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Those By Her Side

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“Right, where are we off to then? Because you and I both know you aren’t actually taking me to where I wanted to go. What have you got against Universe Festivals, eh? You getting too old?” said the Doctor as she danced around the TARDIS.

The Doctor had decided to go when Ryan had begun talking about intergalactic raves. She knew Graham and Yasmin would much rather visit anywhere else, but that wouldn’t stop her from borrowing some alien speakers or lights. The TARDIS had other plans, though.

The TARDIS didn’t respond to any of her pilot’s demands, taunts or pleads as she sat silent.

“I don’t like when you do this. Can’t you just listen to me just once? I get enough of this from the fam. At least you can’t wander off, I guess,” sighed the Doctor.

At the mention of the travelling family, the TARDIS hummed. With an expression of realisation, she checked the screen ahead of her. They weren’t parked on Janos, the host of the Universe Festival, as the Doctor had found out, but instead they were somewhere more familiar. Earth, Sheffield.

The Doctor had a habit of waiting for them, even when she knew they had no intention on joining her. The TARDIS herself enjoyed parking in Graham’s flat and had a fondness for his living room. Graham had cleared space for her in the corner, away from all of his breakable furniture. This is why the Doctor found it strange that the TARDIS had chosen a spot just outside of Yasmin’s building, below the stairwell that led to her apartment. She’d been graffitied once by Yasmin’s neighbours, and had refused to wait there since.

The Doctor frowned at the screen when the TARDIS revealed where they were. None of the companions were joining them today, and each instead sent her a text to check up on her, though they knew the Doctor only really replied to messages from Yasmin’s phone. They were all taking what the Doctor called a ‘human day’, one in which the Doctor couldn’t join, because her verbal boredom drove them all insane.

“Why are we here, huh? There’s no aliens in Sheffield, for now. Well, except for this one,” said the Doctor, stroking the machine in front of her.

The TARDIS hummed, but didn’t give the Doctor any answer. The Doctor knitted her eyebrows together, checking over the screen once again. She found no alert, alarm or ominous beeping that should worry her, but the TARDIS refused to budge from her spot. The Doctor sighed in exasperation, which was interrupted by a frantic knock at the door.

“Occupied,” she called out, freezing in her spot as she listened out for the source of the knocking.

The knocking ceased and was replaced by a flat hand slapping pathetically against the door of the TARDIS, waiting to be granted access. The Doctor hadn’t thought humans even used police boxes anymore, let alone with such urgency.

“Hello?” she called out again, with a strange uncertainty.

“It’s me,” came the quiet reply.

“Oh, Yaz! Sorry, wasn’t expecting you today,” said the Doctor, skipping towards the door, “I really do need to get you a key. Thing is, the TARDIS won’t give out that many spares, there was an incident once with lava. Won’t go into that now.”

She came to the door, clicking her fingers for them to open. The TARDIS did as she was told, and the doors flew open to reveal Yasmin on the other side. She was on her own, neither of the boys with her, and stood nervously in front of the other woman. The first thing the Doctor noticed the damp clothes of someone caught in the rain, and now the rain had begun to curl Yasmin’s dark hair. The Doctor felt the cold air as soon as the doors opened and saw the goose bumps and shivers creeping up her companion’s body.

Then she noticed how Yasmin wasn’t leaning forward for a hug, or even stepping through the doors. Her usual bright smile was replaced by a tightened frown, like she was holding something back. The woman had only been standing at the Doctor’s door for a second, but she knew something was definitely wrong with Yasmin Khan.

“…Come in,” said the Doctor, her own smile immediately faltering.

“Thanks,” said Yasmin, though it was too quiet to even be heard.

The Doctor shrugged her coat from her body and wrapped it around Yasmin’s shoulders. Yasmin’s freezing hands grabbed at the rainbow lining and pulled it tighter around herself to stop the shivering. She only managed to thank the Doctor with a smile.

“Why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you,” asked the Doctor, fiddling subconsciously with her suspenders, “because I know something is.”

“I just wanted to see you,” answered Yasmin, her voice cracking slightly as she trailed off.

The Doctor smiled softly, “You wanted to see me for a reason, though, right?”

Yasmin’s breathing had grown faster and shallower since entering the TARDIS. She looked like she had been caught in the head lights, and the Doctor had been the driver. She had begun to hyperventilate, and the Doctor could practically see the palpitations of her heart. It was beating like she, herself, had two of them.

“I saw, saw someone I never thought I’d see again…and it’s so stupid, but I’m so scared,” answered Yasmin, suddenly on the verge of tears.

The Doctor straightened up, alert, “Is someone trying to hurt you?”

“Not anymore,” said Yasmin, furiously wiping away a tear that had pooled under her lower eyelashes.

The Doctor watched as Yasmin tried hard to keep it together, burying herself deeper into the Doctor’s coat. Her breathing still wasn’t under control, and the Doctor worried that she’d pass out if you carried on.

“So, are you safe?” asked the Doctor with a head tilt.

Yasmin didn’t answer, though. Her breathing continued to spiral as she spoke in fragments, “She…came back to…visit family. It’s been years…I thought she’d gone until I heard her name today…”

“Yaz, Yaz, I need you to calm down. You’re panicking, yeah? It’s a panic attack, nothing to worry about. Breathe with me, okay,” said the Doctor, putting a gentle hand on either side of Yasmin’s shoulders.

Yasmin had stopped being able to focus on the Doctor has her vision spiralled; the dark spots in her eyesight had clouded the worried face of her friend. Yasmin struggled under the Doctor’s coat, the clothing that stuck to her wet body like it was suffocating her. The jumper itched and tightened against her hot-flushed body.

“I-I can’t calm down,” said Yasmin through gulping breaths.

“Okay, okay…Yaz, take a deep breath. You’re in the TARDIS, in the console room. I’m here with you, and you’re safe. Nothing can come through the doors except for you, me, Graham and Ryan.”

“I can’t,” said Yasmin again, more like a plea than anything else.

“Come on, breathe with me. That’s it…good,” said the Doctor, as soothingly as she could manage. It was hard enough for her to keep her own panic concealed.

Yasmin looked at the Doctor, taking deep breaths as the woman instructed, “I’m fine…I’m safe.”

“Of course you are, I’ve got you.”

Once Yasmin had begun to calm down, the Doctor put one hand on her forearm, gently stroking it, then the other. She was breathing like she’d just run a marathon, but it was starting to settle as she looked into the Doctor’s gentle hazel eyes. Yasmin had become dizzied and the Doctor was supporting almost all of her weight as she leaned.

“I’m fine, now, thanks,” said Yasmin once she’d managed to regain her normal breathing.

“You’re not, Yaz. Now, tell me what’s goin’ on,” asked the Doctor, her hands still holding protectively onto Yasmin’s trembling arms.

“I-I don’t know if you’ll understand,” mumbled Yasmin.

“Then show me,” said the Doctor, as if it was that simple. Yasmin watched her, trying to work out if it really was that simple to the other woman.

Wordlessly, Yasmin held out her arm. At the base of her thumb rested a thin, faded scar, one that the Doctor previously hadn’t noticed. Yasmin looked down at it subconsciously.

“This was when I tried to defend myself,” she explained, “and this one was the reason I was defending myself.”

Just above, where her arm began, was a rougher, larger scar. It had frequently been covered by sleeves, or gloves and easily hidden from the view of her family and friends. The Doctor had seen plenty of scars, her old bodies had many of them, and she knew how they came about.

“Who did it?” asked the Doctor, trying to keep her voice neutral, though it already sounded like a snarl.

Yasmin sighed, “I told you a story about her a while ago; Izzy Flint. It was back at school, I was standing around at lunch and she decided to get her mates to throw stones. The sharpest, most jagged ones they could find. Some hit me and left marks, one broke a finger. They blamed some lads, didn’t even get in trouble.”

Those two scars weren’t the only ones, though. There was a scar, one that had come from a cigarette burn, by Yasmin’s wrist. A similar looking burn scar marred her upper arm, another one hidden consciously by clothes. Each one sent painful images flashing across the Doctor’s mind, and she struggled to hide them from her already angry expression.

“How could they do that?” asked the Doctor, her voice almost a shout.

Yasmin dropped her arm to her side, “Teenagers can be just as bad as your monsters. They bullied me anyway…but it got worse when some rumours went ‘round.”

The Doctor didn’t push for more answers, about what kind of rumours had been spread around. She didn’t understand much about human socialisation, particularly teenagers, since her own species hadn’t had much time for the same drama, but Ryan had spoken to her about what he’d heard. And she didn’t like it.

“I’ve defended you lot for years, but you really are the most primitive species,” mused the Doctor, a flicker of venom on her tongue. Yasmin flinched, even though she knew the comment wasn’t directed at her.

“I was in the shops, and I turned the corner and saw her talking to her old mates. She looked at me and everything came back to me. I felt the same way I had when she’d chased me out of the same shop years ago, waiting ‘till I was outside to shout abuse. Told the shop keeper not to let people like me back inside. I felt like I was back there.”

Yasmin perched down on the single step that separated the console from the rest of the room, reaching out her legs in front of her. The Doctor could see the dirty, scuffed bottoms of Yasmin’s boots from their countless adventures.

“Do you remember,” said Yasmin quietly, “when you asked us all what we were afraid of? And Graham said spiders, Ryan said heights, and I pretended I hadn’t heard what you said?”

The Doctor nodded, “Yeah, course.”

“This is what I’m scared of. This… and her,” answered Yasmin.

The Doctor could see how scared she was, even without Yasmin’s confession. Her hands were in her lap and her head was bowed in embarrassment. It wasn’t until the Doctor put a hand on her companions’, which made the younger woman look up, that she could see the fear in Yasmin’s teary eyes.

“Come ‘ere,” said the Doctor.

The Doctor hesitated at first, knowing Yasmin already felt suffocated, but felt encouraged by the younger woman’s soft smile. She sat down beside Yasmin and turned to face her until Yasmin’s face was pressed into the time lady’s chest. The Doctor wrapped her arms around the woman and felt Yasmin’s own shaky hands on her back.

Yasmin didn’t have the scent humans usually carried, instead it was almost alien; a strange combination of jasmine, daisies, linen and faraway stars. The Doctor breathed it in as they hugged, trying to ignore the younger woman’s relentless trembling. They held their hug for longer than they usually did, and then let their hands drop to their sides, still enjoying each other’s closeness.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was this bad,” said the Doctor.

“S’not your fault. It’s just…it’s so hard to forget the names, the comments, the pain and everything else they did to me. It makes me scared when I’m on duty, even when we’re on another planet. I don’t know why I let her get to me so bad,” said Yasmin miserably.

“You know, when I was a little boy, I was bullied to. Growing up too, before the Academy. They thought I’d never be a Time Lord, the other kids tried to beat it into me,” shrugged the Doctor, flushing under Yasmin’s attention now that it was her turn to be embarrassed.

“So, you’re telling me kids are terrible on every planet?” asked Yasmin, grazing over the ‘little boy’.

“You’ve seen enough planets now to know sometimes, it’s not always the aliens who cause the most harm,” answered the Doctor.

“I’ve been hurt worse by humans than I ever have by aliens,” agreed Yasmin.

“Does…anyone know about this? What happened to you, I mean?” asked the Doctor.

“Ryan and I had mutual friends growing up, he heard all about it. My parents got worried when I started coming home with cuts and bruises, but I always managed to lie my way out of a doctor’s appointment. Pretty ironic that I’m talking to a doctor now, innit?”

“Doctors can help with all sorts Yaz,” argued the Doctor, hoping her confidence would comfort them both.

The Doctor had helped Yasmin, to be truthful. Whenever she considered all the abuse that haunted her like a ghost, she’d wonder why, if she were so terrible, the Doctor would choose to travel with her. You didn’t take a terrible person across the universe, did you? She was more grateful for the Doctor than even she had thought.

Yasmin tilted her head, in a motion the Doctor could only call adorable, as she smiled fondly at the time lady. The Doctor was relieved to find her smiling again, even if it was just for a moment, as it almost made the images of her scars fade from the Doctor’s mind. She could still see pain behind Yasmin’s eyes though, and she gulped.

“I’ve got something for you,” said the Doctor, “I think it might help.”

The Doctor dashed off to the other side of the room, leaving Yasmin staring quizzically at the spot she’d ran from. She was stopped from following the Doctor by a wave of the woman’s hand, and instead just watched as she rummaged through the drawers attached to the console.

“Doctor, what are you doing?” asked Yasmin, impatiently listening to the crashes coming from the Doctor’s direction.

“Hang on, Yaz,” she called back.

“What are you up to?” asked Yasmin, cringing as something heavy fell on the ground with a thump.

“Got it,” cheered the Doctor, promptly ignoring Yasmin’s question.

She approached Yasmin, trying to supress a smile, one hand held out in front of her in a fist. The Doctor grabbed a hold of Yasmin’s own small hand and placed it over her closed fist. Yasmin looked up with wide, dark eyes as the Doctor gestured for her to open her fist. Yasmin did as she was asked and pried open the Doctor’s hand, revealing something gleaming and metallic in her palm.

Inside, Yasmin found a key. It was a simple, silver one with ‘Yaz’ engraved delicately at the base. Yasmin gently took it from the Doctor and held it in her own palm.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“Your own key. To the TARDIS. She doesn’t like me makin’ copies, but she made the exception for you. Plus, you let me in your flat all the time, and this is the closest thing I have to one,” smiled the Doctor.

“You didn’t have to,” said Yasmin, not taking her eyes from the silver in her palm.

“Course I did. Now, if you’re ever scared, or sad, and I’m not there, just hold onto the key and I’ll come running,” said the Doctor.

“Click my heels together three times and I’ll be home?” teased Yasmin with a chuckle.

“You’ll always be home here,” said the Doctor seriously.

Yasmin tucked the key away into her pocket. She placed it in the inside of her jacket, so that she was reminded it was there.

“I don’t know how you always manage to make me feel safe, alien-with-a-time-machine,” joked Yasmin, though her voice was fond and quiet.

The Doctor nudged her playfully, “Yeah you do, that’s why you came here. Now, how about you and I go to that shop of yours, you can show me your favourite Earth delicacies. Oh, do they sell Mars Bars? Love Mars Bars.”

Yasmin laughed, then frowned, “Why do you want to go to the shop? Other than for Mars Bars, of course.”

The Doctor shrugged, “We have a time machine…and your old friend has a meeting with the Oncoming Storm.”

Yasmin burst out laughing, linking her arm into the Doctor’s, “If you want to cause even a breeze, I’d change out of the suspenders and rainbows.”

The Doctor looked at Yasmin and pouted, “But you like rainbows! There’s one in your bedroom on the TARDIS.”

Yasmin nearly choked on air, followed by a heavy blush, and listened to the cheeky hum of the TARDIS around her. She glared at nothing, hoping the ship would get the message, and then watched as the Doctor skipped to the door and held it open for Yasmin. When Yasmin walked through, the Doctor absent-mindedly wrapped an arm around her.

“Thank you,” whispered Yasmin, pressing herself closer to the Doctor. The time lady hadn’t heard her though and was already half-way through a story.

“Did I ever tell you about my visit to Mars? Remind me to never take you there…”