checks her notepad.

"I have a Ryan Sinclair and Graham O'Brian here." Pointing to the opposite side, she turns to Jane. "And you two are here."

"Thank you, Kira." The blond replies, taking the offered key before shifting her attention to the younger woman. "Yaz?"

Yaz blinks, still scrambling to get over the shock of her place in the Doctor's new life, until Graham pushes her towards the door, with a whispered "Snap out of it."

"Erm, yes. Let's go." She nods, passing through the doorway. The layout reminds her of a regular hotel on Earth, a short corridor that ends with what she assumes is the bedroom, the en-suite bathroom on her left. Taking an uncertain step forwards, Yaz frowns when she spots the bed.

"It's a... Pod."

"Well, of course it's a pod." Jane replies, frowning. "What were you expecting?" She moves to slide a hand around Yaz's waist, resting her chin on her shoulder.

Gulping at the casual display of affection, Yaz does her best to keep still.

"I'm not... Sure?"

Jane's eyebrows knit tighter together. She backs away, palms settling against her wife's shoulders to pull until they're facing each other. "What's wrong?"

Yaz feels the answer turns sticky in her throat, once their gazes meet. Everything is familiar about the situation: the northern accent coloring her voice, the spark of warmth darkening emerald eyes, the way the Doctor softens just a little whenever she thinks Yaz is worried.

Except it's not the Doctor she's facing.

It's a human she knows nothing about, who has memories of Yaz that she never lived through.

The realization seems to suck the oxygen out of the room, leaving Yaz to put the scattered thoughts swimming in her head together. "Nothing, I'm just worried about the boys." She says, forcing a small smile.

Jane purses her lips, considering the reply with a hint of doubt. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, just..." Yaz trails off, shrugging. "Mind if I go check on them? I'll feel better."

Nodding, Jane shifts her hands from shoulders to the back of Yaz's neck, dipping her head.

For a heart-stopping moment, Yaz is terrified she's going to kiss her - because how could she explain that to the Doctor? - until lips brush tenderly against her forehead.

"Go. I want to take a look at the pod anyway."

"Don't break it." Yaz says with a fond smile, clinging to the glimpse of familiar interest for alien technology.

"Yaz!"

The offended call of her name widens her grin, as she makes her way out of the room.

***************

"She's a genius!" Ryan exclaims, as Yaz pushes the door of the boys' cabin.

"Who?" She asks, mechanically.

"The TARDIS. Are you all right, Yaz?" Graham steps closer, tilting his head to meet her gaze.

"Oh, you know. My best friend is still in danger from carnivorous aliens, she thinks we're married, and I can't tell her what's going on. Just a regular Sunday in our lives." She snaps, before covering her face with her hands and blowing out a long breath. "I didn't mean to..."

"It's fine." Graham waves off the attempt to apologize, Ryan frowning from his spot on the top bunk pod.

"What's wrong with you?" He shrugs. "The woman you're in love with thinks she's your wife. It's great."

"Wha- I'm not... No!" Yaz stutters, with a raising flush.

Sparing a glare for Ryan, Graham gently pats Yaz's back. "We don't care about how you feel for the Doc. We're family, we won't judge. Promise."

"But we're not blind." Ryan teases, smirking.

"It's just a crush." Yaz counters, shoulders slumped. "A very small crush, that I have under control."

"All right." The older man nods, exchanging a long look with his grandson. "Ryan is not wrong though, what's the problem if you already have a crush on her?"

"What's the... Seriously?" Yaz snaps, eyes darting between her two friends. "Where do you want me to start? She thinks we're married, and I know nothing about this human version of the Doctor. I thought she was going to kiss me earlier, and I had no idea what to do. Do I let her? Do I kiss her back? Will the Doctor be mad at me, when she comes back? And..."

Throwing her hands in the air, she allows the flow of worry to keep pouring out of her mouth. "What if it's a bad marriage? What if we hate each other? It happens, people grow apart."

The mattress of the bottom pod creaks when the dark haired woman throws herself onto the bed, eyelids fluttering closed with a long sigh. "That's the problem."

"Erm... Well..." Ryan hesitantly fills the heavy silence, and Yaz spares a thankful thought for his eagerness to help.

"Jane is the Doctor, Yaz. You saw how she spoke with Kira, how she answered my questions. It's the same woman, with different memories. And I'm not sure how consent works here, but..." Graham starts, tentatively. "Do you really think she would hold it against you if you kissed her? The TARDIS put you in that position, if anything she'll be angry at her ship."

He snickers, shaking his head. "She spends half the time bickering with that thing anyway. And if it's a bad marriage, you fix it. Talk to her." The older man smiles, a sad shadow passing through his eyes. "What's really the problem, Yaz?"

"What if I like it?" The police officer wonders, sitting up. She scratches the back of her neck, the corners of her mouth twitching in a wistful smile. "Being married to her. What if I get used to it, and when the Doctor comes back, she just wants to be friends?" She trails off, remembering the ghost sensation of the blond's lips against her forehead.

"Well, Ryan has something that might makes you feel better."

"I do!" The younger man nods, climbing down of the top bunk. "While you were trying to keep your brain from leaking out of your ears, I grabbed this." Ryan explains, flashing a colorful, folded paper. "We're on a space cruise, going to Alpha Centauri."

Yaz blinks, confused. "Isn't that... another galaxy?"

"Millions of light years away. But the Second Great Human Empire apparently has colonies there."

"The what now?" She coughs, eyes going wide. "What year is this?"

"Passed 4000, it's all I could get from the brochure." Ryan shrugs. "Anyway, we're going to another galaxy. Which means, we have to spend five months in cryo-sleep. It's some sort of coma, from what they say in this. Stop us from aging. I think that's why the bed looks like weird capsules."

"We have to spend five months in a coma." Yaz repeats, swallowing through a vague feeling of dread. "Isn't that... I don't know, dangerous? Painful?"

"Not according to this." Ryan shrugs, and Graham cuts into the conversation.

"It means we don't have to worry about the Family at all." He explains, grinning. "We'll wake up in five months, and they'll already be dead. You can open the watch, and we can leave with the TARDIS."

"And you can admit your crush to the Doctor." Ryan adds, pushing against her shoulder.

"Shut up." Yaz mumbles, a burst of relieved confusion squeezing through her chest as she leaves the room. "I'll think about it."

***************

The quiet click that comes with the lock falling across the door of Yaz's cabin almost startles her, as she leans against the wooden panel. She takes a steadying breath, her mind calming from the jumbled emotions of the day.

Ryan's brochure eased the burden weighing her down since her status in the Doctor's fake life sank in. She won't have to thread their relationship lightly for the next few months, but only until the ship's departure. The prospect of lying to her friend still sits uneasy in her stomach, but an hour is nothing she can't handle.

Crossing the short corridor to emerge into the bedroom, the sight that greets Yaz draws a thoughtless smile to her lips.

"Doct..." She starts, quickly snapping her jaw shut. The feet sticking out from under the bed don't move, and Yaz sighs as she kneels on the floor.

"Jane?" She tries again, the glimpse of the Doctor’s eccentric personality keeping the smile on her lips.

Startled, the other woman bangs her head against the wooden platform supporting the sleeping pod. Jane huffs, sliding across the narrow space until she sits and faces Yaz.

The police officer shakes her head at the traces of dust scattered across pale cheeks, reaching up to brush away a streak of dark particles coloring Jane's chin.

When the blond tilts her head down to lean into the touch, Yaz stifles her first instinct, and lets Jane tame her own messy hair. Yaz's hand, frozen mid-air, catches a pair of emerald eyes.

"Are you sure nothing is wrong?" The older woman frowns. "I just hit my head again and you haven't even teased me about it." She meets Yaz's questioning gaze with a shrug. "Was expecting a comment about needing a helmet by now."

When silence lingers and Yaz stays pensive, Jane's grin fades into a shakier smile. Her shoulders sag, and she finds sudden interest in the loose thread hanging from the sleeves of her jumper.

"Is it... Are you still sure about this?"

"About... This?" Yaz repeats carefully, confused by the growing tension filling the room. She watches Jane straighten her back and square her shoulders as if steeling herself against some sort of bad news.

"All of it." She motions to the room, scrambling to her feet to sit on the mattress. "I know it's a lot." Jane breathes out, words muffled against the palm covering her chin.

Regarding Yaz with sad acceptance, she continues. "It's not too late, we can get off the ship and I'll go back to my old job. Maybe I could open my own repair shop. I'm sure we c..."

The police officer tunes out the rest of her friend's - wife, she reminds herself - monologue, struggling to keep up with the flow of information thrown her way.

Yaz has no idea how the version of herself that lives in Jane's falsified memory acted. Should she be scared of living Earth behind? Does she have a family to miss, or was she simply excited at the idea of a new start in a new galaxy? Did she fight with Jane about the move?

Battling the blossoming ache trying to take hold in her head, Yaz snaps out of her musings when she notices the sudden, heavy silence blanketing the cabin.

With a deep breath, she catches the eager green-brown pupils staring back. Seconds tick by, as she remembers the spark of pride lighting up those very same eyes, when Jane told Graham about her new job.

"It's your dream, isn't?" Yaz asks, seeking confirmation that the trip is as important as it seemed earlier. "That research probe project?"

"Well, yes." Jane replies, with her usual blunt honesty. "But I want you to be happy." She wrings her hands together, and Yaz feels her thoughts lock into place as she watches the anxious fidgeting.

Jane - maybe the Doctor too, notes Yaz - needs her. The TARDIS' inexplicable decision to have them be married caught her completely off-guard, but she has to move on. The woman she's facing now is tangled with a very human inner conflict pitting her own dream against her partner's happiness.

Giving their situation, there's no reason to leave her to struggle over what's essentially a fictional dilemma.

"I am." Yaz perches upon the edge of the bed, circling the blond's shoulders with her arm. "You make me happy."

When Jane raises her head, seeking eye contact instead of sinking into the side-hug, there's a persistent shadow darkening her irises as though she's trying to gauge Yaz's true feelings.

"You do." The dark haired woman insists. "I promise, nothing is wrong. I'm just a bit nervous." She assures, fingers tracing the red bruise slowly growing on Jane's forehead. "Now, do you reckon they have spare helmets around here? It wasn't a bad idea."

"Shut up." Jane mumbles against Yaz's collarbone, arms clinging to her waist.

Before she can jump on the weak reply, the light hanging from the ceiling flicker off, leaving only the dimmed, artificial glow of the pod to brighten the room.

"What's happ..."

"Takeoff must be soon. Come on." Jane drags herself to one side of the bed, sliding under the fluffy cover and waiting for Yaz to join her.

Blinking, Yaz has to make a conscious effort to remember Ryan's explanation of their mode of transport as she falls against the mattress.

"How does cryo-sleep work?"

The faint blue light is enough for Yaz to catch the concern frown aimed her way.

"We talked about it yesterday."

Gulping, she scrambles for an answer while keeping her thoughts away from the other woman, who's quietly inching closer under the blankets.

"Ah, yes." Yaz sighs, considering her options before settling on an honest reply. "Run me through it again. I love hearing you talk about science."

"Nerd." Jane teases, pulling on Yaz's arm until she has enough space to sneak under, resting her head against a warm shoulder.

Biting back a yawn, she explains. "Once the pod closes, they'll switch oxygen for a sleeping gas. Used to be for surgery, back in the days. You'll fall asleep, and the gas will be replaced by some sort of liquefied gel that's going to freeze all cellular activity. It's like putting your body on pause, except better because you won't even age."

Yaz blinks, wrapping her head around the foreign technology. "It sounds painful."

"It was, that's why they added the anesthesia part." Jane scrunches her nose, considering the concept. "Used to feel like drowning." She says, voice taking a sudden wistful undertone. "Don't know how I know that."

"You probably read it somewhere." Yaz theorizes, briefly wondering how deep the Doctor's memory are buried into Jane's brain.

"Love reading." The blond confirms, as they watch the top part of the pod slide over their head.

With a deep breath, Yaz squeezes the other woman a bit closer, fighting the burst of nerves growing in her chest.

The fingers digging painfully in Jane's upper arms snaps her sleepy contentment short. "It's all right." She assures, cupping Yaz's cheek and guiding her down to rest their foreheads together. "Don't be scared."

"I'm not scared, I'm with you." Yaz whispers, allowing feelings she usually keep close to her chest to slip from her lips. Smiling, Jane grasps Yaz's left hand, pressing her lips against a soft palm before melting back against her chest.

***************

Yaz breathes a little more easily, as they wait for takeoff. Stepping into her new role as Jane's wife doesn't seem complicated anymore, not with the woman's head laying against her collarbone, her tousled, short hair tickling her neck.

Deceptively strong arms are holding onto her waist, a thigh lazily thrown over her legs. Pinned against the mattress, Yaz is content to lay in the dark until the ship's departure... Or until three months has passed and the Doctor is no longer in danger, she's not picky.

"Yaz?"

The police officer blinks, surprised by the interruption. Between Jane's regular breathing, the peaceful atmosphere and the slowly loosening grip around her torso, she thought the blond was asleep.

"Hmm?" She hums, intrigued.

"I'm glad you're with me."

Yaz's breath catches in her throat, the confession landing heavily in her chest. She's been longing to hear those words, in that voice for almost a year now, and the conflicting emotions bursting through her brain leave her speechless for a few seconds.

"Always, Jane."

Yaz can only hope it's the Doctor's feelings filtering through this open, affectionate version of her, as her hands trail up and down the other woman's back. "Whatever happens."

When she feels the blond muffles a grin against her shoulder, Yaz mirrors the expression. A new sense of certainty fills her, different from her earlier, frenzied realization.

She can do this. Being Jane's wife, supporting her and making sure she's safe once they land in a foreign galaxy are all tasks Yaz is fully prepared to handle. The last few months have taught her to be ready for all sorts of unpredictable situations, and she's ready to step up.

Or so she thought.

Three seconds, a lingering touch of warm lips against her own and a whispered "Good night, love." are all it takes for Yaz's world to tip over, as artificially induced sleep takes hold of her reeling brain.

***************

Five floors down, on the lowest of the ship's countless deck, three shadows slip into the same medical coma, stomach twisting in the familiar ache of hunger for the Time Lord energy swirling so close.

Chapter Text

"They can't know."

The TARDIS landed in front of Yaz's flat again, a week after their last visit on Earth. Well, technically it was only a few minutes since the ship had left the planet, and Yaz had to remind herself of where she's supposed to be.

Right, buying bread.

She turns to see Graham and Ryan in a similar state of half confusion, both scrolling on their phones. The adjustment to being a time traveler is still a work in progress for all three of them, and Yaz offers to take the group home for family dinner. Najia’s promise of an interrogation still looms over her head, and a few more friendly faces around the table would be welcome relief.

Not that the distraction would work for very long, Najia is nothing if not persistent.

The Doctor accepts the invitation with the same delighted excitement she showed the first time Yaz offered to bring them back to her flat, but Graham waives off the proposition. Spending some time in his own house is overdue, and Ryan's willingness to go with him only comforts his choice.

The painful memories hidden in every corner of the space he shares - shared - with Grace seem less daunting when he clasps his grandson's elbow, leading the way back home. Ryan shrugs off the contact, throwing a promise to meet Yaz and the Doctor on the next morning over his shoulders.

"They really, really can't know." Yaz says again, with a long sigh.

"Who? And what can't they know? That's a very broad statement, there are quite a few things people can't know." The Doctor hurries after Yaz, the young woman purposefully striding towards a little shop tucked into an alley in Sheffield.

"My family." Yaz takes a deep breath and turns on her heels to face the Doctor. "They can't know about me traveling with you. About what we really do." She waits for a reaction from the other woman, but only gets an intrigued frown in reply. "They worry about my job every day. My regular job. If they know I'm basically a space police officer now, they..." She trails off, wincing at Najia's probable reaction. "It won't be good."

"All right." The Doctor shrugs and looks around them. “Where are we going? Your flat isn’t this way.”

“We’re buying bread." Yaz opens her mouth, confused by the easy acceptance. "'All right'? That's it? You're fine with this?"

The Doctor's attention snaps back to her friend, and she smiles. "Course. I don't do well with families anyway, especially parents. Something about me throwing their child into danger, they don't like that. I do alright with grandparents though. And babies. Babies are amazing. One helped me saved a vikings' village once, with..."

Yaz tunes out the rest of the story, too busy trying to decide how much exactly she's going to share with her family. Her scattered thoughts don't make much sense, and she sighs.

Najia would keep asking about her relationship with the Doctor until receiving what she would deem a satisfactory answer. Yaz's only option is to make up some sort of elaborate cover up story - which she isn't sure the Time Lord can handle - or go with something closer to the truth. Would her mother believe that the Doctor is her new training officer at work?

"Yaz?" The questioning tone brings the human out of her musings, her eyes meeting the Doctor's unhappy frown. "You weren't listening. It was a really good story." Her voice is almost whiny, and the human offers a small smile.

"You can tell me again later, sorry. I was just thinking, we need to agree on what I'll tell my mom when she asks how we know each other. " She replies, with a consoling pat on the Doctor's shoulder, before heading towards the bakery again.

"You mean, we're not going with me crashing into a train's roof to stop an alien gathering coil from attacking Graham and Grace?"

"Wh... No!" Yaz bursts out, turning and pausing when she meets amused hazel eyes. "Not funny."

"Not for you, maybe." She grins, and Yaz lets out a short breath, a reluctant smile on her lips.

"Fine, it was a little funny." The human concedes, redirecting the conversation. "Stop trying to distract me. We need a cover up for you."

“Like spies? I’m really good at deep cover operations.” The Doctor's eyes light up in excitement.

“You? You are very good at deep cover?” Yaz frowns, dubious.

“Oi, don't look so shocked. I was a caretaker for a whole week in a primary school, and nobody suspected anything.” She pauses. “Well, Clara knew. And she told her boyfriend. And there was that girl who couldn't read si...” Another interruption, as the Doctor considers her own story. “Not important. Your family will never know I’m not human.”

“If you say so.” Yaz stares at her for another second, before strolling to the bakery's door. She holds it open and waits for the alien to reach the door, motioning her forwards and earning a happy grin for the gesture.

***************

Yaz unlocks the flat's door with a last look to the Doctor who's standing behind her. The woman is waiting, hands deep into her pockets and shuffling her weight back and forth on the heels of her boots. They settled on the simplest story Yaz could think of - the Doctor being an old friend of Ryan, and them meeting at Grace's funeral - but there's still something anxious about her friend.

"Are you sure you're okay with this?"

"Yes, I'm fine." The Doctor offers a tight smile, completely unlike her usual relaxed behavior, and Yaz only raises a silent eyebrow in answer. The blond sighs. "I am fine. But I really think I'm socially awkward this time around. Never been great at small talk, but now I'm nervous too. I don't like it."

Yaz pauses, taking a step away from the door and reaching for the bread the Doctor is clutching. "Do you want to leave? I don't want you to feel bad, I can have dinner with them and come back down to meet you."

The Doctor opens and closes her mouth wordlessly, before she decides on an answer. "Your mum is going to ask you questions."

"Yes. She's nosy, it's what she does. I've been handling her for nineteen years, pretty sure I can manage one more evening." Yaz assures.

"But it's my fault this time. Are you sure you don’t want company?" The Doctor hesitates.

"Only if you want to." Yaz realizes she’s avoiding the question, but she knows her family can be a lot. She’s not about to push them on anyone, especially not on the Doctor who doesn't seem to have much experience in dealing with relatives.

"Wait, is it going to be easier for you if I'm not there? Are you going to have a girls’ night... thing?"

Yaz laughs at the idea. "I’ve never had a girls’ night in my life, especially not with my mum." She softens her voice before pointing out. "But you're a woman, Doctor. It wouldn't be a problem."

"Right, you’re right.” The blond answers distractedly before turning to face Yaz, “Can we have one? We can eat biscuits and work on the TARDIS’ translating subsystem. She’s been struggling a bit with Venusian."

“Pretty sure that’s not what happens on girls’ night, Doc.”

“It’s not?” The Time Lord frowns when she notices Yaz’s indulgent smile, as she shakes her head. “Not like I would know. Everyone always refused to tell me what it's all about. I swear, it’s humanity’s best kept secret.”

“Eh. An evening of eating biscuits and watching you work on the TARDIS doesn’t sound so bad.” As if Yaz is going to refuse to spend more time with the Doctor, no matter what they end up doing. "Not tonight though. You coming home with me or not?"

"Well, you never answered. Do you want me to be there?"

"Yes." Yaz clears her throat, awkwardly trying to hide the eagerness in her voice when her friend’s eyes snap back to hers. She holds her stare for a second, struggling to gather her thoughts like every time the Doctor’s attention is focused on her. "I mean, I’ll be fin..."

The frazzled attempt at turning her brutal honesty into something more casual is cut short by the apartment's door bursting open.

"Yaz? I thought I heard voices, what are you do... Doctor." Najia's voice turns colder as she notices the blond, and Yaz winces. She sees the Doctor's shoulders tense and her back straightens as she greets the older woman.

“Hello again, Yaz’s mum. I’ve been invited for dinner, hope that’s alright.”

“It’s Najia. Is it so hard to remember?” The older woman doesn't wait for an answer and goes back into the flat, vaguely gesturing for the Doctor and Yaz to follow her.

***************

"We got bread." Yaz announces as they approach the kitchen to see Hakim and Sonya already seated at the table. The younger woman takes the chair facing her sister, the Doctor on her right while her parents are taking up both ends of the table.

“Only took you a year.” Sonya rolls her eyes before taking the food out of Yaz’s hands.

“You can always go yourself next time.” Yaz mutters back, before Najia sends them both a warning glare.

There’s a few minutes of silence while food is being passed around, until the quietness surrounding the table lengthens a little too much, and Yaz takes a long sip of water in nervous anticipation.

“So, Doctor.” Najia starts, pausing to settle on which of the countless questions going through her mind she's going to ask first.

Yaz sighs and barely keeps herself from flinching as she meets the Time Lord’s gaze.

“Deep breath. I got this.” It’s the playful spark in her friend’s eyes, more than her mouthed words that calms the burst of anxiety in Yaz’s chest.

“What’s your actual name?”

“John Smith.” The automatic answer flows out of her mouth without a second thought, until she sees Yaz almost choking on her food, trying to speak. The Doctor realizes her mistake. “Anna. Joana Smith. That’s my name.”

Najia frowns but lets the sudden change go. Young people have the oddest nicknames for each other these days, and she has more pressing questions.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a professor.” The Doctor easily replies... Which would have been fine, if Yaz hadn't decided to interject herself into the conversation. The younger woman is very aware that any more mistake would cause Najia to switch from her "casual small talk" mode to a full on investigation. Even the Doctor isn't ready to face the force that is Najia when she properly interrogates someone.

“She’s a caretaker.” The frozen silence that falls after their different answers makes Yaz gulps, but the Doctor is unfazed.

“Both, actually. Need a hobby when school is out, you know.” She shrugs and throws a quick glance around the room, searching for a way to take the conversation away from herself. “Your junk collection is gone. Where did it go?”

Hakim seems to tune back into the discussion at the mention of the junk he used to store in the living room. “Down the chute. I don’t need it anymore.” He pauses and grins, motioning to the plates displayed around the table. “In fact, you’re all eating my celebratory pakora.”

“Ooh, that’s exciting. What’s the celebration for?” The Doctor asks, earning another smile from Hakim and a small sigh of relief from Yaz.

“I was right!” He announces. “About the conspiracy. Najia told me everything about the giant spiders.”

The woman only rolls her eyes, careful to not send her husband rambling about another of his conspiracy theories.

“It’s better than your last one.” Sonya said, and Najia sighs, knowing Hakim won’t be able to keep himself from telling Yaz’s new friend about every detail of whatever Sonya is about to mention. “He’s convinced alien monks invaded us...”

“And brainwashed humanity.”

“Right, can’t believe I was about to forget the best part. Brainwashing monks. And you complain that we spend too much time online.” Sonya says, pointedly addressing the last part at her mother who glares back at her.

Yaz snorts and reaches across the table for a high five that her sister reluctantly returns.

“What’s wrong with brainwashing monks?” The Doctor asks, casually. Four pairs of similar brown eyes snap to her, before Hakim’s booming voice echoes around the kitchen.

“Thank you! See? Some people are open minded.”

Yaz is lost in her thoughts, but Najia blows out a long breath, opting to keep her exasperation for herself. Sonya doesn't, and her irritated eyes travel around the table as she speaks.

“Well, they don’t exist for starters." She aims the next part at the Doctor. "And he thinks they showed up in a pyramid."

“I told you, it was a spaceship that looked like a pyramid.” Hakim weakly protests.

“Spaceships can’t look like pyramids.”

“Why not?” The Doctor interrupts the man's answer. “Ever seen a spaceship? Maybe they do look like pyramids.” She shrugs, shoving a bite of food in her mouth. "Or like a police box." Yaz startles, shifting her leg to the side to give a warning kick to her friend, watching as the Doctor's satisfied smirk freezes.

“That’s exactly what I’ve been telling them.” Hakim speaks through a mouthful of pakora, and Sonya sighs.

“Why do you only bring weirdos home, Yaz? Dad doesn't need encouragement.”

Yaz has tuned out of the conversation, lost in her thoughts. The Doctor’s comment about the monks her father has spent so much time going on about sent her spiraling. If the monks are real, what about his Zygons' theory? Or the mutant cacti in Australia? She feels like that one is probably a stretch, nobody would stay in Australia if plants could eat people. Either way, Sonya’s question interrupts her reflection before she can make a decision about the cacti, and she frowns in irritation.

“Shut up.”

“Yaz, don’t start.” Najia's voice is stern, as she glares at both of her children.

“Yeah, be nice to me. And bring back Ryan next time, at least he's a handsome weirdo.” Her sister's smirk triggers a surprising rush of anger in Yaz's head.

“Shut. Up.”

“Yaz, language.” The warning comes from Hakim this time, and it’s enough to make the younger woman snaps.

“Do you know how hard it is, to bring people around?” Her eyes travel around the table as she addresses her father. “Mum interrogates them until she knows their entire life story. Sonya either flirts or insults them, depending on her stupid mood swings, and you jump on them with your conspiracy theories. Why can we never have a normal, boring dinner with my friends? Is it really too much to ask for?”

Yaz’s fork hits the table with a loud clunk, shattering the shocked silence answering her outburst. She doesn’t wait for a reaction before getting out of her chair and heading to the door.

“Yaz, wait. Where are you going? It’s getting la...” Najia starts, before her oldest daughter interrupts.

“To the Doctor’s. See you tomorrow.” She pauses before muttering through her teeth. “Or in another week.”

The door slams shut, and what’s possibly the most awkward moment the Doctor has ever lived through falls upon the table. It's up there with that time River ignored her for a whole week, after that trip to Sontar. Hakim snaps out of the stunned silence first, gently nudging the blond out of her memory.

“Shouldn’t you leave, if Yaz is going to your flat? I don’t like her walking alone at night.”

“Yes. Yes, I should. Absolutely.” The Doctor stands up abruptly, almost tipping her chair over. “Thanks for the terrible pakora!” She runs to the door, and steps out of the small apartment with a long sigh of relief.

***************

Yaz is nowhere in sight when the Doctor starts wandering through the hallways and towards the lift. Not particularly worried - the younger woman can take care of herself - she strolls back to the stairs instead, hands deep into her coat's pockets. She considers the evening's events, frowning as she tries to understand what made Yaz snap.

Sonya's insult was neither new nor particularly offensive - she is weird, people remind her everyday - and she had been called much worse, especially since being regenerated into this body.

Reviewing the rest of the meal, the Doctor lets her feet guide her back to the TARDIS while her brain is busy trying to figure out what happened to her friend. Deciding that she's not going to find the answer on her own, she makes her way inside the ship, surprised to find the doors unlocked.

None of her new friend has a key - she's been toying with the idea, but hasn't made a final decision yet - so the TARDIS had to allow Yaz to enter.

"Well done, girl." She gently trails her fingers around the console, making her way across the control room. "Where is she?"

The corridor twists unexpectedly, and the Doctor finds herself facing the entertainment room's door. She slowly opens it and glances inside, spotting the woman she was looking for. Yaz has her hands wrapped around a cup of tea resting on her stomach, her body nestled into a corner of the couch.

The television screen is showing some movie the Doctor is unfamiliar with, something with a lot of yelling and people firing guns at each other. The kind of movies the younger woman tends to like after their most grueling adventures, when they had to choose the less horrible of possible outcomes, and the blond carefully makes her way inside, keeping her footsteps light.

"Want company?"

The voice makes Yaz jump, she didn't notice the door opening or the Time Lord slowly making her way inside the room. She turns her head and anchors her exhausted brown eyes to the Doctor's gentle gaze. With a silent nod indicating the still fuming cup of tea waiting for her friend on the nearest bookshelf, Yaz looks back to the mindless action happening on the screen.

The Doctor grasps the mug in one hand, sizing a discarded blanket with the other, before making her way to the couch. She sips quietly on the hot liquid before wrapping the blanket around her shoulders. Not that she's particularly cold, she just likes the soft texture of the material around her upper back. This body came with a particularly keen sense of touch.

"Have I ever told you about Jackie Tyler?" The Doctor eventually breaks the silence, after a few minutes spent trying to make sense of the two groups of people trying to kill each other in the movie.

"Who?" Yaz takes her eyes off the screen, turning to face the blond fully for the first time since they left her flat. There's something tired in the younger woman's body language that saddens the Doctor. Her shoulders are slumped - just a little - and her features are drawn in a way the blond hasn't seen since their trip to Pakistan.

"Rose's mum."

Yaz still has very limited knowledge of the humans who traveled with the Doctor before her, Ryan and Graham, but she knows her friend well enough to notice the fondness that seeps through her voice whenever she mentions Rose. The human had obviously left an impression, and she often wonders about the nature of her relationship with the Doctor.

Were they just friends, or something more? Would the Doctor ever speak of her the way she speaks of Rose? Yaz sighs. The vague jealousy stirred up in her stomach is completely irrational - for all she knows Rose has been gone for centuries - but she's not having a good day and the emotion only adds to the general annoyance clouding her mind.

"I appreciate what you're doing, Doctor. But you don't need to try and make me feel bett..."

"She slapped me."

That surprises Yaz, and the rest of her protest dies in her throat with an incredulous chuckle. "She what?"

"Slapped me. And threatened to slap me into my next regeneration, which I'm pretty sure is impossible. Never underestimate Jackie Tyler though."

"What had you done?"

"Oi, how do you know I even did anything? Maybe she had anger issues." She pauses, and her eyes find Yaz's with a teasing grin. "You're supposed to be on my side, Yasmin Khan."

Yaz doesn't budge, forcing herself to ignore the way her heartbeat quickens whenever the Doctor uses her full name. "What had you done?"

"Oh, you know. Slight miscalculation of the TARDIS' flight. I might have landed a few months later than I intended to, when I took Rose back from our first trip."

"Months? You took her daughter on a trip and disappeared for months?" The younger woman repeats, smiling despite her irritation. "You deserved every bit of that slap."

"Fine. See if I share my blanket with you now."

The human lets out a long breath, feeling the somber mood fades away from her mind, just a bit. Her eyes slide to the Doctor's gaze that's filled with a silent understanding, and it makes Yaz yearn for closer contact.

The longing burning through her heart catches her off-guard. Their friendship never involved any physical display of affection - they haven't even hugged so far - yet Yaz finds herself imagining how the Doctor's arms would feel around her. She wonders about how they would fit against each other, or how the woman's double heartbeat sounds like.

"What about that cuppa I made you? Doesn't that deserve blanket sharing privileges?" The question tumbles from Yaz's lips before she can muffle her own thoughts.

The Doctor hears the shakiness in the younger woman's voice and she offers a gentle smile, sliding one of her hand against the back of the couch in a quiet question. She might not be the best at picking up social cues, but she’s been paying attention to Yaz recently.

Her companion never allows herself to ask for comfort. She'd just hang around the Doctor after their toughest days, lingering in the control room long after Ryan and Graham retreat to the TARDIS' endless hallways.

Yaz shuffles along the couch until she's tucked into the Doctor's side, both arms encircling the blond's waist as she feels the alien hugs her shoulders and drops a quick kiss against her hair. Blowing out a long breath, she settles her head against the other woman's chest and listens to the Time Lord's hearts.

The constant thudding eases the tension in her body, and she feels her shoulders relax under the comforting touch of the Doctor's fingers trailing across her back.

Yaz closes her eyes and lets her thoughts wanders mindlessly. Nothing in particular catches her attention, until she reviews the Doctor's last story.

"Could it happen to us?" Yaz breaks the silence with a frown. She's upset with her family, but she doesn't want to leave them wondering where she disappeared to for months.

"Nah. Was a bit careless back then." And dealing with a particularly vicious streak of survivor's guilt, not that the Doctor has any intention of sharing that part. "I'm a much better driver now."

"You mean, you used to be worse?"

"Oi! You try driving a ship that was made for six pilots."

Yaz bites her bottom lip, holding back the questions running through her head. She wants to know what happened to the Doctor's people, to leave her friend alone to pilot the TARDIS. She wants to ask about her home planet, about how her family died, but the recent events still weigh heavily on Yaz's mind.

It's not just her sad attempt at family dinner, they also spent most of the day helping a small Earth village clean up after a violent storms, somewhere in the 1600s. All villagers were safe, after finding refuge in a sturdy shelter, but the physical work left the humans exhausted, which is why they popped back in Sheffield for the night.

"Well, your piloting skills still need work." Yaz chooses to keep the conversation light, earning another brush of the Doctor's lips against her forehead.

"Guess you'll just have to stick around then. See if I improve." The Time Lord is using the same playful tone as Yaz, but there's something under her words that makes the younger woman tighten her grip around her friend's waist.

"Of course I'm sticking around. I'm not leaving you. Not willingly." Yaz whispers, raising her head from the Doctor's chest. Their eyes meet, and the proximity makes the human gulp. There's a glimmer of yearning in hazel eyes, something both hopeful and fragile. It's the same emotion her friend displayed the day they asked if they could stay with her after she got them back home.

The expression shakes up a fierce protective instinct inside Yaz, and she reaches up to cup the Doctor's cheek with one of her hand. The blond leans into the contact after a moment of frozen hesitation, and Yaz offers what she hopes is a comforting smile.

The Doctor's gaze seems to flicker between her eyes and her lips, but it's hard to tell in the dimmed light, and Yaz is tired. It's probably just her exhausted brain playing tricks on her and showing her what she really wants to see. She settles for a peck on the cheek instead, and the beaming grin she gets in answer draws a breathless smile out of her before she puts her head back on the Doctor's shoulder.

"I hope so."

Yaz's sleepy brain can't really make sense of the words, but the human shuffles closer to the Doctor at the sound of her voice, until her face is buried against the Time Lord's neck.

Chapter Text

“I’m in love with my training officer.”

Yaz blurts out, watching as the young girl - she can’t be more than fifteen or sixteen years old - clad in a ripped school uniform freezes near the edge of the bridge.

“I get it.” She continues cautiously, raising both hands high in the air and inching closer to the teenager. “You really want to be with him -“

“Her.” The girl corrects, softly.

“With her, and you can’t, and it seems like the end of the world right now. But it’s not, Willa. I promise.”

Yaz lowers her voice and slows her approach when the other woman takes a shaky step backwards. “All right, I’ll stay here. We can talk.”

The teary gaze and stubborn silence she receives in answer forces Yaz to reconsider the situation. They’re both standing on a narrow platform, on the wrong side of the bridge's gate and far away from the rest of the responding officers.

You’re not supposed to be here.

Yaz rejects the nagging voice in her head, glad for her impulsive reaction when she saw the teenager takes off her baggy coat from a distance. She jumped over the dashboard of the cruiser blocking access to the bridge, evaded Jo’s confused hand trying to hold her back and sprinted until she was stepping on the platform with Willa.

The awkward silence that greeted her unexpected arrival soon turned to sobs, sniffles and bribes of a story Yaz is still trying to piece together. From what she understands, Willa fell in love with her classmate - Lee - but her family didn’t approve and decided to move away.

“How did it start?”

"What?" Yaz frowns, snapped out of her thoughts.

"When did you fall in love with your training officer?"

Confused, the dark haired woman tilts her head, taking in Willa's clouded gaze and newly guarded voice.

She thinks I'm lying to her.

The realization sends Yaz's heart racing, well aware of the radio pinned against her chest that transmits their conversation to a crowd of her nearby coworkers.

"We met at work, and she's really... Erm... Nice." She responds, tentatively. The teenager blinks, her eyes progressively growing humid again.

"I knew it." Whispering, Willa shakes her head. "You're all the same. Everyone who tries to help me just say what they think I want to hear." She sniffles. "You're probably not even in training anymore."

Yaz feels the shaky trust bounding them dwindle, scrambling for an answer that would both ease Willa's concern and protect her friendship with her training officer. When she realizes she's facing an impossible choice, she inhales sharply and sends a mental apology to Jo, who she knows has to be glued to her own radio.

"They tell you it's the worst part of training, to have someone constantly looking over your shoulder, ready to jump on your every mistake. You're warned about not asking too many questions, listening to orders, only taking easy calls, for as long as an officer is in the car with you. Probation is supposed to be easier." Yaz starts, voice dropping. "I was so nervous on my first day, Willa. I think I didn't say anything for the first hour."

"An hour?" The teenager interrupts, her interest captured by the unexpected story.

The police officer smiles, wistful. "Most awkward hour of my life, she's still teasing me about it. Then, we got our first call." Yaz's grin fades, along with the memory of a woman laying half-conscious in an alley, bleeding from her forehead and murmuring a weak string of apologies.

"A woman who tried to steal from a street vendor, she got beaten up for it. I didn't know where to start, there was a crowd, everyone was screaming and we were the first team on the scene. We got out of the car, and Jo just stood there, took everything in and gave me that look..."

Trailing off, Yaz remembers the half gauging, half worried stare that was casted upon her, sprinkled with a hint of what she now knows was amusement. "And she said 'You can figure out how to treat a head injury, right? Great, go.' Then she was gone to confront the vendor, and I was alone with a woman bleeding from her head, barely conscious."

"What did you do?"

"I sorted it out." Yaz shrugs. "I had no choice. Called for a team of paramedics, made sure the victim wouldn't move, and I managed to keep up with the nonsense she was babbling about. We had a full on conversation about her favorite sandwich, while Jo was fighting to arrest the man who beat her. She got him, but when we got back in the car, she had a split lip, bleeding knuckles and her right eye was swelling."

Catching Willa's wince, the police officer shakes her head. "I felt useless, that I was having a chat while my partner got hurt."

"But you were busy with the victim!" The teenager interjects, frowning.

"Well, that's what Jo said. Then, she talked me through every decision she made... Why she didn't wait for back up to approach the vendor, why she sent me on first aid duty, why we responded to that call in the first place."

"Why?" Willa wonders, curious.

"Because she wanted to prove that she trusted me, even if I was just out of the academy." Clearing her throat, Yaz forces herself to breathe through a brief, overwhelming rush of gratefulness, as she musters a smile. "My coworkers all trust me now, but at this point in my life... Jo was the first person to ever believe in me, from the start."

"What about your family?"

"My parents think the job is too dangerous for me."

"Sorry." Willa offers awkwardly, drawing a gentle snicker from the older woman.

"I'm telling you all this because you asked how it started. I came home from that first day of work with the most hopeless crush of my life."

"You think it's hopeless?" The teenager prompts, intrigued.

"Oh, yes. She's..." Yaz interrupts herself, caught between memories of her partner's sparkling grin, boundless energy, and the warm, kind way she approaches people that need help. "Jo. There's no way she feels the same." The corners of her lips twitch in a sad smile. "And we work together."

"How do you cope with that?"

"Coping and facing emotions that makes you uncomfortable is how people grow up, Willa. We don't always have control over our feelings, but you need to learn how to work through them."

"But it hurts." Willa's voice has a distressed edge that tugs at Yaz's heart. Carefully, she raises her hand and grips the girl's fingers in a comforting squeeze.

"I know. I'm sorry."

***************

A gust of cold wind forces Yaz to back away against the bridge barrier, followed by Willa. The fiery sunset that lit up the landscape in their early conversation gave way to Sheffield's night sky, reflected by the black water they're standing over.

Aware of the fragile balance of trust between them, the police officer cautiously chooses to let Willa break the standstill silence first, after her heartfelt apology. As seconds, then minutes tick by, a sense of peaceful quiet lingers while they watch waves lapping against the nearby shore.

“Can’t she hear us?”

The murmured question snaps Yaz out of her head. “Sorry?”

“Your training officer. You’re wearing a radio, yeah?” Willa asks, pointing to the black device hanging from her police vest.

“Erm.” Yaz gulps, the thought she forcefully shoved away earlier haunting her again. “They can all hear us, yeah. It’s the protocol, so I can ask for help if there’s any risk to our saf...”

“And you’re not scared?” Willa interrupts the mechanical explanation of police procedure.

“Terrified.” She blurts out, watching grey eyes slowly fill with a new sense of respect. “But I’m standing here, and I’m also terrified of heights.”

A little white lie never hurt anyone.

“Why? You could have just let me jump and g...”

“No, I couldn’t.” Yaz interjects, strongly. “You matter, Willa. And you needed help, so I’ll do everything I can to help you.” Pursing her lips, she locks gaze with the other woman. “And if you step away from the edge, I’ll still be there for you. I promise.”

With a sharp intake of breath, the teenager nods swiftly. “I trust you. Let’s go.”

***************

Once Willa accepts her offer, Yaz climbs over the gate and turns back to guide her new friend to the safe side. Together, they walk to the end of the road where a chaos of lights and sirens awaits them.

When a paramedic approaches them with a fleet blanket, Yaz gently pushes Willa forwards, squeezing her hand. “Sheffield’s police station. Come in anytime, they’ll give you my phone number.”

The teenager throws her arms around her neck, holding the hug for a lingering moment. “Thank you.” Drawing back, she musters a shaky smile. “Good luck with... Well, everything.”

Yaz returns the grin ruefully, before turning on her heels and shaking off countless attempts to stop her. She heads directly to her police cruiser, climbs into the passenger side and lets her head hit the seat as she groans loudly against her palm.

The burst of adrenaline that's been fueling her actions since Yaz's impulsive decision to run to Willa slowly fades, in the welcomed, buzzing silence blanketing the car. Too exhausted to consider the consequences of what happened tonight, she screws her eyes shut when the door on the driver side bursts open.

Holding her breath, she frowns when the familiar, mixed scent of mint tea and clean laundry detergent that seems to cling to her partner is replaced by the smell of caffeine and a hint of the same shaving lotion used by her dad. Yaz pries her left eye opened to see Graham staring at her, a gentle, understanding look smoothing his features.

“Not who you expected to see?” He teases, smiling.

“Sorry.” Yaz croaks, surprised by her own rough voice. “Hi, Graham.”

Shaking his head, he raises a hand. “Don’t worry about it. Jo is sorting everything out at the station, she reckoned you’d like to go home before midnight.”

The statement snaps Yaz out of her state of dazed sleepiness for a second. “Midnight? What time is it?”

“Almost eleven. You were on that bridge for five hours.” He informs, eyebrows knitting together when he notices how out of sort his coworker is. “Maybe you should get checked out.”

Blowing a long sigh, Yaz shakes her head. “Can you take me to my flat? I’m at Park Hill.”

“If you’re sure.” Graham shrugs, turns the key in the ignition and guides the car back to the main road.

Once they’re stopped in front of the colorful building, Yaz’s eyes are still closed, her head resting against the window. Fatigue seeps through her every thought, leaving the younger woman tired, sore and inexplicably sad.

“I’ve made a mess, haven’t I?” She murmurs.

Graham breathes slowly in the stretching silence, considering the question. “You’ve saved a life. The rest...” He trails off with a casual shrug. “I’m not sure anything else matters. You did well, Yaz.”

“Thanks.” She says, with a smile that feels a little less forced. “See you tomorrow.”

Yaz trudges to the stairs leading up to her flat, too impatient to wait for the lift. When she reaches her floor, her feet take her to the door, through the living room and into her bedroom as she falls face first onto the mattress. Shuffling around for a few seconds, she’s asleep before she can conjure the energy to take off her work uniform.

***************

Yaz almost jumps off the bed when someone banging against her front door pulls her out of sleep, leaving her gasping and reaching for her phone reflexively. She blinks, rubbing traces of sleep from her face before glancing at the alarm clock.

3 am.

With a concerned frown, Yaz looks down at herself, thankful for the exhaustion that kept her from changing out of her work uniform. Flinging the blanket to the other side of the mattress, she shuffles to the entrance, stifling a yawn against her palm. When the noise echoes through her apartment again, she sighs.

"I'm coming, mum. There's no need to break through the door." She says, raising her voice. Forgetting to call Najia after a shift always results in a impromptu visit from the woman to check on her. While Yaz is usually grateful, she can't completely muffle a hint of annoyed frustration.

Unlatching the door, she pulls the handle. "See, I'm not dea..." The last word dies in her throat when Yaz finds a fidgeting Jo staring back at her. "Jo?"

"Hi?" The greeting sounds more like a question, leaving Yaz blinking in confusion.

"It's 3 in the morning!"

"Is it?" Jo's eyes grow wide with stunned realization, while her hand reaches for her phone. "Yes. It is. All right, I'll just..." She trails off, taking a step back and motioning to the lift with her chin. "Leave you to sleep. Were you sleeping? You look like you were, but you're still wearing your uniform. Maybe you use it as your pajamas, I'm not judging. You should probably take off your boots though, they're really uncomfortable."

"Are you done?" Yaz asks, once the blond falls awkwardly quiet.

"Think so. Sorry, I had coffee."

"Never would have guessed." Yaz deadpans, backing into her flat. "Come on, I'll make tea."

Jo shuffles her weight from one foot to the other. "Are you sure? I don't want to..." With a sigh, she shrugs and lets the sentence falls between them, incomplete.

Nervously wetting her lips, Yaz's gaze drift to the hardwood floor. "Well, I'm awake now. Unless you want to go home, that's fine t..."

"No!" She shakes her head. "I mean, I could. It's not far." She reviews her own words. "Well, it is a bit, but I don't mind. Love walking. I can come back in the morning a... ”

"Jo!" Yaz interrupts this time, gently pulling the woman forwards. "Living room is here. I won't be long." She hesitates, before falling back on their usual banter. "Try not to talk yourself to death while I'm gone."

"Talking is brilliant."

The dark haired woman ignores the muttered protest with a playful eye roll, making her way to the kitchen.

The familiar tea-making process eases the frantic worry swirling in her brain, as she concentrates on actions ingrained in her memory. It's only while she waits for the kettle to whistle that the events of the day catch up with her, leaving Yaz anxiously fiddling with a spoon.

Her partner's presence in her flat in the middle of the night disproves her initial assumption that Jo would want to ignore her discussion with Willa. Squaring her shoulders as she prepares for the gentle rejection she knows is looming over her head, Yaz fills two mugs with hot water, adds a bit of milk and tucks a sugar container under her arm.

Jo sits on the edge of the purple sofa, elbows settled on her thighs when Yaz enters the living room. The blond raises her head as she spots her lingering in the doorway, mustering up a dimmed version of her signature grin.

Forcing a weak smile in response, the younger woman puts one of the mug on the coffee table with the jar of sugar, keeping a cup securely wrapped into her hands as she sinks in the opposite end of the couch.

Jo slowly drops spoonfuls of sugar into her tea, under Yaz's amused gaze.

"Are you sure you wanted tea with your sugar?"

With a chuckle into a sip of hot liquid, Yaz's eyebrow hitches when the only answer her quip receives is a pink tongue peeking from Jo's tongue. A comfortable silence falls on the room for a moment, the two women enjoying an overdue respite from the long day.

Until they both down their last sip of tea, turning the atmosphere into restless anticipation of the discussion hanging over their heads. With a sharp intake of breath, Yaz decides to break the stalemate.

"Why are you here?" She whispers, dropping her eyes to the floor.

She hears Jo gulp, before the woman places her mug on the coffee table. "You'll be working with Graham, until you transition to official probation. I wanted to tell you in person."

For a split second, Yaz curses her partner's - or ex-partner's, she corrects herself - considerate attention. Receiving a faceless text from Jo in the morning would have been much easier than trying to contain the way her stomach drops in her chest, her throat tight at the reminder of what she sacrificed to save Willa.

"I..." She pauses, clearing the shakiness from her voice. "I understand. Thank you."

Yaz's gaze still glued to the loose screw under the coffee table, she misses Jo's curious frown.

"I expected more questions." The dark haired woman's stubborn silence coaxes more words spilling from Jo's lips. "It's the whole direct hierarchy relationship that's the problem. Once you're done with probation, we can work together again. " She hastily corrects herself. "Or not. It's up to us."

"I'd like that." Yaz sniffles, still battling a nagging urge to cry that fades a little with Jo's suggestion. Maybe they can salvage their friendship, after all. "If you think you can..." She shrugs, throwing her hands in the air. "Move on."

"Move o..." Jo's eyebrows pinch together, as she takes in her friend's slumped shoulders and white knuckled grip around her empty mug. "You're not listening." She whispers, biting her lip.

Before Yaz realizes what's happening, a soft hand cradles her right cheek, guiding her head to the side until she meets dark, emerald eyes, much closer than she anticipated. "Jo?"

"What you said, on that bridge..." Jo forces a deep breath into her lungs, gathering herself. "I don't want to move on. I'm not very good at relationships, but I'd like to try. With you."

Slipping out of Jo's loose grasp, Yaz buries her face into her hands, struggling to sort out the mess of emotions rushing through her brain. "I thought..." The sentence turns into a gasp, her brain slowly catching up with Jo's declaration. "I lost you."

Jo's initial flare of dread when the other woman moved back morphs into snickering disbelief. "By saying you're in love with me in front of a crowd of our coworkers, to save a teenager's life?" She sums up, with the hint of a smirk. "Yes, I don't think I can be friends with someone selfless like that."

"Shut up." Yaz fires back, her own smile slowly spreading. "I was really scared."

"What you did today was amazing." Jo offers, a serious edge to her voice that only shows up when they're working a case. "I'm proud of you, PC Khan."

Knowing the compliment has nothing to do with the personal feelings brewing between them, Yaz grins. "Thanks, boss."

"Ex-boss." Jo corrects, loosening her shoulders. "You'll be fine with Graham, yeah? It was him or Robertson."

Pulling a face at the mention of the most irritating man working in Hallamshire police station, Yaz approves. "I like Graham, he's nice."

"Supposed to say you'll miss me." Jo scrunches her nose, with a playful sigh.

Yaz tilts her head, staring quietly at the other woman, before she slowly shuffles closer. Her hands lace at the back of Jo's neck. "I'll miss you, every minute of every day." She offers, struggling to keep a serious face.

"Now you're just making fun of me." The older woman pouts, sliding her arms around Yaz's back as she muffles a burst of laughter against her shoulder.

Resting her forehead against the mess of dark hair tickling the side of her face, Jo ignores the nervous warmth filling her chest. When Yaz melts against her, nose finding the crook of her neck, she spares a grateful thought for a heartbroken teenager, swearing to keep an eye on Willa in the future.

"You give really great hugs." Yaz whispers, shifting to put enough distance between them to make eye contact.

"Know what else I'm really good at?" Jo adds with a slow smirk, unable to resist the quip.

"Oh, just..." Yaz trails off with a long, exasperated sigh, bringing her lips against Jo's, her fingers tangling into short hair. A surprised gasp is lost against her mouth, as the blond's palms slip to her hips, tugging her closer.

Once they both run out of air, Yaz rests their foreheads together, breathing out the rest of her sentence. "Shut up."

"If that's your way of making me shut up, I don't think I'm ever going to stop talking." She shrugs, blinking lazily.

Yaz rolls her eyes playfully, watching Jo dip her head to find her lips again with a happy grin. Between kisses and soft, inquisitive touches, both women drift off to sleep in the early hours of the morning,

Chapter Text

A book.

Three hundred, seventy-five sheets of paper, held together by a thin binding and cradled in rough, black leather. She can still feel the texture of golden characters under her fingertips, if she concentrates.

That book is what put Yasmin Khan in enough trouble to spend the rest of her life in prison, if she gets caught.

Not that she intends on getting caught, not when a long hallway and a locked door is all that stands between her and freedom.

Whispering a countdown in the dark, she holds her breath when a shadow passes across the nook she's hiding in, - a narrow closet full of strange tools - screwing her eyes shut.

According to her own scouting, the guard will patrol the corridor for the next ten minutes, before returning upstairs to the main part of the repair shop. That's when Yaz will strike.

With a stifled sigh, she drops her head against the stone wall. The ten minutes of uninterrupted silence she abruptly finds herself in makes the churning of her stomach returns, when memories she failed to push away emerge from a dark corner of her brain.

"Not now."

The whisper echoes loudly in the empty hallway. Yaz's eyes grow wide with worry, as she presses the side of her head against the closet’s door. Hearing no sound coming from the other side, she blows out a controlled breath, rubbing her temples and cursing her own lack of self-control.

For someone who prides herself with her level-headed responses to stressful situations, the emotional turmoil of the last few days tipped her whole world out of balance.

Losing every certainty she had about her life left a bitter taste in Yaz's mouth, the lone tear sliding down her cheek a sad reminder of her sinking prospects of a normal future.

Everything began with a family dinner, eight days ago...

"They know." Hakim says, pale face and trembling fingers gripping a piece of paper. He falls down into a chair, burying his head into his hands as Najia slowly approaches him.

"What happened?" She asks, gently. The haunted shadow in her husband's gaze brings back a dreadful burden on her own shoulders, a weight she spent so many years fighting. Ignoring the ominous hunch crushing her chest, she sits on the opposite side of the table.

"They know. About our daughters." He breathes out a panicked gasp, crunching the sheet in his fist. "They left this for me, at work."

Najia pries his fist open, before scanning the handwritten message on the crumpled paper, the air slowly seeping out of the room as words sink in. "H... I don't understand."

"They want one of them." He whispers, and Yaz only catches his reply thanks to the heavy silence sneaking in every corner of the family house. "They're giving us tomorrow to say goodbye, and I have to take one of the children with me to work the next day. If I do it, they'll leave the rest of us alone."

"Why?" Najia breathes out. "Yaz and Sonya are too old for the military, I thought we were done with this. I thought our family was safe."

"You know we're getting a new president." The older woman's confused frown echoes Yaz's thoughts, prompting a bitter smile from Hakim. "He's not married."

"Wait, wh..."

Najia's violent protest buries Yaz's low attempt to cut into the discussion.

"I'm not letting one of my daughters ruin her life by getting married to a stranger." Najia shakes her head. "I knew the risks when we decided to go against the laws, but I'm... No. It's not happening."

Yaz blinks, wetting her bottom lip with the tip of her tongue. Despite her limited grasp of the law, she always knew it allows one son and one daughter to each Gallifreyan family. Any other children has to be sent away to military training on the eve of their twelfth birthday, with the army's dire need for reinforcement since the quick succession of wars started.

Clinching her hands around the edge of her sleeves, Yaz slowly realizes her parents were never granted the legal exemption they claimed to have. She pushes away a burst of fear - tinted with a hint of anger - forcefully considering the impossible choice her mum and dad need to make.

"I'll do it." The words tumble out of her mouth, drawing a sharp glare from both of Yaz's parents. "Sonya is twenty, I'm twenty-three. I should be the one wh..."

"Stop." Hakim shakes his head, gulping. "You're not going anywhere, there has to be a way to keep both of you safe."

"Your father is right, we're not l..."

"It's a good offer." Yaz states, vaguely wondering how she can be thinking so rationally. "On any other day, you would both be going to prison, and Sonya and I would be leaving for army training. I don't want to fight in a war."

"Yaz, no." Najia argues, fiery determination igniting her words. "I'm not losing either of you." She turns to her husband. "Can we leave? Run away?"

"Yes." Hakim pauses. "That's a good idea, we have a day before they realize we won't be acce..."

"To go where?" Yaz interrupts. "To the DryLands? It's the only place they won't look for us, and I don't want to live in the middle of a desert. Sonya would die." She adds, with a strained chuckle.

Najia's shoulders sag as she glances down at the table, willing away droplets of water blurring her vision. Hakim is in a similar state of despair, leaving Yaz to hold the shattered pieces of their peaceful family life.

"It's just a marriage." She says, weakly. "I can still come visit you, and Sonya." Sparing a thankful thought for her sister's week long trip to the Capitol with her work mates, Yaz continues. "And we have tomorrow."

When two resigned gazes raise, shining with compassionate anguish, Yaz feels a weight drop in her stomach.

The next day is a blur, a mix of tearful reassurances, encouragement, and affectionate memories, ending with a book pressed in her hands by her father, once they arrive to his workplace and she sees two uniformed women patiently waiting for her.

Eyes flitting between Hakim's solemn features and the object in her hands, Yaz finds herself caught in a crushing hug, hurried words whispered against her ear.

"I want you to have a choice." Heart racing, the younger woman scans the black cover. Mechanics of the Type 50 TARDIS.

"What am I supposed to d..."

"They will take you to the Capitol. There's a little repair shop." His voice speeds when he notices one of the guards approaching them. "I wrote down the address in the cover. I don't think there will be much surveillance, if you go at night." Cupping his daughter's cheek, he presses their foreheads together. "This book is your way out. Don't let anyone see it."

Yaz remembers nodding numbly, gentle but firm hands gripping her shoulders and backing her away from Hakim's embrace. The image of his mustered up smile and teary brown eyes is her last memory of him.

The next seven days were spent traveling in stubborn silence, until they reached a castle where Yaz was locked into comfortable quarters.

Her new living space includes a bedroom, adjourned bathroom, and a balcony bigger than her family home. Her only company has been an older man who brought her food, but possessed very little information about her situation, leaving her a little more frustrated with each visit.

Today's lunch came with news, a long parchment detailing the coronation of Gallifrey's newest Lord-president.

Yaz had to force herself to breathe, knowing enough about Time Lord protocol to remember presidential weddings happen the days after the coronation.

A brief bout of panic - and a frustrated thought for the man she's supposed to marry, who still hasn't taken the time to meet his future wife - reminded her of the book hidden under her mattress.

Yaz skimmed through Hakim's scrawled message, she spent the afternoon scouting the repair shop, spotting the fleet of ships tucked into the basement. Sprinting back to her room before she could be reporter missing, she ate her evening meal while trying to memorize the chapter about piloting a time ship.

When the usual guard knocked on her door to take away the leftover food, Yaz pretended to be asleep, smiling as he made his way out of the room with a whispered, useless apology.

The climb down from her window left her with bruised wrist and a twisted ankle, but Yaz managed to make her way back to the shop once the suns set.

A fading pattern of leather thumping against stone interrupts Yaz's wander through her memories. She raises her head to see the shop worker's shadow disappear back up the stairs. Ignoring her heart pounding through her ears, she pulls open the door of the closet and peers across the hallway. Empty.

Her eyes crinkling with a smile, Yaz dashes through the narrow space, jumps over scattered objects on the ground and freezes in front of a heavy, black door. She fumbles for the pin tucked against her ear, making quick work of the lock and slipping through the threshold.

When she hears the click of a lock sliding back into place behind her, Yaz turns to examine the room.

And she finds herself facing a pair of stunned, emerald eyes.

***************

"It's barbaric." The Doctor sighs, twirling the last sip of amber liquid around her glass. "And cruel, and primitive, and sav..."

"I get it." The Mistress rolls her eyes, sighing. "You don't need to list every synonym of the word barbaric you can think of."

The Doctor's answering scowl earns her another sigh.

"What's wrong with you? You might get to marry a beautiful woman, and do something about all the laws you always complain about." She shrugs, smirking. "Even if she's ugly, you can just ignore her for the rest of your lives, and rule Gal..."

"It's the principle of it!" The Doctor exclaims, reaching for the forgotten bottle of wine and scrunching her nose when Missy slips it away from her grasp.

When her friend stares at her with a raised eyebrow, The Doctor relents and lets her hand falls back against the table.

"I don't mind giving my life to help Gallifrey. Someone has to stop all the wars." She whispers the last part, thoughts drifting to the planet's twisted political situation. "But nobody else should be forced to sacrifice their future. I know what I'm getting into. This woman doesn't."

"Rassilon." Missy swears under her breath, frowning at the woman on the other side of the table. "Have you always been such a martyr?"

"I don't know, have you always been such a self-centered game player?"

Silence lingers as they glare at each other, before the corner of Missy's lips twitch upwards. "Yes." She raises her glass, downing the last sip. "And you know it."

The Doctor hums, conceding the point.

"You could always step down." Missy shrugs, reaching to fidget with the bracelet adorning her friend's wrist since the coronation ceremony held earlier.

"How's that going to help?" The blond objects. "If I step down, the General will take my place, and the wedding will still happen. She's only going to be free if the president disappe..." A sudden spark brightens shadowed hazel eyes, drawing a confused shake of Missy's head.

"What do you mean, disappear? Do you want to die? Because I can help with that, and there's a perfectly good window that I can push you fr..."

"Shut up." The Doctor rolls her eyes. "I was just thinking. Run me through our alliance with Dacoma again?"

Missy's piercing stare finds the Doctor's as she ignores the question. The blond woman's fingers are tapping a distracted rhythm against the edge of her glass, her eyes shifting around the room. She sighs. The Doctor doesn't 'just think', and she wonders what scatterbrained, self sacrificing plan her friend came up with.

"Missy?"

"Doctor." She fires back, and their gazes meet in a split second of mutual understanding. "You know, you could just listen in High Council's meetings, and I wouldn't have to catch you up with our allies."

"Are you done complaining about me?"

The Doctor sighs remembering Missy's snicker, a sound of genuine amusement that registered in her brain once she realized it was the last evening they would spend together.

Her oldest friend and their genuine, if troubled, relationship might be the only thing she will miss about Gallifrey. The prospect of forcing an innocent woman into a life of politics, stuffy protocol and impossible decisions makes her stomach churn.

So, the Doctor will leave. Hop on a TARDIS, run away from the stiffening planet and become a renegade. Her coronation as Lord-President means she will wear the title until she either steps down or dies, leaving the Council unable to simply replace her.

Without a leader, the other members will have to rule as a single entity, effectively binding their hands.

Day-to-day administration of Gallifrey will fall to the General, as will most of the mundane decisions. But official declaration of wars, or history-altering choices require unanimity, which she knows Time Lords can never obtain. They're too power-hungry, too stubborn to even consider a compromise.

The heavy burden of responsibility wearing her down since the Lord-President bracelet was clasped around her wrist lightens, as she dips her head, crossing path with another woman strolling through the dark streets of the Capitol.

The members of the High Council have too much pride to let her get away, the Doctor acknowledges. Sentinels will be sent after her over the next few days.

She grins to herself. In order to kill her, they'd have to find her, and she intends on traveling to the furthest corner of the universe, where no one will know her identity.

The plan starts here, in a little repair shop nestled in an alley of Gallifrey's most important city. Ducking further into the hood of her coat, she pushes against the door and smiles at the man standing behind the counter.

"Jack."

"Doctor!" He grins back. "Trouble sleeping again?"

"Yep. Is it all right if I take a look at the fleet?"

"You're the President now." He shrugs. "You'll have to find another hobby at some point."

"Hm. Not tonight." She steps passed him, as he chuckles.

Walking around the counter, she slips through another door left ajar, jogs down a short set of stairs and inhales sharply when she finds herself facing rows of broken TARDISes. Her fingers itch for the familiar weight of her tools, and she fights the urge to take a closer look at a long boat parked in a corner.

Slowly, she circles the room and gauges the state of each ship. The Doctor frowns, making a conscious effort to look through the fleet with her escape plan in mind, not as a mechanic looking for a challenge.

The slow updating process of the oldest models leaves her with a wide variety of choices and she tilts her head in deep concentration.

Drifting towards the back of the shop, she falters when she catches a glimpse of a dark blue box.

With a gasp, she rights herself and follows the magnetic pull tugging at her hearts. There's an odd lump in her throat as her fingers find the back of the Type 40 TARDIS, all smooth wood and sharp corners. She makes her way to the front, reading the sign on the door with a breathless chuckle.

"You're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." She whispers reverently, before stepping back to take in the entirety of the ship.

When she stumbles into the room's wall, she flinches, suddenly aware of another presence next to her, breath heavy and heartbeat racing. The Doctor blinks, glancing to the side.

And she finds herself facing a pair of stunned, brown eyes.

***************

The Doctor gasps, snapping out of the dazed shock first. "Who are you? You're not supposed to be here." She whispers, through gritted teeth.

"Because you are?" Yaz fires back, voice raising on the last word.

"No." She shakes her head. "I mean, yes! Yes, I am. I... work here."

Yaz snickers. "You're a Time Lord. Have you ever worked anywhere?" Pausing, she ponders her own words. "Or Time Lady, I don't know which one you pref..."

"Either is fine." The Doctor shrugs, raising an eyebrow at the surprisingly considerate question. Yaz notices.

"What? You're ruining my escape plan, it doesn't mean I want to offend you."

"Wait, you're running away too?"

Yaz opens and closes her mouth, grasping for an answer. "Wh... What do you mean, running away too?"

"Come on." The Doctor ignores the question, sizing Yaz's wrist and tugging forwards. "We're taking that one." She states, pulling the door of the police box she was admiring earlier.

"We... Are?" The younger woman repeats, finding herself yanked into the TARDIS.

The ship's interior leaves them both breathless.

Yaz understood the concept of a TARDIS. She learnt about engineered dimensions, time travel and sentient matrix. Yet, there's something about this dimly lighted room, mix of warm colors and textures, and the mint-green columns scattered around the narrow space, that draws an awed gasp from her lungs. "Wow."

"I really like it." The Doctor smiles, stepping across the two steps as she takes in the console, hands on her hips. "Ready?"

The question abruptly pulls Yaz out of her dreamy observation. "Wait, hold on. I'm in charge here." She declares, squaring her shoulders in an attempt to sound more confident. The Doctor regards her with an unreadable expression, shrugging.

"All right."

"I was here first. You just showed up and I'm not comfor... " Yaz deflates once the other woman's answer sinks in. "Wait, really?"

"Sure." The Time Lord repeats, motioning to the controls with the hint of a smirk. "Guessing you know how to drive her then."

Yaz pads closer, frowning when she realizes the design is not even close to the one in the book her dad gave her. "That..." She gulps, uncertain. "It's not a Type 50 TARDIS."

"Nope. Type 40, hasn't been updated yet." Glancing down, she takes in the display. "Probably won't be. Huge mileage, the Artron energy carburetor needs changing, couple of wires to tighten up, and I'm not sure we can rely on the readings at all. The Chameleon Circuit is broken too."

A loud whir interrupts the inspection, drawing the Doctor's hands up. "All right, no shouting. You need some work, is all I'm saying."

The blond turns her attention back to Yaz, expectantly. "So, where are we going?" She asks, the corner of her mouth twitching. "When are we going? What about the recall circuit, do you have a plan for th..."

"Fine." Yaz snaps. "You can drive. But I'm still in charge." The last muttered words turn the Doctor's smile more sincere.

"Of course." She approves, already sauntering around the console.

A couple of flicked switches later, she checks on Yaz who's drifting around the room, fingers reverently ghosting along the walls. "Might want to hold on."

The warning comes too late and the dark haired woman falls across the platform when the ship abruptly takes off. The entire room trembles, before the chaos somewhat settles, a welcomed pause that allows Yaz to scramble up and sprint to the closest column, wrapping her arms around it. "I hate you."

The Doctor glances over her shoulder, grinning before she reaches for another lever.

Once the ship stabilizes in flight, Yaz pries one arm away from her improvised anchor. Tentatively putting one feet in front of the other, she lets go and approaches the console.

The Doctor's fingertips travel across cold metal, her eyes growing wide as she takes in the variety of controls under her hands. Yaz watches her curious exploration for a second, before she breaks the silence.

"We left." She whispers, the dread twirling into her stomach fading, for the first time since she left her family home. "I'm... We really left."

"We did." The Doctor nods, eyebrows pinched at the startling, lone tear sliding down Yaz's cheek. "Is it... Are you all right?"

A sure hand scrubs the tear away. "Yes." Yaz's automatic, cold answer pulls at the Time Lord's hearts, intimately familiar with the reflex of denying potential weaknesses. "I'm fine. Where are you taking us?"

"We're just drifting through the Time Vortex for now." She explains softly, running through a mental list of steps she has to complete while getting more comfortable with the design of the TARDIS.

"So, what brought you to a repair shop in the Capitol?" The Doctor asks absentmindedly, considering her options to deactivate the recall circuit as she rummages through her coat for her Sonic screwdriver.

"They were going to force me to get married." The dark haired woman breathes out, empty gaze staring at her feet. "I had to run."

The Doctor freezes, hand halfway out of her inner pocket. "W... What?"

"To the President." Yaz sniffles. "The new one. Do you know him?"

The blond opens her mouth, words slipping out of her grasp as her brain scrambles to gather her thoughts.

Yaz shakes her head, dismissing her own question. "Never mind. You don't know all the Time Lords, that was stupid. Sorry."

Hands splayed against the TARDIS' metallic panels, she fights a pang of longing for her family. "What's your name?" Yaz prompts, a poor attempt to distract herself.

"N..." The Doctor stutters, still reeling from the realization that the woman she ran away to protect followed her. "What?"

"Name?" Yaz hesitates, dropping a hand against the blond’s forearm "You do have one, yes?"

"The Doctor."

Rolling her eyes, the younger woman sighs. "Why can't any of you choose a normal name?"

"What? Doctor is a perfectly good na..." She objects, snapped out of her daze by the quip.

"Sure." Yaz shrugs. "Until someone gets sick - or injured - and ask for your help, and you have to tell them that you're not really a doctor."

"Rude." She frowns. "I'm not making fun of your name."

"You don't know my name."

"Good point." When silence lingers, and Yaz only smiles, the Doctor sighs in exasperation. "Well? Share with the class."

"Yaz." Eyes glazing over, Yaz shakes her head. "Yasmin Khan. My mom chose it, for her aunt."

"Well, Yasmin Khan." The Doctor hesitates, nerves fluttering in her stomach. "There's something I need to tell y..."

Her reply is cut short when the ship comes to a scratching halt, tossing them both across the room.

The Doctor lands first, grunting when her back hits the edge of a step as she wraps her arms around the shorter woman, making sure Yaz lands on her chest, instead of hitting the hard floor.

"That was not fun."

Confused, Yaz shakes her head and rolls off the Doctor's body. "It feels like we stopped. What happened?"

Before she can answer, the Time Lord flinches with the sound of a bell blaring. She finds her feet and dashes back to the center of the room.

"What's that?" Yaz screams, to be heard over the chaos shaking the TARDIS.

"No idea." The Doctor circles the console, hands jumping from one handle to the other. "I'm not used to these systems, it's diff..." She interrupts herself when she catches sight of a bright green light flashing, right next to the telepathic interface.

"It's the recall circuit."

***************

"The recall, what?" Yaz frowns.

"It's a built-in system." The Doctor explains, running back and forth in an attempt to counter the pull on the ship. "Someone is trying to bring us back."

Yaz bites her lip, struggling to get a flare of pure panic under control. Returning to Gallifrey means spending the rest of her life in prison, her family left to a similar fate if the book now tucked into her leather jacket is ever discovered. The tang of blood in her mouth springs Yaz into action, as she hurries to the console.

"Can I help?"

The Doctor glances to the side, their eyes meeting in mutual understanding. With a swift nod, she slips off her coat and hands it to Yaz, one hand still gripping a lever that looks like a wheel. "Inside pocket. Get my Sonic."

"Your what?"

"Looks like a flashlight to you."

Yaz finds the inner compartment and blinks as she takes out a deck of cards, a bag of jelly babies, a rock and a crayon, before her fingers hit steel. "How do you fit all that into your po..."

"I'll explain later." The Doctor grinds her teeth together, putting all her weight against the force trying to move the controller in her hands. "On the floor, there's a trap-door. Open it."

Yaz scans the ground, falling to her hands and knees as she spots a few screws locking down a small door. She frowns, pulling at them until the Doctor's breathless chuckle interrupts her efforts.

"Use the Sonic. Blunt end against the ground, and push the button."

Following the instructions, Yaz's eyes grow wide when the nails leap off the floor, leaving the trap loose in her hands. She throws the piece of metal and sticks her head down in the narrow opening. "Now what?"

"There should be wires."

Yaz twists her shoulders around, frowning when she spots the many bundles of wires covering the space. Carefully, she gets back to her knees. "Yeah." Her voice raises, trying to be heard over the multiple alarms now echoing around the TARDIS. "There are a lot of wires in there, Doctor."

The other woman gives a half panicked look from across the central column. "You're looking for red ones. Does that help?" She asks, swearing under her breath as her grip on the wheel loosens. Fighting off the pull of Gallifrey's recall circuit requires every bit of the Doctor’s concentration, as she adjusts to the magnetic grasp it has on the TARDIS.

"Sure." Yaz mutters sarcastically, peering through the trap again. "Narrows it down to only fifty wires." With a sigh, she replies louder. "Not really."

Hanging her head between her shoulders, the blond's eyelids flutter as she blows out a long breath.

"I could cut all the red wires." Yaz suggests, catching the Doctor’s reaction from the corner of her eyes.

"I'm so sorry." The Time Lord whispers, before she straightens her back and faces her companion.

"Not unless you want to kill us."

Sitting back on her knees, Yaz gulps through the cold fear tightening her throat. She stands, wiping clammy palms against her trousers as she trips her way back to the Doctor, who's struggling to hold a time turner steady.

"I don't know which wires to cut." She states.

"I know." The Doctor closes her eyes, hearing the mirrored resignation in Yaz's voice.

"And I can't drive her."

The blond nods quietly, shifting her hands lower to grip a purple lever, pressing against the force that tries to pull it up.

"You can't do both." Yaz concludes, earning another grim nod.

"Yeah."

With a sharp intake of breath, Yaz circles the Doctor's wrist, gently coaxing her hand open with a soft pressure at the bottom of her palm.

The effect is immediate, sending the TARDIS into a tumble that would have thrown Yaz to the other side of the room without the steady, sudden grip around her waist, pining her against cold metal.

Caught off-guard by the Time Lord's proximity, Yaz's breath hitches. Gulping, she settles shy hands over nearby shoulders, earning a weak grin as they wait for the ship to stabilize.

***************

"So, they can't get in?" Yaz repeats, observing the doors from her seat on the lowest step. The Doctor joins her, sighing.

"They can't get in, but we can't take off. They've anchored us." She musters a sad smile. "Fancy moving into a TARDIS?"

Yaz snickers. "With you? I don’t think so." She glances to the side. "It would be better than going out there though. They'll arrest me, right?" When the Doctor purses her lips instead of replying, her stomach drops. "Yeah. Well, at least the wedding is off."

The Doctor's gaze snaps to hers, curious. "You'd rather go to prison than get married?"

"To a Time Lord." There's a hint of open contempt in Yaz's words that makes the Doctor frown as she continues. "I don't want a husband who's going to control my life. At least I get to decide what I do in my cell." She inhales sharply, voice lowering. "I don't want a husband at all."

"I'm a Time Lord." The Doctor points out, shrugging. She's running out of time to tell the other woman the truth, but the brutally honest conversation allows her precious insight into Yaz's thought process.

"Yeah, well..." Trailing off, she bumps the Doctor's shoulder with her own. "You're all right. For one of them, I mean."

"Thanks.” The blond tilts her head. "I think." Scrubbing a frustrated hand down her face, she lets her eyes fall to the floor. "Listen. Before we go out th..."

A heavy knock against the door against the door interrupts the beginning of the Doctor’s confession, startling both women. They turn towards the entrance, attention captured by the ray of light shining through the narrow window.

"Guess that's our cue. Thanks for trying." Yaz says, gloomy.

Springing to her feet, Yaz reaches a hand down. The Doctor accepts the wordless offer, hauling herself up and stumbling forwards. The shift leaves them standing in each other’s space for a long, lingering moment, fingers linked together.

Shocked by the spark of genuine warmth brightening hazel eyes, Yaz’s voice turns wistful. "You know..." She starts, scrambling to end her own sentence. “I think we could be friends.” Ruefully, she reminds herself of the situation they’re caught into. “Maybe we’ll get thrown in the same prison.”

The declaration pulls the Doctor off-balance again, as she struggles to make sense of the confusing hint of fondness in Yaz's tone. She manages to kick-start her brain mere seconds before the younger woman approaches the entrance.

"Yaz, wai..."

The late warning falls, useless. A hand reaches inside the TARDIS through the tiny gap Yaz already created, when she cracked the door open. She glances back, flinching as the solid grip fists into her shirt and yanks her out of the ship.

Landing on her knees, Yaz groans when a shadow looming over her sticks its flashlight in her face, batting the hand away.

A man - bald, old and clad in the ridiculous attire of Time Lords - steps out of the line of guards surrounding the blue box. "Size her." He instructs, before addressing Yaz. "We've been looking for you since you went missing, after dinner. How did you drive a TARDIS by yourself?"

Yaz sniffles, stubbornly staring at the stranger while he continues. "You understand the deal with your family doesn't stand anymore. You've tried t..."

"Honestly, you lot." A voice interrupts the man's threat, snapping the general attention towards the TARDIS, where the Doctor is leaning against the doorway, hands deep in her trousers' pockets.

"You insist I get married, but you won't even let me take my future wife on a bonding trip before the wedding."

The bald man blinks, gaze darting between the two women.

The Doctor pads closer, narrowing her eyes. "General? Do you think you could tell your mates to stop treating Yaz like a prisoner."

"Y... Who?"

"Her." The Doctor tilts her head, glaring until the man holding a flashlight switches it off and steps back into the line of soldiers. "Thank you."

"You were with her." The General repeats, as he slowly pieces together the Doctor's version of events. "She didn't try to run away."

"Nah." The blond grins. "Just wanted to talk for a bit. We’re getting married tomorrow."

"Talk, in a flying TARDIS?"

The Doctor raises an eyebrow, unimpressed. "Wanted to show off, I'm a great pilot. Didn't know the Lord-President had to ask for permission before using a TARDIS."

The not-too-subtle reminder of her new status snaps the General's jaw shut. "Of course. My apologies." He turns to Yaz, who's silently dragging herself up, observing the scene unfolding in front of her eyes as she struggles to keep a sharp feeling of betrayal under control.

"You won't object if we escort you back to your room." The General’s statement doesn't leave much room to protest, and Yaz grinds her teeth together with a short not.

"You can wait upstairs with your friends. Give us a moment." The Doctor cuts in, earning a scowl from the General before he sends the guards away with a wave of his hands.

The crowd filling the space around the TARDIS lines up, the commanding officer leaving last with a long look towards both women.

Once they’re left alone, quiet seconds tick by, before a voice coming from the far away corner of the room cuts through the tension.

"Did you notice how I didn't tell them you were with me all night?" The Doctor rolls her eyes when Missy's familiar silhouette strolls between ships, the woman throwing a heavy arm around her shoulders.

"What do you want?"

"Oh, you know. I just wanted to take a look at your future wife." Yaz flinches at the term, drawing the newcomer's attention. "Now, that's interesting. I guess you were right after all."

Missy whispers in the Doctor’s ear, before leaning closer to the dark haired woman. "Hello, poppet. Do you have a name?"

Yaz gulps, fidgeting under the odd woman's intense scrutiny. The Doctor brings up contrasting emotions in her head - mostly anger and disappointment, with the thinnest hint of persistent trust - but the stranger fits the image she always had of Time Lords. Creepy, power-hungry and condescending.

When a stubborn silence is Missy's only answer, she grins. "Don't worry. We can get to know each other later."

"What do you want?" The Doctor repeats, exasperation seeping through her voice as she tries to redirect Missy's attention.

"Well, I got worried. I wanted to see if they would bring you back. I'd miss you, silly."

The Doctor's eyebrows hitch with the exaggerated affection. "All right, what's wrong with y..."

"I also wanted to tell you, I'll keep your little secret. But..." The taller woman trails off, lowering her voice. "You owe me."

The Doctor grits her teeth against the shudder running up her back. Being indebted to someone as volatile as Missy is never good news. With a silent, grim nod, she acknowledges the point. The nonverbal confirmation seems to satisfy her friend, who leaves the room with a glowing grin.

Silence falls again, a growing tension sneaking into the background, before the blond disturbs the uneasy truce. "I'm sorry." She whispers, failing to muster up the courage to face Yaz. "I never wanted to..." Sighing, the Doctor’s shoulders sag while her sentence hangs in the space between them, incomplete.

"I trusted you." Yaz scowls, eyes glued to the police box. "And you knew who I was the whole time."

“You hated the idea of me before you even knew who I was." The Doctor points out, throwing her hands in the air. "What did you want me to do?"

"Tell me the truth" Yaz snaps, fierce determination lighting up her pupils. "Or am I supposed to apologize for hating the person I'm forced to marry?"

"I..." The Doctor's short lived frustration deflates. "Of course not. I just.. I didn't know how to tell you."

The poor explanation only fuels the anger throbbing into the dark haired woman's chest, propelling her forwards as her loud steps hit the pavement.

"I was wrong." Yaz's tense voice states, as she makes her way up the stairs. "You're exactly like the other Time Lords."

The Doctor runs a hand down her face, shaking off the deep sting Yaz's last words cut through her hearts. Her open palm hits the side of the TARDIS as she's left alone with her conflicting thoughts.

Chapter Text

With a long yawn, Yaz starts back on her usual patrol route.

Food court, book store, outdoor equipment, gardening.

Her flashlight travels through empty rows of stores, shining on dust and empty shelves.

Being a security guard in a mall is not exactly exciting, but it's easy money for her saving account. Yaz's thoughts drifting to her life-long dream, she allows herself to imagine what being accepted in police training would feel like, looking forward to the day she'd be allowed to wear the black uniforms of Sheffield's police department.

She's still a few thousand pounds away from driving her own cruiser and chasing down criminals, as her sister keeps reminding her every time they talk. Yaz has enough money to afford her own flat - a two room, tiny apartment at Park Hill - which drives Sonya insane.

Smirking to herself at the memory of the younger woman's jealous glare the first time her family came over for dinner, she passes by a jewelry and a pastry shop.

The alley she's wandering into brings her to one end of the mall, facing a red, emergency door that glows with the colorful Christmas lights twinkling from the facade of every store. Yaz smiles at the colorful rainbow, a nice change to the building's usual gloomy look.

Working on Christmas Eve is one of the perks of being Muslim, with the combination of cheerful customers and happy decoration brightening her work day - helped by the generous compensation offered by her employer. The crowd left a few hours ago, leaving Yaz alone with her coworker in the empty mall.

She pushes against the security door, scanning the inner yard quickly. It's narrow, tucked between the mall's main wings and filled with bins used mostly by food court workers.

Yaz pauses, turning off her flashlight once she catches a glimpse of two shadows perched upon upside down trash cans, in the middle of the open space.

Blowing out a sad breath, she tentatively approaches the silhouettes. Despite her new instructions to keep homeless people away from the mall, - which she spent days debating with her boss - Yaz only calls the police when there's real sign of trouble. She knows the yard provides a warm shelter from the harsh winter, and food for those hungry enough to sort through rubbish bags.

People seeking peace or warmth could stay, if they were tenacious enough to ignore Yaz's weak mandatory warnings - that always include the time of her next scheduled patrol. Sniffling against the cold wind, she tucks her hands under her arms and she walks closer to the strangers.

"Hello?" She chances, watching the first shadow jumps to their feet, about to dash for the nearest exit before the other person grabs their wrist firmly.

"Hiya." The sitting silhouette - a woman, going from her voice - replies. "Merry Christmas."

Yaz smiles, slowing her steps before turning her flashlight back on, carefully keeping the blinding ray facing the ground.

The dimmed lighting allows her to get a good look of the smallest person, and her breath catches in her throat. The boy - he can't be more than ten years old - regards her with a mix of wariness and fear, both emotions darkening the depth of his sky blue eyes.

The stark contrast of the old soul staring at Yaz and his youthful, round face draws her closer, a surprising lump of sympathy in her throat as she kneels at his side. "What's your name?"

"Why do you want to know?" He fires back, and Yaz has to will herself still at the prickly tension coloring his voice.

"Well, I want to know what to call you." She pauses, smiling. "You don't have to tell me your real name."

"I'm..." He trails off, obviously deep in thoughts as a small, involuntary grin twitching his lips. "Peter Parker."

Yaz barely registers the other stranger snickering into the background, focused on the child. She shuffles closer, her palm raised up until she can offer her hand. "Nice to meet you, Peter. I'm Yaz."

Clear eyes flickering between Yaz's limb and face for a long moment, he finally clasps his fingers around hers. Yaz nods, watching the tension drain out of his shoulders. "Do you want to introduce me to your friend?"

Glancing up, he grins when he meets the woman's gaze. "That's the Doctor." He lowers his voice, tugging Yaz closer until he can whisper in her ear. "She's an alien."

Yaz bites her lips, pursing her lips in an expression she struggles to keep neutral. "An alien? Aren't you scared?"

"Why?" He shrugs. "She's a nice one." The boy steps back, considering the blond with a frown. "You are, right?"

"What?"

"A nice alien?"

"Don't go spilling all my secrets, Spider-Man." She fires back, laughing when the boy puts his fist on his hips.

"Doctor!" His offended tone draws a silent chuckle from the security guard, her eyes meeting the other woman's over his head.

"Oh, was I not supposed to say? Sorry." The smile clinging to the Doctor's lips makes the boy frown, before Yaz shifts her attention to upwards.

Dusting the light snow from her black trousers, she stands and offers her hand to the blond.

"Yaz."

"The Doctor." She replies, a playful spark in her eyes. "As you've heard."

Yaz glances down when a solid, warm grip envelops her palm, an answering tingle travelling from the tip of her fingers through her arm. Her eyebrows knit together and her eyes flicker up to find a similar, stunned expression on the blond's features.

"Nice to meet you." She breathes out, hoping her voice sounds steadier than she feels.

Clearing her throat, Yaz falls back on the purpose of her introduction. "You're not supposed to be here." She adds, apologetically.

"But the Doctor was telling me a story!" The child protests again, leaning against the woman's knee until she rolls her eyes and picks him up, perching his small body on her knees. "A Christmas story."

Biting back a smile, Yaz wonders. "What's it about?"

"Aliens! The bad sort, they want to invade Earth on Christmas Day." He says, throwing his hands in the air.

"Wait, I thought you were the alien." Yaz points out, finding herself compelled by the odd pair's universe.

"She's a good alien, who's going to fight the bad one." Peter answers, frowning. "Keep up."

"Yes, Yaz. Keep up." The Doctor repeats, with the hint of a smirk.

"Were you winning, at least?" She replies, ignoring the quip.

"Well, not yet. I need to think of a plan, before I can win."

"You don't have time." Peter shakes his head, insistently. "The sentient Christmas tree was about to kill you."

Yaz has to muffle a burst of laughter against the back of her hand, leaving her with a shy smile once the Doctor flashes a bashful grin in her direction. Swallowing the flutter of warmth that floods her stomach, she takes a shaky step away.

"I..." Yaz starts, swallowing through the hesitation in her voice. "I think I'm hearing something on the other side of the mall. I'll check, but it might take me a while to sort everything out." She pauses, making eye contact with the other woman. "You definitely have to be gone when I get back though."

"But the story is not ov... Doctor!" The boy's objection morphs into clear laughter, when the blond gently tickles his side, using her free hand to send a mock salute in Yaz's direction.

"Definitely!"

With a deep sigh, the security guard lingers in the doorway. She reaches for the handle, catching the Doctor's gaze tracking her movement.

"Good luck with the sentient Christmas tree." Yaz offers, smiling.

"Good luck with suspicious noises."

Shaking her head, Yaz closes the door with a soft click, before sliding the lock into place and retreating into her familiar patrol route.

***************

Yaz's feet guide her down the familiar route, in another round of the mall. It's a good thing the path registered in a corner of her brain a long time ago, with her scattered thoughts stubbornly drifting back to the odd duo she met earlier.

Caught somewhere between a pang of guilt - there's only so much time she can buy the homeless child and the woman trying to keep him safe without losing her job - and the magnetic pull drawing her to the Doctor, Yaz sighs.

Food court, book store, outdoor equipment, gardening.

Something about the woman resonated deep inside her. She inhales sharply, trying to forget about the gentle green eyes that regarded her with a quiet intensity she'd never faced before. It was odd, and haunting, and made Yaz feel as if she could see right through her soul. It was scary, in an exhilarating sort of way, like standing on the edge of a high cliff.

Jewelry, pastry shop.

With a deep breath, she stops near the back entrance. The Christmas lights still reflect against the metallic door, a joyful sight that tames the twist of anxiety gripping Yaz's stomach. When she slides off the lock and presses against the handle, she finds herself standing in the inner yard, a gust of cold wind seeping through her thin jacket.

Yaz wets her lips, glancing through the empty space and struggling to fend off the wave of disappointment crashing through her. A sad sigh crystallizes on her lips as she squares her shoulders against the sudden drop in temperature, touring the narrow yard.

She frowns, hoping the Doctor found another warm place to spend the night with "Peter" as she hurries back towards the mall.

"Looking for me?"

Yaz's hand freezes mid-air, a breath away from red metal when a voice speaks from behind the opposite side of the door. Taking a second to shove away a rush of relief, she glances to the side and finds the Doctor smirking.

"You're still not supposed to be here." She replies, fighting against the content satisfaction that threatens to twist her lips into a smile.

"Sorry?" The blond offers, her sheepish grin ruining the apology and drawing a silent chuckle out of Yaz. She leans against the wall, sniffles and takes out a plastic wrapper from her coat's pocket. "Biscuit?"

"I'm working, I can't ju..."

"Don't you get breaks?"

Yaz's gaze darts between the food and the Doctor's earnest eyes, before she turns off her flashlight and mirrors the woman's position against the side of the building.

Munching slowly on a custard cream, she breathes through the cold night and distracts herself by observing the few snowflakes swirling through the inner yard. Spotting two upside down trash cans, Yaz turns to her unexpected companion.

"Where's your friend?"

"Back home." The Doctor smiles, wistfully. "Well, I say home... The orphanage down the street."

Wincing in sympathy, Yaz watches the blond's shoulders raise and fall with a long sigh. "Is he going to be all right?"

"Oh, yes. Jack is strong, he'll be fine. I try to take him with me, whenever I can."

"Did you just admit to kidnapping a child?" Yaz asks through a mouthful of biscuit as the Doctor snickers.

"It's not kidnapping, if I bring him back." She responds, laughing at the security guard's widened eyes. "Jokes. Breathe." She says, hitting the back of her hand against Yaz's shoulder. "The woman in charge - Grace - knows, it was her idea. He doesn't have a lot of friends, because he lives in his own world. She thought I could help."

"So, you told him you were an alien named the Doctor?"

Another burst of laughter turns into a casual shrug. "Jack decided I'm an alien, and I wasn't going to argue. Aliens are cool. Been using the Doctor for a few years though, it's convenient."

A faint memory echoes through Yaz's head as she explains, and she narrows her eyes to focus on blurry bribes of information. "Hold on..." She trails off, deep in thoughts. "I've heard about you."

The Doctor shrugs again. "Have you?"

"I... Yes!" Yaz exclaims, the memory fleshing out in her brain. "My nan works at a shelter, she said you popped out of nowhere. And you help people living on the streets." She pauses, voice lowering. "But nobody knows who you are."

The Doctor nods, forcing a deep breath into her lungs. The reputation attached to the nickname she chose spread through Sheffield much faster than she thought, and she purses her lips with the realization that it might be time to move on.

"I'm just a traveler. I help whenever I can, Yaz." Eager to move the conversation away from herself, she raises her eyes to the younger woman's profile. "I've heard about you too, you know."

"You've what now?" Yaz blinks, turning sharply to find green-brown eyes regarding her curiously. She swallows, resisting the urge to fidget under the intense scrutiny.

"Hm." The Doctor hums. "You're the woman who lets people stay at the mall for the night. That's the sort of things that spreads fast through the streets."

Groaning, the dark haired woman buries her face in her hands. "It's not supposed to, I could lose my job."

"Then why do it?"

There's a new edge in the Doctor's voice that draws Yaz's head up. They stare at each other through a stretching silence, the security guard frowning at the shadow that darkens the hazel irises. Gulping, she shakes off a burst of nerves and ignores the nagging impression that she's going through some sort of test.

"Because it's winter. It's cold, and nobody should spend the holiday freezing on a park bench when there's a completely empty yard where they could crash instead." Yaz eventually says, doing her best to ignore the gauging eyes still glued to the side of her face. "It's the kind thing to do."

Catching a glimpse of the Doctor's swift nod on her left, Yaz loosens her shoulders against the rough brick.

"Well, thank you." The blond blinks, tipping her head up to stare into the night sky. "The world would be a better place if more people were like you, Yaz."

The compliment steals Yaz's breath, touched by the sincere conviction coloring the Doctor's words. "Thank you." She whispers.

"It's true." The Doctor confirms, before cutting through the tension with a grin. "Give me your hand."

"My... Hand?" Yaz repeats, gaze flickering between her limb and her new friend's chaotic search through her pockets. "Why?"

When the Doctor's fingers close against a tube of plastic, she grips it, slides off the cap and tucks it between her teeth. "Ou'll see." She articulates, reaching forwards.

With a soft chuckle, Yaz raises her palm. She bites back a gasp as a warm touch cups the back of her hand, before the pointy end of a pen traces numbers against her skin.

When she's done, the Doctor steps back, instantly missing the contact. "'ere." She says, pulling the cap out of her mouth to slide the pen back into her coat. "If anyone causes trouble, you can phone me instead of calling the police."

"Do you specialize in trouble?" Yaz teases.

"A bit, yeah." The blond shakes her head, grinning. "It's fun."

"Wait, you have a phone." The security guard remarks, distracting herself from the woman's little smirk by staring at the digits scrawled on her skin.

"Yes." The Doctor drawls, shrugging. "Have a flat too, even if I spend much of my time in my car. I don't always live on the street."

"Sorry, I just... Well, you're here, so I thought..." Yaz blinks, embarrassed by her own assumption as she fights the blush threatening to warm her cheeks.

Slowly closing the gap, the Doctor takes back Yaz's hand. "I get that question a lot, I don't mind." With a soft, comforting squeeze, she's about to let go when Yaz returns her grip, leaving their joined palms hanging in the space between them.

"Why are you here? It's the middle of the night, and it's Christmas. Shouldn't you be home?"

"Why are you here?" The other woman evades the question, shrugging. "You shouldn't be working either."

"I'm Muslim, and it's easy money." Yaz replies, biting back a grin. "Your turn."

"Clever." The Doctor sighs, leaning back against the wall and shaking her head as she concedes the point. "Shelters are great. They saves lives. But if you really want to help people who live on the streets, you need a more hands-on approach. You have to earn their trust, not just offer free food or a place to crash at night."

"I don't understand." Yaz frowns, captivated by the spark lighting up the woman's voice.

"What you're doing is amazing." The Doctor declares, stepping closer. "Any help is important. But the people I'm trying to reach have been homeless for a long time. They pride themselves on being able to survive on their own, even if it means sleeping outside every night, or eating food they find in bins. I earn more trust from them by being outside on Christmas night, than I would any other day of the year."

"I still don't get it." Yaz repeats tentatively, after pondering the explanation quietly for a lingering moment. "Why would anyone refuse a free meal or a warm place to sleep in?"

"Because for those people, pride is all they have left." The Doctor offers, letting the words land in the heavy silence. "Once they get to know you, you can at least talk to them. Make sure they're safe."

A double beep breaks the quiet atmosphere that settled over the yard, once the blond stopped talking. With a quick glance towards her phone, Yaz sighs.

"I have to get back to work." Blinking, she realizes her left hand is still tangled with the Doctor's. She squeezes gently, before letting go. "Would it change anything, if I told you that you still can't be here?"

"Probably not. Sorry?"

"How long are you planning to stay?" Yaz asks, shaking the excess of water from the sole of her boots.

"Depends." The Doctor waits until she catches dark pupils lighted by the colorful Christmas light hung over the mall. "When does your shift end?"

"I... What?" Yaz freezes when the meaning behind the question sinks in, turning a hopeful gaze to the other woman. The grin thrown her way settles a sudden burst of nerves. "That's a very forward question."

"Is it?" The Doctor purses her lips. "Maybe I want to walk you home. Make sure you're safe."

"My hero." The security guard deadpans, unlocking the back entrance. She grips the door's handle and peeks inside the row of stores.

"An hour." Turning on her heels, Yaz disappears back inside with the dimming click of her shoes against the tiled floor, missing the Doctor's eyes that grow wide in pleasant surprise.

***************

"Where are we going?" The Doctor wonders, minutes after noticing Yaz leaning against the back entrance doorway, changed into a leather jacket and a pair of black jeans. The younger woman smiles, wordlessly, guiding her new friend out of the court yard and into an empty boulevard.

"I don't know." Yaz shrugs, staring at the mix of dark houses and stores scattered on both sides of the street.

"You don't know where your house is?" The blond repeats, confused.

"I'm not going home." Yaz shakes her head. "We're going wherever you usually go on Christmas. I'm not ruining the most important night of the year for y..."

"Can't."

Pausing at the one word answer, Yaz stops walking and waits until the Doctor turns on her heels to arch a dubious eyebrow.

"I can handle it." She states. "I'm going to be a police officer, I don't care if it's dangerous."

"It's not." The Doctor starts, before correcting herself. "Well, I say that but it's always a bit risky. We're in Sheffield though, if you know which crowd to avoid and where they hang around, it's perfectly safe."

"Then why don't you want to take me wi..."

"It's too late." The Doctor replies, tapping the old fashion watch fastened around her wrist. "It's almost two, people have either found a good spot to sleep, or they're too intoxicated to be helped today."

"Intoxicated?" Yaz frowns, closing the distance between them once she realizes the Doctor isn't being overly concerned about her safety.

"You know. Drugs, alcohol. The usual." Sighing, she scratches the back of her neck. "Street is not a great place to live."

"Right." Yaz offers a sympathetic smile, redirecting the conversation once she catches the blond's discomfort. "You're telling me you wasted your night waiting around for me, then?"

The Doctor laughs, shaking her head. "Didn't waste anything. Between seeing Jack and meeting you..." Her smile quiets, hand bumping gently against Yaz's. When a thumb hooks around hers, she shifts and tangles their fingers. "Best Christmas ever." She says, words crystallizing in the cold night.

Blowing a long, controlled breath, it takes every bit of Yaz's concentration to keep her feet from faltering. "Where would you go? If I wasn't here."

A tongue peeks out from between the Doctor's teeth, as she considers the question. "Oh, I know! Follow me!"

Yaz tightens her grip, struggling to keep up with the other woman's quick steps. The Doctor guides them through downtown, dodging into side alleys and running through eerily empty streets. When she slows their tour of Sheffield near a church, Yaz tugs them to a stop facing a padlocked fence.

"Are we allowed to go there?"

"Erm..." Biting her lip, the blond turns sheepish. "Definitely not." The long, noisy sigh she receives only spreads her grin. "Best view in all of Sheffield, though."

Gaze darting between hopeful, shiny pupils and the heavy chain, Yaz rolls her eyes and slips through the narrow gap between the fence and a wall. "If we get caught, you're in so much trouble."

"Hasn't happened yet." The Doctor reassures, using their clasped hands to pull the younger woman to a side-door. They enter the church, finding a cramped stairway made of stone that disappears through a tower. "We're climbing."

Long minutes of efforts later, a huffing Yaz emerges from the top of the steeple. Hands finding a metallic gate, she bends at the waist and forces deep breaths into her lungs, calming her racing heartbeat with a long look at the bell hung over her head.

Fingers ghosting along her back send her heart speeding for an entirely different reason, Yaz's eyes snapping to the Doctor who's quietly padding to the concrete barrier separating the top of the tower from the building's roof. Bracing herself against the hard surface, she jumps and perches upon the wall, casting an eager look over her shoulder.

Yaz sighs, joining the Doctor with a playful glare as she hops onto the concrete. "Now what?" She asks, legs dangling over the roof.

Silently, the blond motions to the view laying in front of them. Yaz follows her gaze, her breath hitching at the sight of the entire city gleaming with colorful lights.

"It's beautiful."

"Right?" The Doctor approves, quietly.

"Is this where you bring all the women?" Yaz teases, burrowing her head against the collar of her leather jacket when a gust of wind swirls around them.

"Just you." The Doctor says distractedly, too busy rummaging through her pockets to notice the way Yaz's eyes grow wide at her blunt reply. "Love the quiet, I don't usually bring people here." She bites her lip, finding the metallic container she was looking for. "Got something to warm you up."

"What is it?" Yaz wonders, when the other woman flaunts a traveling mug.

"Tea, usually. But since it's Christmas..." The Doctor trails off, offering the cap full of a warm, brown liquid.

Dipping her lips, Yaz smiles at the sweet taste flooding her taste bud. "Hot chocolate." She chuckles, the treat somehow fitting the mental puzzle she's slowly assembling of the mysterious stranger.

She downs the rest of the drink, before giving back the cup. "You should have some. It's cold."

The Doctor grins, fills the recipient and takes a long sip, savoring the rich scent and warmth traveling down her chest.

The cup passing back and forth, their fingers brush every time they trade sips until the mug disappears back into the Doctor's pockets, empty.

"You don't have a blanket hidden in there, do you?" Yaz quips, rubbing her glove-less hands together.

Frowning, the Doctor raises her arm tentatively, letting it hang in the space between them in silent hesitation. Yaz's gaze flickers from the limb to gentle, emerald eyes. She inhales sharply and sneaks closer, tugging the blond's wrist tight around her shoulders.

"Smooth."

The taller woman muffles a grin against the side of Yaz's head, shifting until their legs touch from thigh to ankle. "Maybe." The Doctor admits, with a bashful smile.

The next few minutes are spent quietly, the blond pointing out a couple of her favorite elements of the view laying under their feet - the zoo, a park where sparkles turn into children games, and a Portuguese bakery making pastry "to die for" - until her attention turns to a shadow that's more familiar to Yaz.

"That's my favorite building."

"Why?" Yaz questions, intrigued.

"Colors are pretty." The Doctor gives a little one-shoulder shrug. "And once it gets dark, when people come home and they turn on the lights..." Pausing, she lets her mind build the mental picture she's describing. "You can see them. People. Making dinner, watching telly, arguing. Being a family." With a wistful smile, she completes her thought. "Looks nice."

"Have you got family?" Yaz prompts.

Wind sweeps around them, twirling loose strands of hair as the Doctor considers the question. "Not anymore."

There's a new edge to the woman's voice, something prickly and colored with finality that keeps Yaz from inquiring further. Nodding, she dives into her jeans' pockets and takes out a set of keys.

"Want to see from the inside?"

The sound of metal clicking together snaps the Doctor's attention to her new friend. Gaze flitting between the keys and a knowing smile, her eyes grow wide when the meaning of Yaz's question sinks in.

"You live at Park Hill?" She grins. "Can we go?"

"Sure." The words has barely left Yaz's lips before the Doctor jumps to her feet, reaching back to clasp her hand before dashing to the church's stairways.

***************

Yaz slips into her flat first, hitting the light switch and glancing around. She steps further into the neat living space, sparing a thankful thought for Najia's constant nagging about cleaning.

"Come in." She holds the door open for the Doctor, ushering her forwards. "Living room and kitchen are down the hallway."

Following the indication, the blond emerges in a cozy living room, splashes of colors and comfortable furniture scattered around. The wall of windows holds her attention, as she lingers in front of it, eyes scanning through the streets.

"Feels weird, seeing it from the other side." She whispers, tilting her head earnestly in a soft expression that reminds Yaz of a curious puppy.

Leaning against the kitchen counter, she crosses her arms. "Tea? I'm making some, I'm still cold."

"Please." The Doctor confirms, sinking into the purple sofa while the family pictures hung on the opposite wall catch her eye.

The half full kettle settled on the stove, Yaz allows herself a moment to take in the distracted stranger. Part of her interest for the woman is born out of sheer intrigue, she admits to herself. Even when she was little, Yaz remembers being the most curious child in her class, and the Doctor is a living, breathing mystery.

There's a hint a physical attraction that she can't deny either, but there's something else mixed in the emotions stirring up in her stomach. A magnetic force pulling them together, that made it so easy to trust the blond, to allow her into her home.

Feeling insistent eyes glued to the side of her head, the Doctor glances towards the kitchen, meeting the serious brown gaze studying her. "Yaz?" She frowns. "Something wrong?"

The dark haired woman's lips fall open, as she hesitates on the answer when the kettle whistles, interrupting her thoughts. Making quick work of preparing tea, Yaz falls into the opposite end of the sofa, settling the cups on the small table.

"I'm fine." The reply comes later, once Yaz sits back with a blankets wrapped around her shoulders, a warm mug tucked between her palms.

Taking a first sip, her attention falls on the traces of ink now mushed into her palm. With a slow smile, she sizes her phone and copies the ten digits, hesitating before she saves the number. "What's your real name?"

"Hm?" The Doctor blinks, snapped out of seemingly deep musings.

"Your name?" Yaz snickers. "I am not putting you under 'The Doctor' in my contact list."

Stifling the urge to fidget with a loose thread on the sofa, the blond forces a deep breath into her lungs. The layer of rust clinging to her social skills sends her heart racing, as the prospect of sharing more personal information looms over her head. She figures her name is an easy starting point, and she turns to face a kind gaze patiently waiting. "Joan Smith. Jo, for short."

"Why the Doctor?" Yaz wonders, thumbs gliding over the screen of her phone. "It's an unusual nickname."

"I, erm..." She squirms, fingers tightening around her mug. "Have a PHD. It's not common, in my line of work."

"Seriously?" Yaz's eyes widen. "What did you study?"

The Doctor purses her lips, struggling to contain an amused smile. "Astrophysics."

The security guard's jaw slacks opened, eyelids fluttering quickly. "You have a PHD in astrophysics." Taking a sip of tea to steady herself, Yaz prompts further. "But you work as... What? A social worker?"

"Sort of." The Doctor shrugs. "I'm more of a free lancer."

The denial only fuels Yaz's curiosity. "What happened to you?" She asks, voice dropping.

The question sends bribes of memories flowing through the Doctor's brain, most of them unpleasant. Dropping her gaze to a plushy, burgundy rug, her lips part as she scrambles to find an answer that would satisfy her new friend.

When a palm covers her knee, she raises her head to find Yaz observing her. The kindness shining in brown eyes quiets her inner struggle.

"You don't have to answer anything you're not comfortable with." She states, smiling a little. "What about your PHD? Why astrophysics?" Yaz redirects the conversation, happy when the Doctor's shoulders visibly loosen as she leans back.

"Boring story, really. I was a regular, nerdy child obsessed by science and space. I grew up, and it never went away."

"I thought star-obsessed kids turned into astronauts, not scientists." Yaz quips, playfully.

"Astronauts are so boring, Yaz." The Doctor scrunches her nose, glancing to the side to find a confused frown staring back at her. "Think about it. They're stuck between Earth and the moon. Maybe Mars, in the not-so-near future."

Putting her mug on the coffee table to free her hands, she leans into Yaz's space. "I wanted more. I wanted black holes, and other galaxies, and pushing the laws of physics. It's the universe I wanted to study, not a giant rock because it floats close to Earth."

Drawn to the spark of passion warming up hazel eyes, and to the clumsy hand movement punctuating her words, Yaz's breath hitches. "Did you?" The question hangs in the little space between them, as she blinks through a burst of stunned amazement.

"Oh, yes." The Doctor replies, with a slow-spreading grin. "We understand so little of how the universe works, but just observing it... It's so beautiful. Did you know the stars making up constellations are not even close to each oth..."

The rest of her speech is lost against Yaz's lips, the woman's left hand bunched into her blue jumper, as she tugs her closer.

A few seconds of pleasant shock later, the Doctor's arms shoot up from her sides to circle Yaz's hips, erasing the leftover distance between them as she kisses back.

A hot liquid trickling on the Doctor's thigh seeps through her dazed head, drawing a pained hiss from the depth of her chest. The sound snaps the younger woman back to reality, and she abruptly breaks the contact, eyes growing wide as her brain catches up with her actions.

Before she can speak, the Doctor pries Yaz's fist open, taking back her now empty mug of tea and settling it on the table. Casually brushing a few droplets from her deep blue trousers, she shifts to face her new friend, reaching for her hand.

Their fingers slot together, the blond patiently waiting until Yaz is done processing the not-so-unexpected development.

"I'm so sorry." With a vaguely panicked look, she shakes her head. "I don't usually... But you're..."

Huffing, Yaz hides her face against her empty hand, wishing she could explain the feeling swirling through her stomach. She blows out a long breath, gathering every bit of courage she has, before facing the Doctor properly. "I'm sorry, I should have asked first." She musters a trembling smile. "But you're the best person I've ever met."

"I'm not complaining." The Doctor whispers back, dropping her eyes to the rug as she squeezes the fingers tangled with her own. "I get it. There's something about you..." She trails off, leaving the sentence to hang unfinished in the quiet living room.

"You said you were a traveler, earlier." Yaz remembers, steadying her voice with a sharp intake of breath. "Do you think..."

Pausing, she briefly wonders if she's not overstepping some sort of line. They've known each other for a few hours and kissed once, she shouldn't care about what the woman chooses to do with her life. "Are you going anywhere soon?"

"I don't..." The Doctor gulps, steeling herself. Her fingers drum against the side of her thigh, caught between her usual urge to run away from anyone she could grow attached to, and the odd, irresistible force pulling at her heart whenever she looks into the other woman's warm, brown eyes.

"Sheffield is nice." The words earns her a grin, and a gentle palm cupping her cheek, guiding her into a kiss that takes her breath away.

Nuzzling against Yaz's soft skin, the growing panic lodged in the Doctor's chest shakes loose, fading until her head is filled with the scent of lemon shampoo and the sensation of fingers mapping her jawline in a calming touch.

***************

Yaz steps through a puddle of gooey mud with a disgruntled sigh. The drizzle falling over Sheffield on Christmas Eve threw a weird, gloomy atmosphere over the city, causing an unexpected influx of calls into the station.

As a probationer, Yaz is only assigned harmless cases. A boring evening spent sorting out fights between blokes who had too much to drink, or settling parking disputes isn’t how she imagined life as a police officer.

Her shift ended a few minutes ago, and she's on her way home when she passes by the mall where she used to work. The sight of a familiar inner yard brings back memories of last year's Christmas, leaving her smiling even with the thick mud clinging to the soles of her boots.

She spares a thought for the kind stranger she met that day - the Doctor - sending a burst of inexplicable longing spiraling through her chest. The woman intrigued her in the best possible way, Yaz's interest caught by that sparkling grin and the mysterious, warm shadow that swirled through emerald eyes.

Yawning, Yaz climbs the two steps that lead to her front door with a slow smile. The shoes abandoned on the front rug serve as a gentle reminder that she has someone much better in her life now.

The soft snoring that greets Yaz when she steps into the living room draws a snicker, as she drops her hat on the coffee table. Kneeling in front of a purple sofa, she cards her fingers through lengthening blond hair, staring at the curled up form buried under a pile of soft blankets.

An unintelligible mumble later, one hazel eye pries itself open. "'Llo."

"Why are you sleeping on the sofa?" Yaz whispers, watching the other woman lean into her touch.

"Waiting for my girlfriend." Joan Smith's raspy voice coaxes the dark haired woman closer, until she brushes a kiss against her cheek. "It's our anniversary."

"Lucky woman."

"You should tell her. She keeps complaining about how I leave stuff everywhere."

Yaz chuckles, dropping her forehead against the blond's. "Because I keep tripping."

"Not my fault if you can't see. Maybe I should buy you glasses." Jo blinks, with a slow smirk. "You'd look sexy."

A burst of answering laughter warms the side of her face. "I don't need glasses, I need you to tidy up." Yaz muffles another yawn. "Tomorrow. Come on, let's go to bed."

Throwing the blankets off her torso, Jo pulls herself up and offers her hand to Yaz. The younger woman clasps it, stands and steps into her girlfriend's space, taking in the dark blue jumper that drowns her small frame and her tousled hair sticking in every direction.

Jo tilts her head in the lingering silence. "Everything all right?"

With a noisy intake of breath, Yaz shakes her head and forces herself back into the present. "Of course. I was just thinking about last Christmas Eve."

Jo hums in understanding, pulling her girlfriend in a hug. She tenses when strong arms circle her waist and squeeze, Yaz’s cold nose finding its way into the crook of her neck.

"You're freezing!"

"And you're warm." Yaz lazily mumbles, pouting when Jo wriggles until she shakes off the embrace.

"Take a shower before coming to bed." Jo warns, pointedly ignoring the pleading gaze thrown her way.

“You could warm me up.” The dark haired woman suggests, with a smirk that gets nothing but a disapproving scrunched nose from Jo, as she turns to head towards the bedroom.

“Not cuddling with a block of ice.” She mutters, leaving Yaz with a fond smile and an already half unbuttoned vest.

***************

A quick shower later, Yaz makes her way up the ladder leading to the attic, clad only in Jo’s old uni sweater and black underwear. She finds her girlfriend already curled up under the cover, admiring their first house’s true selling point: a round roof window.

It’s old, and small, and cold seeps through the thin glass during winter, but Yaz can still remember the way Jo’s eyes lit up when they first visited the house.

The carefully hopeful gaze she received sealed the deal, Yaz already happy about the well equipped kitchen and bright, cozy main floor. After a bit more nudging, she even agreed to set up their bedroom in the attic.

Not that she ever regretted her decision, with the way Jo keeps losing herself in the view offered by the window. Yaz wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes, to find the older woman staring into clear glass, her features softened in peaceful contentment.

Taking a quiet step forwards, she slips under the blanket on her side of the bed. Jo shifts until her head falls against Yaz's collarbone, eyes still glued to the night sky.

Following her gaze, the police officer voices a recurring question occupying her mind. “Why do you like that window so much? It’s not like you can really see stars.”

Jo shakes her head. “Don’t need to see them. I know they’re right here, and it’s enough.” The corners of her mouth twitch in a wistful smile. “It feels like they’re closer.”

Yaz’s eyebrows pinch together, both of her hands settling firmly on Jo’s jumper-clad hips. “Sometimes I think you’re going to float away, right through the sky.”

The gesture gets a burst of genuine laughter from the blond. “Can you imagine me in space? I’d get distracted all the time.”

“Hm.” Yaz approves, frown deepening. “You’d probably go outside and forget the spacesuit.”

“Oi! I’m not that cl...”

“I’d have to go with you.” Yaz completes, ignoring the interruption. “To keep you safe.”

Jo hums, softly. "That I could do. Traveling through the stars with you, sounds nice."

"We could go to the moon." Yaz adds teasingly, laughing when Jo dramatically flops to her back.

"You've ruined it." She complains, sighing. "Know what I was thinking about, while you were in the shower?" The blond yawns, fingers tracing indiscernible patterns on Yaz's closest forearm.

Used to the sharp twists and turns of their talks, Yaz shrugs, a silent indication to continue.

“How unlikely what happened last year was.”

Interest caught, Yaz blinks away the first tendrils of sleep previously making their way into her head. “You mean, how we were both on the job on Christmas Day, even if you didn't really have one and I ignored all the rules of mine?”

“Well, yes.” Jo snickers. “That too. But I meant in a more... Scientific way.”

“Tell me.” Yaz requests, turning to the side to raise on her elbow.

“Do you realize the series of unlikely events that had to happen, to shape this planet in the first place? Or for humans to grow, and change, and evolve exactly as we did? Hasn't happened in any other part of the universe, that we know of." Jo pauses to breath, gathering her thoughts.

"The chances of stardust arranging itself to create someone as amazing as you, that would cross path with me, on the exact night I needed someone to talk to, are so small. Impossible-to-understand sort of small." Her voice drops, filled with wonder. "It's a bit of a miracle, really."

Yaz gulps, blinking away a few tears gathered in the corner of her eyes. Jo's occasional bursts of romantic poetry never fail to steal her breath, leaving her with a racing heart. She shifts impossibly closer to her girlfriend, dipping her head to press a lingering kiss to her lips.

“I love you too. But you know what, Doctor?” Yaz argues quietly, the name laced with warm affection. “I don’t think it was luck. I think no matter the time or the corner of the universe we’re in, we’re always going to fall into each other’s lives. And I will always hang onto you.” She holds up their tangled hands, slotting their fingers together. “See? We fit.”

Sniffling, Jo clears her throat, her hazel eyes shining when she meets Yaz's open gaze teasingly. "That was sappy."

The younger woman's playfully offended response is lost when she's pushed on her back. Jo's arms sneak around her waist as she nestles her cheek against Yaz's collarbone and throws a thigh over her legs, effectively pinning her against the mattress.

"I'm tired." The blond mumbles, lips brushing against the side of Yaz's neck. "Love you." She whispers, eyelids fluttering.

"Good night, love." With a low chuckle, Yaz tilts her head down and inhales Jo's usual scent - a mix of Earl grey tea and fruity shampoo - as she marvels over her girlfriend's uncanny ability to fall asleep in a matter of seconds.

Closing her own eyes, she narrows her attention on a calming heartbeat echoing against her side. Jo's slowing breath warming her chin, Yaz follows her into slumber.

Chapter Text

Eyes fluttering open, Yaz blinks in the low light of the TARDIS' entertainment room. She yawns, smiling when she spots the Doctor huddled on the opposite side of the sofa, scrawling into a blue book.

There's an odd tension stiffening the woman's body, her back straight and her fingers squeezing a pencil hard enough to turn her knuckles white.

"Doctor?" Yaz frowns, clearing the leftover traces of sleep from her voice.

The blond startles, reflexively slamming her book closed. "Hiya!" The Doctor squeaks, swallowing audibly.

"What's wrong?" Yaz wonders, pulling herself into a sitting position. Blinking, she freezes when memories from the last few hours pop up in her head, blurry. "The aliens are gone, right?"

The Doctor musters up a smile, nodding. "All safe now."

"Good." Yaz yawns again, a persistent, trembling edge clinging to her thoughts. "That baby is too cute to get eaten."

"Fravolians don't eat babies, Yaz."

The stern objection earns the Doctor an intrigued frown, before Yaz shakes her head. Her sleep deprived mind probably shouldn't be gauging her friend's mood.

"I should go home." The younger woman stands, stretching her arms over her head. "Do you think I can go through my next shift without you dropping a baby in my lap?"

The teasing lands awkwardly in the room, until the Time Lord visibly steels herself. She recalls the early years of her travels with Graham, Ryan and Yaz, when she trained herself to keep her companions at arm's length.

Old reflexes emerge from a distant part of her brain, guiding her up as she carves her features into a careful grin. "Might show up with a puppy tomorrow, keep you on your toes."

Yaz snickers, falling into a familiar banter that loosens the tension in her shoulders. "You act like an overgrown puppy half the time. I'm used to it."

Heading towards the control room, she waits until she hears the Doctor's feet hit the metallic floor, shifting to the side as they fall into step.

"I wouldn't mind." Yaz shrugs, ignoring the way her stomach flips. "If you dropped by while I'm at work."

Biting her lip, she stops in front of the TARDIS' door and follows a burst of courage. "I'm always happy to see you."

Her own words sinking into her brain, Yaz's eyes grow wide. "Or not. I know you're busy, I'm not trying t..."

The rest of her rambling explanation is lost into the background hum of the TARDIS, the Doctor quietly observing the younger woman as she wonders how many of those gentle hints she missed, too busy hiding behind walls that collapsed the moment she was faced with the reality of losing Yaz.

Muffling her first, instinctive response - because she can't exactly erase Yaz's memory twice on the same night, and she doesn't think kissing her friend is the best way to protect their timeline - the Doctor reaches out and catches flying fingers with a steady hand.

Yaz freezes, gaze snapping to the contact as her jaw slacks.

"I'm never too busy for you." The Doctor says, smiling softly. "Might want to be careful though, you're catching my talking habit."

With a grateful chuckle, Yaz playfully shoves the blond's shoulder. "Shut up." Reluctantly letting go of the hand holding hers, she moves back and presses against the ship's doors.

"I'll see you Sunday?" Her voice lilting on the last word, the dark haired woman grins when she receives a swift nod as only reply.

Yaz has barely left the TARDIS, before the Doctor covers her face with her palms, blowing out a shaky breath as she walks up the stairs. Without thinking, she brings down the take-off lever, trembling fingers clenched around the edge of the console.

***************

Slamming the door of her cruiser shut with much more force than necessary, Sergeant Yasmin Khan jogs up the stairs of the Hallamshire police station. She checks in with the dispatching officer, sighing in relief once he assures her the shift rotation happened seamlessly.

"I'm leaving." Yaz calls out, throwing her hat and bright jacket in her locket. "Rough day."

The man nods and waves her off, before going back to the pile of paperwork scattered on his desk.

With a relieved breath, Yaz slips a beanie over her head and wraps a rainbow scarf around her neck, - gifted by the Doctor, after she borrowed her wife's once too many times - heading towards their part-time flat downtown.

A few steps later, she spots a familiar blue box across the street, a pleasant surprise in the glacial winter night. Unlocking the door, she peers inside and finds the Doctor hunched over the console.

"I don't know why you're here, but I was not looking forward to that walk. It's freezing." Yaz starts, hanging her winter gear around one of the TARDIS' round things.

"Brutal day. Something about Christmas markets turn people ruthless." She complains, before noting the unusual silence. "Doctor?"

Quietly padding closer to the frozen blond, Yaz lays a hand between her shoulder blades. "Doc?"

The lingering stillness doesn't shake Yaz. She's used to unpredictable moods whenever the Doctor returns from her solo trips, though she tends to be on the happier side when their daughter stays with her.

Keeping her touch light, she rubs the skin under the tip of her fingers and stands to her wife's left.

"Hey." Yaz greets gently, dipping her head to catch shifty eyes. "Look at me?" She asks, softening her voice. She almost regrets the request once a shiny, anguished gaze meets her own.

Frowning, Yaz ignores the shiver running up her back as she catches a glimpse of a foreign shadow darkening emerald pupils. It’s a somber and heartbroken edge that only emerges when the Doctor’s constant habit of blaming herself for something completely out of her control shakes loose.

"Just tell me Kira is okay." Yaz demands, framing the Doctor's face with steady hands.

"She's fine." The Time Lord croaks, caught off-guard by her own rough voice. "Sleeping."

"All right." Yaz breathes out, her sudden anxiety fading. She's learned how to deal with the Doctor's survivor's guilt a long time ago. "And you're not injured?" She states, voice raising on the last word for her own peace of mind.

"Fine. I'm fine." The blond assures, hearts pounding against her ribs as she struggles to find a good starting point for the conversation that needs to happen.

Before she can settle on a way to tell her wife about her evening, fingers lace behind her neck, dragging her forwards until her forehead rests against Yaz's.

"Good." The police officer relaxes, running her nails through fine hair. "Come here." She leans up to capture the Doctor's lips, a surprised gasp muffled in the kiss.

When she moves to face her properly, palms settle against Yaz's hips for a fleeting second, traveling up her back with the alien's sharp intake of breath.

"Hands on my shoulders." Yaz commands, a clear whisper in the gap between them. Feeling the Doctor's hands shift upwards, she smiles at the lingering touch over her collarbones.

"Good girl." She sighs, humming. "Can you be good for me, Doctor?"

"Yeah." With a steadying breath, her wife nods. "Yes."

"Yes?" Yaz repeats, kissing her way along the Doctor's jawline. She nudges below her earlobe, lips trailing against the soft patch of sensitive skin.

"I'll be good."

The fingers on Yaz's shoulders twitch, flattening back as soon as the Doctor notices her own action. Yaz spares a grateful thought for the simple technique they fumbled their way into, much more efficient than physical restraints whenever she needs to distract her from the storm brewing in her own head.

"Couldn't stop thinking about you today." The dark haired woman whispers, nose finding the crook of the Doctor's neck to press a kiss against her fluttering pulse point. She tugs against the collar of a grey coat, unhappy with the many layers of material separating them.

The Time Lord steps back and shimmers out of the garnement, throwing it to the other side of the room as Yaz uses yellow braces to reel her in. Molding their bodies together again, the younger woman pushes her back, until she's perched upon the cold metal of the console.

Warm palms settle back against Yaz's shoulders, earning the Doctor a satisfied hum.

Rubbing her lower back, Yaz seeks the hem of the other woman’s shirts with the pad of her fingers. When she hits the folded material, her thumb slides underneath, grazing the Doctor’s warm skin.

“I want you.” She murmurs, smiling at the goosebumps forming under her touch.

I don't want normal, I want you.

The echo of a younger version of her wife whispering the very same words sends the Doctor's brain reeling. Her stomach drops, fingers clenching into the thick material of Yaz's vest.

As the police officer stays oblivious, painting her throat pink between gentle nibbles and lingering kisses, the full magnitude of what the Doctor could have lost hits her. A wave of gripping fear crashes through her brain, turning her mouth dry and fingers shaky.

When the grip around her shoulders reflexively tightens, Yaz growls, distracted. "Hands." She warns, standing between the blond's legs. "Focus on me. You're doing so well, love."

The Doctor blinks, caught in the deafening noise of her thundering hearts. Her lips part on a low, incoherent mumble that sounds vaguely like Yaz's name, catching the other woman's attention.

The strangled noise draws Yaz’s eyes up, as she takes in the Doctor’s heaving chest and worried features. She forces a deep breath into her lungs, shoving away the sudden rush of panic.

That never happened before.

"Doctor?"

The Time Lord gulps, frown deepening as she struggles to find her voice.

"All right." Yaz shifts, cupping the back of the Doctor’s head with one hand, the other switching to soothing circles on her back. "I've got you. Just breathe, sweetheart."

Seconds stretch into minutes, while the alien fights to regain control of her lungs. She closes her eyes, focusing her attention on Yaz’s slow, regular touch.

“How can I help?”

The trembling question forces the Doctor out of her head. In silent reply, she reaches forwards and squeezes Yaz in a crushing hug, dipping her head to rest against the side of her neck.

The deeply familiar scent - coconut shampoo and a hint of cleaning detergent clinging to Yaz’s clothes - anchors the blond. "Don't leave me."

Confused, the younger woman shuffle back enough to make eye contact. "Of course not. I'm yours, Doc. You know that." She reassures, resting their foreheads together.

"What brought that on? You haven't been worried about me leaving in years." Yaz prompts, her whispered question warming the Doctor's lips.

Sniffling, she takes a shaky breath. "Long story."

"That hasn't worked in years either." Yaz's eyebrow arches, unimpressed.

Her lips twitching in an involuntary smile, the Doctor shrugs. "I know." Hopping to her feet, she grasps her wife's hand, slotting their fingers. "Mind taking this somewhere else?"

"Sure." Yaz easily approves, following into the maze of hallways. "Fireplace?"

The Time Lord gulps, slowing her steps. "Bedroom?" She counters, in a poor attempt to sound casual.

"Fine." Yaz notices the wobbly undertone in the blond's voice, surprised by the decision. The third library is a favorite of them both, with its night-sky like ceiling and comfy sofa. "But you're not getting in my pants until I know what's wrong with you."

"Charming." The Doctor deadpans, comforted by the mere presence of her wife. Something about being near Yasmin Khan has always ease the worries plaguing her overactive brain.

***************

Holding the door opened for the Doctor to slip through, Yaz leans against the threshold as the alien throws her coat and suspenders on the floor, leaving her in her usual knitted rainbow jumper, white undershirt and blue trousers.

When she reclines against the headboard amidst a mountain of colorful pillows, they hold each other’s stare until Yaz remembers she’s still in her police uniform.

Padding deeper into the room, she faces the closet and switches the formal blouse for a loose T-shirt that belongs to the Doctor, tripping on her own feet when the woman’s voice interrupts her attempt to take off her trousers.

“Thought I wasn’t getting in your pants?”

Glancing over her shoulder to find an interested, sparkling gaze tracking her movements, Yaz rolls her eyes.

“You’re not.” She confirms, slipping into a pair of warm leggings before crawling on the mattress and settling against the Doctor’s side. “Yet.”

Yaz loops their arms together, opposite hand resting in the crook of the Doctor’s elbow. “Talk.”

“You weren’t that bossy before.” The blond mumbles, happy to find an already dull edge to her memories of the day.

“Doctor...” Yaz warns, single eyebrow hitched.

“It’s just... Don’t know where to start.” She admits, sighing.

Yaz runs her fingertips along the Doctor’s forearm. “From the beginning. What happened after you dropped me off at work?” She asks, giving a gentle nudge to the Time Lord’s scattered thoughts.

“Took Kira to a soap fair!” She recalls as she fumbles for her phone.

“A what?”

“You’d love it! Maybe we can go back.” The Doctor swipes against the screen, showing off a few pictures of their daughter clapping, her small body covered in white foam.

Yaz’s grin widens as she scrolls through a few selfies. “I love this one.” She whispers, as she takes in the picture of her wife with a perfect soap bubble in her palm. She holds it at Kira’s level, the baby’s wide eyes shining in awe.

“Hm.” The Doctor scrunches her nose. “Right before it popped, and she started crying.”

Yaz snickers, handing back the phone. “What happened next?”

“I...” The Doctor hesitates. “Got distracted.”

“Never would have guessed.” Yaz teases gently, catching the wistful tone.

“By a Fravolian ship, Yaz!” The Doctor insists. “A racing one. I had to check out the engine.”

“Of course.” Nodding solemnly, the dark haired woman clears her throat. “You had to.”

Glancing to the side, the Doctor’s gaze flickers from Yaz’s bottom lip caught between her teeth, to the spark of barely hidden amusement in her eyes.

“It’s not funny.” She complains, pouting.

“Oh, yes. It is.” Yaz breaks, with a bout of clear laughter. “But I’m not surprised, I keep expecting you to turn the TARDIS into a racing ship every time I leave.”

Shifting closer, the Doctor dips her head to murmur against Yaz’s ear. “She’s too old.”

The indignant protest that shakes the walls whirs through the room, leaving a buzzing echo inside the two women’s brains.

“See, knew this would happen.” The Doctor's nose crinkle again. “You got me in trouble.”

“Absolutely not, babe.” Yaz denies, with a quick peck to her wife’s lips. “All on you this time.”

Huffing, the blond smiles despite herself. “Want to know the rest of the story, or not?”

Mutedly, Yaz settles back against the Doctor’s side, resting her head on her shoulder. She hums with the gentle kiss brushed against her hairline.

“Yes. Get a shift on.” Yaz demands playfully.

“Put Kira on my back, to get a closer look under the ship’s hood.” The Doctor sighs. “That’s when the Fravolians came back.”

Yaz winces, turning serious. “They didn’t hurt you, right?”

“Couldn’t even catch me.” The Doctor smirks. “They did manage to track us though, and they followed the TARDIS through the vortex.”

Feeling Yaz grow restless on the bed, she continues quickly. “I knew I had to get Kira out.” Another pause, the Doctor steeling herself. “So, I dropped her off with you.”

Yaz’s eyebrows shoot up as she tilts her head back, catching a green-brown, tentative gaze. “No, you didn’t. I was at work all day, there’s no way I could have taken Kira with m...”

The Doctor purses her lips, piecing together disjointed memories. “I did. But I got the TARDIS’ readings wrong.” She blows out a frustrated breath. “Should have checked twice.”

“The TARDIS’ readi...” Yaz interrupts herself, eyes growing wide in understanding. “You mean the date. You dropped her off with a future version of me.”

Catching the Doctor’s hesitation, Yaz smiles. “It’s okay. What’s future me like?”

“It wasn’t...” The Time Lord trails off, shaking her head. “I went too far into the past.“

“How far?” Yaz wonders, eyebrows slowly pinching together.

“Right after Lancashire.”

“Lancas... The witch hunt!” The police officer exclaims, her jaw slacked. “You dropped our daughter off with twenty-years-old me.”

Seconds tick by, until Yaz notices the Doctor’s empty hand twirling the Sonic in her pocket. Softening her voice, she realizes her wife dreads her reaction.

“Hey, look at me.” She calls out, softly.

When their eyes meet, Yaz smiles. “I’m not mad. I’m trying to understand how I kept her alive for more than ten minute.” She explains, grins turning turning rueful. “And how I forgot about her.”

“You didn’t.” The Doctor replies, thoughtlessly.

“What?” The crinkle on Yaz’s forehead returns.

“I had to erase your memory.” The Doctor explains, a pleading spark to her words. “To protect our timeline. I asked first though, and y...”

Yaz tunes the rapid flow of words out of her mind, trying to imagine the first time she met her daughter... At least in her linear timeline. After decades of traveling through time, the concept is still hard to grasp, sometimes.

“Can you give them back?” Yaz interrupts, softly.

***************

Caught mid-ramble, the Doctor’s jaw audibly click shut.

“Give them... back.” She repeats, slowly. Unlocking Yaz’s memory would solve her dilemma, her wife would know what happened between them, without the Doctor having to find the right words.

Words and emotions don’t mix well, she learnt that lesson many faces ago.

“Yes.” The Time Lord whispers, shifting to rest their foreheads together. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Scrunching her nose, she warns. “Might give you a bit of a headache though.”

“I want to remember.” Yaz pleads, her finger tightening around the Doctor’s bicep. “I’m ready.”

The sensation is nothing like the soft, progressive dabbles into telepathy they’ve tried together. Yaz winces under a wave of sharp pain, screwing her eyes shut.

“Sorry, love.” The Doctor murmurs. “Trying to be gentle, but there’s so much to...” She pauses, groaning. “It’s a lot trickier than anything we've done.”

“Why?” Yaz prompts, desperate for a distraction from the ache growing at the back of her head.

“Can’t give you too much.” The Doctor vaguely explains, falling quiet.

Yaz focuses on the air traveling in and out of her lungs, counting the rhythm of her breaths until she feels the Doctor shift back.

“How’s that?” Fingertips linger against her scalp, carding through dark hair in a soothing rhythm. “Pain is not too bad, right?”

“Just a bit sore.” Yaz discards the concern. “But I can’t remember anything new.”

“Can’t you?” An emerald gaze twinkles, with the hint of a smirk. “What if you think about that week between our trip to Lancashire and Norway?”

Raising a skeptical eyebrow, Yaz recalls the distant period in her life. “Nothing. It’s been a while, you kn...”

“Wait.” Cutting herself off, Yaz blinks. A few vivid images flash through her brain. “I remember. You said Kira was your niece. You dropped her off one morn...”

“Yes!” The Doctor interjects, nudging gently. “Hang onto that specific memory. What happens next?”

Yaz closes her eyes, as her mental picture of that day comes into focus. “I took her home. She threw Sonya’s phone on the ground, my dad kept playing hide and seek with her, and my mum nagged me for grandchildr... Ow.”

The end of the word is lost to a groan, a burst of dizzying pain erupting behind Yaz’s eyelids.

“Doctor? What’s hap...”

Firm hands settle on her cheeks, guiding Yaz closer. “Shh. You’re fine, I got you.”

Melting against her wife’s side, Yaz holds her breath as the sharp edge of her headache fades. “What was that?”

“Your brain is already under loads of stress, with the telepathy and all the new memories.” The Doctor explains, scrambling for a blanket to tuck around Yaz. “And you’re pushing it.”

“But I want to know.” Yaz argues, weakly. “What do I do?”

The comment draws a silent sigh from the alien. “You will. Just let me hold you, and details will come.”

“Healing hugs.” Yaz chuckles, the tension draining from her body. “Is that your medical opinion, Doctor?”

“Nah.” The alien dips her head, lips brushing against the shell of Yaz’s ear. “It’s my superpower.”

Charmed, the dark haired woman lays her head against the Doctor’s chest. She closes her eyes, allowing the twin heartbeats under her ear to soothe the chaotic mess in her mind. The noise she associates so intimately with her wife never fails to calm her down.

“I brought Kira back to the TARDIS.” Yaz starts softly, once her thoughts click together. “You put her to bed, and then...” She trails off, blinking.

"You... Told me everything." Yaz whispers, freezing with a wave of shock. She raises on her elbows, regarding the Doctor with a deepening frown. "Why would y..."

Pausing as the conversation between her younger self and her wife fleshes out, Yaz springs to her feet and starts pacing through the middle of the room.

"And you gave me that bloody choice." Gaze snapping to the Doctor's she grinds her teeth together. "Are you mad?"

"I needed to know, Yaz. I've always wondered..."

"You have no idea. I was young." Before the Doctor can justify herself, Yaz interrupts."So young. And when I said you were a dream, I was being honest. I had no idea what the reality of being with you would be like."

Her eyes turned weary, Yaz swallows audibly. "What if I had decided to stay home?"

Catching the tension draining from Yaz's shoulders, the Doctor nervously wets her lips. "Well, I told you. Your life wo..."

"What about our daughter?" Yaz cuts off, half listening to the reply to her own question. "You said sh..."

"Yes." The Time Lord stops her mind from spiraling, raising calming hands. "I didn't lie. Kira would never have existed. I wouldn’t put her in danger."

"I know that. I'm not mad about Kira!" Yaz exclaims, her frantic movement coming to a stop with her palms covering her face.

Seconds tick by, the Doctor struggling to read the other woman's emotions in the tense silence. "Then why are you pacing the floor?"

"Because of you, idiot!"

The sharp edge to the reply catches the blond off-guard. "What do you mean?"

"You see timelines, don't you?" Yaz sighs through a wave of frustration. "You see things that could happen, or should happen."

The Doctor blinks, confused. "Well, I don't alw..."

"Don't even think about lying to me." Yaz warns, twirling to face the alien. "Not now."

"Yes." She nods. "I can."

“If I had decided to go home, you would have spent your entire life remembering us.” Yaz breathes out, shaking her head. “I would have been unhappy in Sheffield, and you have been off to see the universe, knowing there’s a timeline where we found each other. Where you get to love someone who can stay with you.”

“I...” The Doctor gulps, the scenario described by Yaz haunting her since the choice she impulsively offered. “Always move on.”

“I know that. You have to.” Yaz huffs, throwing her hands in the air. “I don’t want you to move on, I want you to be happy with us.”

“I am!” She assures. “But I don’t want my happiness to come at the expanse of yours.”

The argument draws an irritated glare from Yaz. “I had no idea what being happy looked like, I was too young. Why did you even trust my judgement? I was twenty!

“I’ve always trusted your judgement.” The Doctor counters easily, her voice dropping. “I had to do it. I needed to know if you’d regret what happened to you.” She closes her eyes. “If you’d regret meeting me.”

***************

When Yaz gasps, her features softening in shocked understanding, the Doctor's frenzied thoughts slow. Blowing out a noisy breath, she recalls her conversation with a younger version of her wife.

"I had to know. Because sometimes..." She trails off and moves to sit at the foot of the bed, her boots resting on the carpeted floor as she buries her face against her palm. "It feels like I stole your life away from you."

The pained, bittersweet undertone to the Doctor's words clears Yaz's irritation. "Do you seriously... What?" She flattens a palm against a nearby dresser, steadying herself. "I don't understand."

"You'll never have a normal human life." The Doctor objects, looking into gentle brown eyes. "And it's my fault."

"I didn't want a normal human life." Yaz huffs, approaching the seated woman. Her hands settle on her wife's shoulders as she straddles her hips.

"How would you know?" The blond shrugs. "You never had one."

Yaz's fingers hook under her chin, drawing a blond head up. "Did you want a normal Time Lord life?"

The question lands heavily into the Doctor's chest, sucking the air from the room. "I... That's...” Gasping, she scrambles for words. “Not the same." She argues, weakly.

"Why not?" Yaz continues, with a small, slow smile. "You never had one either, how would you know it wasn't for you?"

"Because my people are horrible. They're power-hungry, and prideful, and they only care about themselves."

Clearing her throat, the dark haired woman nods. "Hm. That sounds familiar."

"Humans are not that b..."

"Because we don't have the knowledge, or the technology. We're killing our own planet, Doctor."

When the alien falls silent, Yaz's palms shift to her cheeks, prompting eye contact. "You didn't steal my life. You gave me one."

Fingertips carding through short hair, Yaz lets her touch linger against the Doctor's scalp. "How long have you been worried about me?"

"I've always..." She lets her forehead fall against a nearby shoulder. "It's always been a concern."

Yaz sighs at the sudden reminder of her wife's struggle to communicate properly, exasperated. "All right, you nutter."

She shifts her weight backwards, framing the Doctor's face with both of her hands. "I'm very happy. I don't regret anything, especially not marrying you. It was the best day of my life." Shaking her head, Yaz whispers. "Please, believe me."

Staring into an open gaze shining with affection, the Doctor nods, feeling an vague burden fades from her shoulders. "I do. I'm sorry, I should have told you earlier."

"Yes." Yaz insists, a hint of impatience coloring her voice. "Promise me we’ll talk, before you decide to risk our lives like that again."

"I promise." The Doctor replies earnestly. "I love you."

Yaz's breath hitches. She knows - of course, she knows - that the Doctor loves her. They’re married, and the sentiment seeps through her every action. One look from her wife can make Yaz feel like she’s the best - and only - person in the universe.

But the handful of occasions when the Doctor voices the feeling are precious to Yaz, each memory held close to her heart.

"Should tell you more often." The Doctor murmurs, catching Yaz's racing heartbeat.

"It's fine." She says, the breathless argument weakened by her awe-filled voice. "I know how you feel, you don't have to."

"Hm." The Doctor hums. "You know, you're the first person I've ever said it to."

Brown eyes widen in shock. "What about River?"

"Oh, she caught on. Took her a while though." The Doctor smirks, remembering their ill-fated night on Darilium and River comparing her to the stars. "But I never told her directly."

Yaz’s features soften. “I love you too. Even when you’re being...” She hesitates.

“An insecure idiot?” The Doctor suggests, with a self depreciative smile Yaz decides to kiss away.

“You’re my idiot.” She whispers, pulling her wife closer.

Cold fingers run down Yaz’s spine. “Can I get into your pants now?”

Yaz’s laughter turns into a surprised gasp, when the hands on her back slips under her shirt.

“Why don’t you start with my shirt?”

Eyes twinkling, the Doctor tugs the thin material over Yaz’s head.

“I missed you.” Yaz mumbles, basking into the reverent kisses dropped along her neck. When the Doctor’s lips trail down the column of her throat, over her collarbones and stops between her breasts, Yaz shifts back.

“Too many clothes.” She complains, shoulders heaving.

The Doctor blinks, yanking both of her shirts over head - with a little help from Yaz when sleeves get tangled up behind her back.

“Someone’s eager.” The younger woman teases, combing through her wife’s tousled hair.

“Been too long.” The Doctor sighs, taking in the smooth, dark skin that litters with goosebumps when she touches the faint muscles of Yaz’s stomach.

“Well, nothing is stopping you now.” She replies, with a slow spreading smile.

The fingers grazing her back on their search for a bra clasp freeze, the Doctor flinching.

“What? What’s wr...”

Before she can complete the question, a piercing cry comes down the TARDIS’ hallway.

“Nothing is stopping you.” The Doctor quotes, leaning against Yaz’s mostly bare chest. “Had to say that, didn’t you?”

“Oi. You can’t blame me, she does it all the time.” Yaz protests feebly, her chin resting on the top of a blond head. “Are you sure she doesn’t have super hearing?” She mutters, brushing the pad of her fingers behind the Doctor’s ears.

“Positive.” Humming, the Time Lord purrs when the soft touch slides up, blunt nails scratching teasingly against her temples. “Stop that. Have to go get Kira.”

With another unhappy, noisy breath, Yaz flops to her back in the middle of the mattress. “Bring her here?”

The Doctor crawls closer, elbows braced on both sides of her wife’s face. “Course.” She agrees, easily. “But I was serious earlier. I miss you. Think we can go somewhere soon, just you and me?”

“I’d go anywhere with you.” Yaz grins. “And Ryan has been complaining that he doesn’t see Kira enough.”

“Yeah, well...” The Doctor starts, scrambling to her feet when another cry interrupts the conversation. “If he came with us more often...” She suggests, already halfway out of the room.

“He has a job, Doc.” Yaz argues, raising her voice to be heard through the wall. “And a son.”

A blond head peeks back from the threshold. “And I have a time machine.” She winks, disappearing into the hallway. “And loads of space.”

***************

With a long yawn, Yaz retrieves her discarded t-shirt, slipping the material over her head as she peels back the blankets.

Sinking into her side of the mattress at the sound of high pitched giggles, she smiles when the bedroom’s door creaks open to reveal her wife holding their daughter over her shoulder.

Kira seems to think being upside-down is the funniest thing in the world, going by her happy babbling. Yaz bites her lip to contain a small grin.

“If she gets sick, I’m not cleaning up.” She warns, amusement coloring her tone.

The sound of Yaz’s voice snaps Kira’s attention in her direction. She grins, wriggling from her precarious position.

The Doctor’s hands adjust, righting the baby while stepping closer to the bed. “Oi, don’t do that.” She complains when Kira squirms again, trying to launch herself forwards.

“I’ll drop you one day.”

Yaz shifts closer, opening her arms for the small body that fits so perfectly against her chest. “Don’t listen to your mum.” She advises, dropping a quick kiss against a mess of dark hair. “She’s not that rude.”

“Heard that.” The Doctor frowns, hands on her hips.

Kira blinks lazily, nudging her head under the younger woman’s chin. Yaz shifts her grip, cradling her daughter against her heart. The addicting, familiar baby scent makes the corner of her lips twitch.

“Oh, hello sweetheart.” She whispers, tears prickling at her eyes when Kira’s left hand shoot up to grasp her thumb. “I’m so happy to see you.”

With another steadying sigh, Yaz glances up to find the Doctor regarding them from the foot of the bed, eyebrows pinched together in an obvious mix of concern and guilt.

“Are you going to just stand there?” Yaz raises her voice, carefully keeping her words playful. “You need to change, we’re sleeping.”

Snapped out of her spiraling thoughts, the Doctor scrunches her nose but pads amiably to their joint closet.

Yaz watches her swap her signature clothes for a pair of checkered pajamas bottom and a sleeveless hoodie, surprised. “I was expecting more complaints.”

The Doctor kicks her boots under the bed, slipping the Sonic screwdriver under her pillow before settling at Yaz’s side.

“Yeah, well...” She responds distractedly, tugging the blankets over their legs. “Might be tired.”

“Hm.” Yaz approves, leveling a half-serious stare. “Almost losing your family will do that to you.”

Before the Doctor can answer, Kira interjects with a long string of nonsensical noises.

Turning to the blond, Yaz raises an expectant eyebrow. She can differentiate the youngster’s attempts to speak by now, and this was definitely a meaningful one. The sort that makes the Doctor shakes her head, before she mumbles an answer to herself.

“You’re a baby.” The Time Lord mutters, predictably. “Babies are not supposed to be greedy.”

“What do you mean?”

The Doctor sighs. “She wants to cuddle with both of us.”

Yaz chuckles, carefully arranging Kira until she’s resting on the left side of her chest. “Not enough for you, am I?” She smiles, sinking against the mattress. Head on her pillow, she raises her right arm in silent invitation.

The Doctor grins back, despite her best attempt to look stern. “We can’t just give in every time.”

“Not every time.” Yaz’s palm slides along the curve of her cheek, tracing a dimple. “But we’ve all had a long day.” She pleads, eyes shining as her thumb hooks under the Doctor’s chin to guide her into a quick kiss. “Come here.”

The mix of Yaz’s pleading voice and open gaze makes it impossible to resist - bit unfair, if the Doctor thinks about it - and she relents. Slinging an arm low on Yaz’s stomach, the blond’s shoulders loosen when her wife’s hand circles her back, settling on her hip.

The Doctor kisses the tip of Kira’s nose, earning a content whisper before she nuzzles against Yaz’s neck. She closes her eyes, happy to let a peaceful silence linger as the rhythm of breathing under her cheek slows.

The Doctor pries her right eye opened a few seconds later, when a small hand grabs her wrist and pulls. Blinking when she feels Kira’s grip tightens, her eyebrows pinched together with the sensation of blunt nails digging into her skin.

“Oi, that hurts.”

Kira doesn’t budge, eyes closed and fingers tugging.

The Doctor sighs, giving into the silent demand and wrapping her arm around her daughter’s back.

“Saw that?” The Time Lord whispers, addressing the other woman. “We’re creating a cuddle monster.”

Already halfway through slumber, Yaz hums. “s’fine.” She slurs. “My wife deals with monsters.”

Features softening at the instinctive response, the Doctor swallows through a wave of fond amusement.

“I’ll protect you, love.” She murmurs teasingly, settling her head back against Yaz’s collarbone. Sparing a grateful thought for her family, she lets her eyelids flutter and eases into the pull of sleep.