“Relaxing spa take two,” she announces with a flourish.
“This one isn’t going to try and kill us is it?”
“The last spa didn’t try and kill you either Graham. It was the mutated versions of,” she trails of at everyone's expressions, “this one is safe I promise.'' She'd spent half the night looking for the safest most boring holiday resort in the galaxy and was pretty proud with what she’d come up with. Even if she was already itching to find something a little more interesting to do.
“You’re absolutely sure about that?”
“Yes Graham I’m sure. Honestly I’m a little offended that you don’t trust me on that.” She gives him her best I’m joking because I know we’re friends smile but he still doesn’t look convinced.
“Seriously I swear to you on my lucky left boot that it’s safe.
That seems to do the trick as Ryan takes off running towards the watersides and Graham heads for the poolside snack bar. Or mostly anyway because Yaz is still standing beside her giving her the oddest look.
“Doctor. This whole holiday thing,” she takes a deep breath before seeming to gather up enough courage. “Are you trying to distract us?”
“Distract? Can’t I take my fam somewhere fun without some form of ulterior motive. Honestly I’d expect this kind of talk from Graham but you Yasmin Khan I
“Doctor.” She frowns. Yaz would never have interrupted her in the earlier days of their travels. “It’s okay. I think it’s sweet you want to help but seeing your world reduced to an uninhabitable husk of what it used to be would be traumatising for anyone. I really think we should talk about it.”
She should say something comforting. Even she can see that but she can’t stop herself from snapping, images of a burnt hunk of a planet playing out behind her eyelids. “The earth is fine. I can drop you off anytime you like. Bloody humans and your need to talk about everything when your planet is perfectly fine.”
Yaz looks at her in shock blinking a little too fast before taking off in the other direction. She knows he should follow her. Say something reassuring but she can’t quite bring herself to. Instead she settles into a nearby lounge chair. She just needs a few moments of rest. Than she can put on her brave fast, make up with Yaz and even take her friends out somewhere nice to eat.
She tries to lie back and relax but the sun is too hot. Too orange. She tries to close her eyes and block everything out but that only made things worse. It’s no use. She can see the TARDIS over by the changing rooms calling out to her with the promise of familiarity and plenty of repairs to keep her occupied. She glances towards the pool where Ryan and Yaz are deep in discussion together before deciding she’s done here only to run straight into Graham.
“Doctor, where are you going?”
“Just thought I’d step back into the tardis for a bit. Get some repairs done while it’s quite”
“Why don’t you stay by the pool and rest a while cockle? All this works not good for you.”
She winces at the worried look in her friends eyes. It doesn’t sit right. The humans aren't supposed to worry about her.
“My kind burn really easily. Lower body temperature and all that. If I stay here much longer I’ll end up looking like a lobster,” she pushes past him without giving him a chance to argue with her.
She blinks blearily and shifts against the hard cold floor against her back. She feels the comforting ping of the tardis in the back of her head letting her know she’s safe. It’s just a dream she reassures herself. Just a bad dream and for a moment it is.
It’s fine. She’s safe. She is. It’s okay but it’s not. Gallifreys gone but she doesn’t care because she doesn’t want to go anyway but it’s gone and it’s not coming back and she can’t fix it this time but it’s not her fault but it is because of course it is. Her breaths are coming out in short panicked gasps. She’s too worked up for her respiratory bypass system to kick in. She's beginning to feel dizzy.
A hand clamps around her shoulder breaking through the blur and she scrambles back in a panic before she realises it’s only Graham.
“Sorry Doc,” he holds up his hands his face crinkled with concern, or maybe that was just the wrinkles she’d never been all that good a judge when it came to these sorts of things.
The frown deepens with her lack of response. Definitely worry then which is wrong because her friends aren’t supposed to be worried. They’re supposed to be in awe of all the cool things she has to show them or impressed by spectacular amount of knowledge about the universe. They definitely shouldn’t be worried and certainly not about her. But she’s been getting those looks more and more lately. She needs to do something about it.
“Just doing some breathing exercises. I only have one lung so I have to keep it as fit and healthy as possible.” She angles her face carefully away from him as she flicks whichever switches happen to be within reach and takes a couple of deep breaths to really sell the lie.
“If you’re sure,” the frown still hasn’t left his face.
“Of course I’m sure. When have I ever been wrong before?”
He doesn’t take the bait like she expects and instead just continues to give her that same look. “Right. It’s just you. You don’t.” She keeps her head bent over the console, hands stark white with how hard she’s gripping it. “If something’s bothering you you can always talk to us,” he settles on, “You do know that right?” he adds a little desperately.
“Nothing to talk about, she winces at the way the orange light of the console room glints against a particularly shiny lever. “I just need to do something very important and real over there.” The light takes on a much more reassuring blue hue as she makes her exit.
There were no survivors. She knows there weren’t. She’d have sensed them but she’s always been a poor telepath all things considered but she checked. She did. She searched for days. Months possibly. Long enough to lose track of time. She’d have found someone if they had been there to find. She knows she would have. And even if she hadn’t the Master is nothing if not thorough. If he wanted to annihilate the people of Galifrey then they were gone. End of story.
She can’t get the image out of her head. She tries she really does. She sees a small figure, I child really trapped under a heap of rubble when she trys to choke down breakfast with her fam. She sees them trying fruitlessly to claw their way out only to cause an avalanche of burning debris to further imprison them as she sits ramrod straight not watching whatever film her friends have decided on. She sees she sees them giving up hope of ever being found as she works deep beneath the floors of the tardis when the thought strikes her. This could be real. They could be calling out to her. It’s been so long since she connected with someone new. Maybe she’s forgotten what it feels like. She knows it’s probably nonsense but she can’t risk that. She’s the Doctor and she saves people. Even when she can’t (even when she fails, even when it's her fault) she needs to save someone.
Her fam are asleep and will be for hours. She can make it back before breakfast. They’ll never even know she left.
She deadlocks the tardis on her way out. She’ll be back before it becomes an issue but it’s better to be safe than sorry. The last thing she needs is the humans to go looking for her and, and. And nothing. It’s just a precaution and an unnecessary one at that.
She soon falls into a rhythm of searching. Doesn’t even need to think. Loses all sense of self. Her whole world narrows into a single moment. A moment full of smoke filled lungs, fingernails torn ragged from clawing at wreckage and desperate hope.
Eventually she collapses. It’s not for the first time but this time she struggles to rise to her feet. She does manage it in the end but she can’t stop herself swaying. Slowly she becomes aware of the deep ache of hunger in her stomach.
There’s no one here. There’s no one here. There’s no one anywhere. Distantly she registers the sound of screaming. It’s her. There’s no one else because they’re gone and they’re not coming back so it must be her. She screams and she screams until her voice completely leaves her and then she folds in on herself falling to the ground in a trembling heap.
Eventually she picks herself and heads back to the TARDIS. There’s nothing to do but carry on so that’s what she’ll do. If she’s lucky she might make it back before anyone realises she left.
The moment she steps into the TARDIS and catches sight of a tear stained Yaz she knows she miscalculated.
“Doctor. Where have you been?”
She casually side steps her friends hug and begins the process of piloting them far away from here. “Oh you know. The usual. Must have lost track of time.”
“The usual? Doctor! It's been three weeks. We couldn’t find you or get the door open. We thought you were dead.”
“Whoops,” she winces guiltily.
“Whoops? Is that all you have to say. I can’t believe you.”
Yaz waits for an explanation that the Doctor can’t give before storming off, “I guess I better go tell the boys you’re alive.”
She feels mildly guilty about leaving her fam behind again but she really will be back before they wake this time. She just needs a break. A break from the worried looks. A break from the heavy silences that come from stalled conversation every time she enters a room. A break from the pointed questions every time she tries to get some time to herself. She needs a release.
She pays for the private room and follows the man with as much apprehension as she can muster. Mostly she just feels empty.
“Alright love you need to pick a safe word before we begin.” The pet name sounds wrong in his mouth although she can’t figure out why.
“Pears” she decides with a slight sneer. Something about the use of a safety word sits wrong in the pit of her stomach. It’s ridiculous. She knows this but that doesn’t stop the way it feels.
“Okay love how do you want to do this.”
Doesn’t it defeat the point if she’s in charge? This was a mistake. She can tell already. “Make me kneel,” she decides.
“Kneel. Now,” he says, giving her shoulder a gentle push.
“No,” she growls in frustration. “You’re too soft. Say it like you mean it.”
“Kneel,” he growls. Harsher now. Better.
“Yes Master” she moans.
The man whose name she’s already forgotten pins her wrists above her head and begins to edge her trousers down towards her ankles followed by her boxers. He pumps his fingers inside her with no preamble. It’s new. It’s different. It’s, it’s not right. It’s rough but there’s no real bite to it. No malice.
“Forget it” she pushes him off without much effort and when she stalks off he makes no attempt to stop her which is wrong too.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
The whole planet seems to chant it in time to heavy footsteps as she stomps her way back to the TARDIS.
They stumble into the tardis filthy and exhausted but the good kind of exhausted. The kind that comes from days full of adventure and running and time spent with friends. Not the kind that comes from too long nights full of nightmare filled sleep and long hours of a brain that won’t stop.
She looks fondly at the people around her. Graham already talking about what he’s making for tea, Yaz chatting away about all the new things they’ve seen and Yaz telling stupid jokes to make them all laugh. For the first time in a long time she feels like a part of her fam.
It bubbles out of her unexpectedly before she can stop it. Ryan looks startled but before long he’s laughing too. She can feel the relief mixed with confusion coming off him in waves but for some reason that only makes her laugh harder. She laughs and laughs and fails to catch her breath before her respiratory bypass kicks in.
Despite the way her chest aches it feels good to laugh again.
It’s only when her fam are beginning to settle down for the night that she realises she hasn’t thought about Gallifrey for hours. But that’s fine. She deserves to be happy. She didn’t even like the timelords. Honestly they deserve to be forgotten.
Except. Except Gallifrey wasn’t just full of pompous morons in stupid hats. There were people who deserve to be remembered. There were children who needed to be remembered. She isn’t going to forget. Not again.
She runs to the console in a frenzy piloting the ship to Galifrey as fast as she can. She stands in the doorway and forces herself to breathe the smoke filled air. Forces herself to look until her eyes burn. She stares out until the humans begin to stir.
She takes one more moment to take in the burning ruins around her. It’s hard to look at but she has to make sure it’s seared into her memory. She wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger this time but she’s still responsible. She has a responsibility to make sure they’re remembered and she’s determined to fulfil that responsibility.
She dangles her legs outside the edge of the tardis gazing out onto the constellation of Kasterborous. She doesn’t think she can face the actual planet tonight.
She doesn’t know how long she sat there before Jack settles in beside her.
“Shouldn’t you have gone to bed with the other humans?”
She gives him a halfhearted shove at his answering eyebrow raise.
“I wanted to check on you,” she refuses to meet his eyes but can feel the intensity of his stare, “there are rumours going around, about Galifrey.”
At her answering hitch in breath he wraps her up in a surprisingly gentle on armed hug. She should probably wiggle out of the embrace. The last thing Jack needs is to be encouraged but she finds she doesn’t quite have the strength to follow through with that thought. She’ll never admit it to anyone particularly not Jack but sometimes it’s nice to be held. She lets her head rest against his shoulder. It’s more of a stretch then it used to be she notices distantly. Feels nice though. Maybe she can rest here. Just for a moment.
“Are you gonna be okay?”
She considers telling him she is or at least that she’ll get there but she settles on the truth, “I don’t know,” he holds her closer as her voice cracks “I don’t know.”
The release of a good cry should bring some kind of relief but she only feels empty. Empty drained and rather soggy. She should really move. Jack’s only human and needs his sleep after all but she finds she doesn’t quite have the energy to. Instead she lies against him until her eyes flutter closed falling into her first dreamless sleep in years.