She should have known from the beginning.
The first days didn't count, they were her usual adjusting period with remnants of regeneration energy still bubbling inside of her, rearranging her mind and body until all of it had been used up. She was pretty much invincible during those hours and afterwards, when she wished she had been the one to fall instead of Grace, nothing else seemed to matter.
Oh, how she would have loved to show her the wonders of the universe. The first face this face saw and the one in seven billion she was looking for over and over again.
Grace died, and after the funeral, when quiet solemn mourning had finally settled into her bones and expelled the last strands of madness from her body, they were watching the sunset over Sheffield and Yasmin Khan started falling in love with her.
It might have been the beginning of something wonderful, in a different time with a different face, but not this one.
At first, the Doctor failed to notice the emotions slowly blossoming inside of Yaz, even with the increase in her telepathic abilities. They got stranded on an alien planet without a TARDIS and witnessed, no, participated in one of the most important moments in history, but it wasn't until they were stuck in a hotel full of giant spiders that the Doctor finally recognized the feelings Yaz was emitting towards her.
She expected herself to be excited about it, maybe even interested in building that relationship, but something was stopping her and it fled from her grasp whenever she tried to identify it.
Then they got almost eaten several times and the Doctor shoved the new knowledge to the back of her mind, determined to deal with it later, though 'later' would not happen for several weeks.
There was some time in-between when they weren't currently hunting rare species through space ships or witnessed horrifying witch trials, but once she had brought her still new companions home and settled into the far corners of her library with a special diary, she simply forgot about the long-lasting looks and lingering touches of a certain police officer.
It was a good couple of months after falling out of the sky and her fam was currently at home, checking in with their lives and catching up on what had occurred during their absence. Yaz still had a job going on and Ryan was theoretically applying for an engineering degree, though he was having trouble finding a good university near him that was providing the accommodations he needed due to his dyspraxia.
The Doctor closed the doors of the TARDIS and wandered around the unusually quiet console room, taking some deep breaths while the last traces of adrenaline left her body. She loved traveling with them, she did, but three humans at the same time were bound to exhaust her physical, mental and telepathic limits.
The grumpy face had been sensitive to touch for several reasons, the biggest being the sudden influx of thoughts and emotions that were difficult to control without consciously pushing them back. Bowtie and the two before him on the other hand either hadn't minded at all or actively sought out the input, which sometimes had included physical stimulation as well. Just thinking about all the spinning she once did send her head flying.
Now she didn't even have to touch anyone to sense their emotions, especially in closed-off rooms with people she knew well enough. The TARDIS was similar to an echo chamber, providing a never-ending stream of thoughts and feelings from both the humans and the ship.
Some time alone would hopefully be able to clear her mind and enable her to process all the things that had been piling up for the last weeks.
For a moment, she considered parking the TARDIS in the time vortex, but who knew what would happen once she left Sheffield; better not to risk anything.
The walk to her bedroom, or rather living room, since she never did any sleeping in it anyway, was short and she had only managed to slip out of her coat and pull down the suspenders when the door quietly opened in front of her to let her in. The Doctor gave the door frame a quick pat in thanks before throwing her coat onto its usual chair and starting to toe-off her shoes.
A sweater and some fuzzy socks had appeared on her bed a few days ago and even though she had not yet figured out which room they had come from, she was dying to curl up in them and read for a while.
It didn't take her long to switch out her clothes for the comfier ones, and since she was halfway through undressing anyway, she exchanged her trousers for a pair of Rose's old sweatpants as well, which finally fit her legs perfectly.
She left her pile of clothes on the bed and strode down the halfways, only half a goal in mind, and opened her mind to the chatter of the machinery around her. There were always old thoughts swimming around in the telepathic circuits, but also newer ones from her fam. A thought about breakfast from Graham and skittering emotions from Ryan she simply let swim freely through her mind, passing everything on to where it had come from.
That was until her mind stopped as if it had just hit a brick wall head-on. Her eyes flew open and the Doctor stopped in her tracks, fingertips still grazing the solid wood next to her - the door to Yaz's room.
Right. That's what she had forgotten about.
Yasmin Khan was properly, deeply in love with her and the Doctor had no idea what to do about it.
The library popped up next to her thanks to a wonderfully sentient ship, and she put up her mental barriers again to avoid any future mishaps like that.
With its yellow lights, the seemingly if not literally endless bookshelves and self-refilling teacups the library was her favorite room on the ship. Sometimes, when she was drifting through the vortex and trying to keep painful memories from resurfacing, the Doctor spent days on end working through everything she got her hands on.
Harry Potter stood next to the basic concepts of astrophysics in the thirtieth century and Agatha Christie novels - a mess of unsorted knowledge and fantasy trying to keep its owner busy.
Now, the Doctor passed the shelves without a second glance and grabbed a cup of Earl Grey before plopping down onto a sofa, drawing her legs up onto the cushions. It was her favorite cup, one she and Clara had, well, abstracted from some space thieves while on a trip; a nice picture that came up every time she used it.
There was always a shot of pain in her hearts when she thought about the past and the people she had lost along the way, but she has long but realized that life and grief are both a process you can't speed up, no matter how hard you try.
A small hum of the TARDIS's conscience reminded her not to drift off once again, but thinking about her current situation proved to be far more unpleasant than she had anticipated. This kind of situation has happened before, the most recent instant being her (his?) unclear relationship with Martha Jones, but even back then the circumstances had been different.
Then the reason for her (or his? gender proved to be way too confusing) disinterest had been the loss of Rose, not a disinterest in romantic relationships altogether. Had he and Martha met later in his life, maybe something could have happened between them. Her and Yaz though, that was something she knew had no hope of ever happening.
The Doctor liked her, she did, but her feelings were strictly platonic and even the thought of a romantic relationship between her and Yaz, or anyone, for that matter, made her stomach turn. There was a small chance Yaz would forget about the whole thing and they would be able to go on like nothing ever happened, but when she searched her memory for clues, that small seed of hope shriveled up and died.
It was mostly the looks, she thought, and the small, lingering touches that left Yaz flushed and breathless but did nothing to herself.
Like before they had gone to visit her grandmother, an act of kindness on her side since she did remember the promise to herself, or after they stopped a janitor from committing mass murder per mail.
The Doctor herself had only seldom reached out to touch and it had never been to flirt or convey anything that wasn't platonic affection or comfort. She wasn't to blame for Yaz's feelings but somehow it still ended up being her responsibility.
Three cups of tea and some nonverbal telepathic talks with the TARDIS later, her ship reminded her of the dawning arrival of her friends and nudged her to get changed again. Before she sauntered off to her room and then the console, she made a brief stop for a bathroom break and quickly combed through her hair, which her worrying fingers had turned into a tangled mess.
There was no real plan of action for this situation, but now that she was at least clear on what was going on, it should be easier to deal with.
One thing she had decided on was to decrease the amount of physical contact and to more evenly distribute her time and attention between the three friends. She had been focusing on Yaz more than she would have liked, as she had grudgingly admitted do herself, solely because the young woman reminded her of, well, a lot of people to be honest.
They opened the wooden doors to the interior of the TARDIS at exactly eight pm Sheffield time and she welcomed them back with a grin, already typing in the coordinates for what she hoped would be a crystal cave planet without major threats to their safety.
"Righty then, off we go. I hope your earth hours were nice. Hold on to your nearest stable piece of TARDIS please, this one could be bumpy."
She flicked the last switch and the floor beneath them started moving just hard enough to throw even her slightly off balance. Ryan shrieked when they passed into the new time like they had hit a speed bump at full speed and almost let go of the pillar he was pressing his body into.
They did land safely and without further problems though, something the Doctor was indeed slightly proud of, and the trip came and went without any disturbances besides Graham getting lost in the elaborate cave system for an hour after wandering off.
All the while, the Doctor tried to be overly cautious in her actions, avoiding unnecessary touches or lingering too long in her general vicinity, which proved to be way more difficult. Yasmin drifted towards her like a moth to the light and whenever the Doctor took one step back, whether literally or figuratively, she came two steps closer until they both hit a wall.
The pattern continued for a few more days and the Doctor seemed to achieve the exact opposite of what she had been wanting to do. If anything, Yaz was falling faster than ever before and she was unable to stop it.
It all reached its peak a week after the Doctor's revelation.
The boys had said their goodbye's for the night and retired to their bedrooms while Yaz was still hovering around the controls, watching her trying to fix some minor hick-ups in the lighting. Even with all her mental barriers drawn up and close, the Doctor could still feel mushy, pink emotions emitting from Yaz like smoke attempting to suffocate her.
"Y'know, Doctor, I had a lot of fun today."
"Well, I hope so! Took me five tries to get the time right but the triple sunset was definitely worth it," she answered without looking up from the circuit board she was disassembling in her lap. Her coat was laid onto the ground and also covered in several electronic parts she knew were important for something, but currently could not remember what for.
Yaz took a deep breath, and when the smoke started creeping up her lungs, the Doctor knew what was about to happen.
"I thought, maybe we could go on a trip tomorrow, just- just the two of us."
An invitation. For a date. A romantic date. The thought made her stomach turn.
There was a sharp tinge to the smoke now, anxiety mixed with hope, and she couldn't take it anymore. The Doctor had been more than patient with Yaz, but she was tired of dancing around it.
She dropped the circuit board onto the ground, careful not to damage it, and cleaned her hands on the sides of her pants before standing up. Her hearts sped up with nervousness, but it was different than hers, heavier, colder. If she was to emotionally hurt someone she should at least look them in the eyes, right?
There was no smile on her face anymore, just a sharp frown between her brows and hidden pity in her eyes.
"Yaz- look. I don't think that's a good idea."
Words, good, she was saying words, and hopefully, they were making sense. Yaz was still smiling, and the smoke was starting to reach her brain, making her own emotions go fuzzy at the edges.
"I'm sure Ryan and Graham don't mind if that's what you're worried about, maybe we can drop them off at a Spa or somethin'," she rambled, twisting her hands into her jacket. Yaz was shifting her weight from one leg to another and noticeably coming closer, though the Doctor doubted it was intentional.
The Doctor needed to concentrate, needed to end this conversation before she said things she would regret later on, but the smoke was blurring her emotions and slowly dissolving her barriers, making her dizzy.
With her left hand on the console, she steadied herself enough to keep standing upright, and the cold metal deliberately warmed beneath her fingertips, a reminder that her TARDIS was still here and would not allow her mind to slip away.
"Yasmin, I don't want to go out with you," were the words she brought out, and she prided herself in using her full name for once. "I like you platonically, very much even, since you are my friend, but I do not want to date you."
She paused here, giving Yaz some time to process her words, but when more than a few seconds had ticked by, the Doctor opened her mouth again, now more than ever attempting to give her a clear message.
"I'm not- well, this face is what you might call aromantic. I don't think I- no, I don't date. I'm sorry."
She had read up on that two nights earlier to make sure she would use terms Yaz understood if it should get this far, and now she was very glad about that.
Yaz blinked, once, twice, and then her face fell just as the smoke finally left her body as well. She could breathe again and did so, reveling in the way her lungs stretched in her ribcage. The words had been said, and she could not take them back.
Her friend, on the other hand, might have very well been wishing to take her words back. The wetness pooled in her eyes for a few seconds before the first tears fell, and the Doctor regretted ever traveling with human companions this time around. Images of Martha flashed through her mind, which she swatted away like flies. This was different, she told herself, and it would not end the same way.
"Yaz, hey, I'm sorry. I never wanted to hurt you, but-"
"I don't care," she interrupted her, desperately clawing for control, "this is unfair. I thought- you were sending out signals and I am not stupid, I know you like me back. Maybe this is just new for you because you're alien or something, but please, just- just give me a chance. One date and-"
The Doctor's interruption was gentle, far more gentle than she thought she'd have the patience to be, but this was getting ridiculous, and Yaz would probably end up regretting every word out of her mouth in a few hours anyway. It was kinder to stop this now than to let her go on like this.
"I am going to say this once. I do not blame you for liking me," way to go, Doctor, just be as arrogant as possible, "but this is not about you. You are an amazing person, but this face, this body, they do not love like that. You are my friend, and that is a valuable thing to be. I understand if you want to take a break from- from traveling, but do not let this weigh too heavy on you."
She cringed at her own words, but they were the best she could do right now. Maybe they could talk in the morning when the air didn't taste like burned copper, and they, or rather Yaz, had been able to sleep over it for a night. Yaz, who was still looking at her with such conflicting emotions it made her feel dizzy all over again, shook her head and roughly ran her sleeve over her eyes, before turning on the spot and leaving the console room with loud and heavy footsteps.
The Doctor sighed and tangled her fingers in her hair for a few seconds, pulling just strong enough to hurt, and allowed herself to be angry at Yaz for a moment, just one, tiny moment, before she plopped down next to her coat like nothing ever happened, crossed her legs and went back to work.