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Flowers to Your Love

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The first time it happens, it’s a terrible shock.

The Doctor gives her one of those big, light-up-the-room smiles, leaning up against the kitchen counter, and Yaz is right in the middle of taking a sip of her tea, but she can’t help but smile back. Then she coughs, just as she brings the cup away from her lips, and watches the Doctor’s smile melt into confusion.

“You okay, Yaz?”

Yaz nods, and manages to choke out, “Too hot,” as she sets the cup down on the table. She keeps coughing though, and turns away, because it’s embarrassing to choke on your own tea, only to be saved by Ryan’s long-suffering voice in the entrance to the kitchen.

“Dooooctor, I can’t find the game room again.”

Even beyond her coughing—it’s as if something is stuck in her throat, but she was drinking tea—she hears the Doctor say, “Well that’s probably because she’s sick of watching you play Call of Duty! Really, doesn’t hurt to expand your horizons, and I’ve heard good things about Mario Kart—”

Her voice fades as she follows Ryan out of the kitchen, and Yaz can’t help but be relieved, because her stomach is turning and she can’t stop choking, she thinks she’s going to be sick and she can only imagine how embarrassing that would be—

She coughs once more, and spits something into her hand. She brings it away automatically from her face, disgust wrinkling her nose, and then freezes in place once she catches sight of the object.

Sitting in her hand, flecked with blood, is a single flower petal.

————

She panics, throwing it away immediately, and doesn’t tell anyone. It scares her too much to do so. And once it’s gone, disappeared into a rubbish bin she doesn’t dare look into, it’s easier to pass off as a one time thing. Surely it hadn’t been an actual flower petal. Something she had eaten, maybe, that had disagreed with her. That was all.

Once a few days pass, she considers mentioning it. The panic has calmed down, enough for her to think that maybe, even if it definitely couldn’t have been a flower petal, coughing up blood has never, historically, been a good sign.

But before she can actually make the leap, it happens again, and she finds out what it is anyway.

They’re touring the stalls in an enormous open-air market, and Yaz has gone off alone. She wanted to go with the Doctor, preferably just the two of them, but Ryan begged her to show him the games section, of which Yaz has no interest in, and Graham wants to find the food court, and she’s not particularly hungry, so she wanders off to find the antique jewelry section. Maybe, she thinks, if she can get something nice for her mum, she’ll be a little more satisfied with all those vague half-answers Yaz keeps giving her about the Doctor.

Her throat is tickling by the time she finds her way to the jewelry section, but the planet is dusty and dry, so she doesn’t pay much attention to it. It gets worse as she shops, however, until, just as she pays for the jewelry, and a friendly, scaly-skinned merchant passes over her change, it breaks into a cough.

She turns away and brings her hand to her mouth, aware of the merchant’s eyes upon her. “You okay, little one?”

She barely manages to nod before a horribly familiar feeling forces its way up her throat, and before she knows it, she’s coughing and retching flower petals into her hand. It’s three this time, one after the other, and when she automatically tilts her hand and watches them flutter onto the sandy ground below, she sees that her palm is stained with blood.

“Ooh.” The merchant whistles, long and low, and when she looks up at him, she sees him shaking his head in sympathy. “You poor little thing.”

“Huh?” she frowns, a little distracted, because though she is thankful for his sympathy, she’s still occupied with the bloody flower petals littering the ground.

But the merchant is still shaking his head, his eyes round with sadness. “Who is it, then?”

She shakes her head. “Sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He chuckles, though it’s a sad sort of sound, and points to the flower petals on the ground. “Hanahaki, isn’t it?”

“I—” she follows his gaze, then looks back to him, eyes widening. “You know what this is?”

“’Course I do.” There’s compassion in his face, and he looks at her, deliberative, then reaches into his pocket to take the money she gave him. He lays it on the counter, next to the bracelet she was planning to buy. “Here. Not gonna make you pay for that. Is it for the special someone?”

“I don’t—” Yaz begins, but then a cry through the crowd cuts her off.

“Yaz? Yaaaaz!”

It’s the Doctor’s voice, cheery and sing-song, and Yaz glances up, then down to the floor petals, then back to the merchant. Whatever’s in her face, he understands it immediately, and pushes the bracelet towards her.

“Oh, go on, then. Is that her?”

“I—uh, yeah,” she says, simply to give an answer, and pockets the bracelet, shooting him one last thankful look before turning in the direction of the Doctor’s voice. She plunges into the crowds, and moments later the stall, as well as the merchant, and the petals littering the ground, have disappeared from view.

————

She finds it in the library later, in a large volume of rare medical diseases with tiny text and next to no pictures. The description is all very dry and medical, and she has to read it twice over to get the gist of it.

Hanahaki Disease:

An infectious disease of the heart and respiratory system. Flowers take root in the patient’s lungs, and spread until the patient is unable to breath. Inexplicably, the disease comes about as a result of unrequited love, and is almost always fatal. Only known cures include surgical removal of the flowers (note: the patient as a result loses all feelings towards the subject), or that the love is requited. Symptoms include sore throat, nausea, vomiting of flower petals and flowers, and occasionally, difficulty breathing.

She stares at the page, and only distantly realizes that she’s trembling. Her mind is screaming at her that it doesn’t make sense, she can’t be in love, she can’t die from it for god’s sake—

But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change the fact that only a few hours earlier, she watched those flower petals flutter to the ground. Flower petals that had apparently come from inside of her—

Shaky fingers grasp the page, and without really thinking about it, she tears it out. She crumples it up in her hand, and stuffs it in her pocket, then shoves the book away, and thinks that she has to tell someone, but she can’t, because the only person she can think of to tell is the Doctor. The Doctor, who has a grin like the sun and skips when she gets excited, who would certainly be concerned, but—

Yaz feels a tickle work its way up her throat.

She manages to make her way to her room before it happens, into the en-suite bathroom, and kneels in front of the toilet. Blood splatters the bowl, as she hacks and coughs, and she watches, painfully, as several flower petals flutter down into the water. She doesn’t move for a few moments, waiting for another bout, but nothing comes up. She reaches up, and pulls the handle, sending the water into a whirlpool, then leans back and wipes her mouth. Blood comes away on her hand.

Yaz settles back on her heels, and closes her eyes. An image of the Doctor flashes in her mind, and she winces away from it, waiting for the telltale tickle in her throat, but it doesn’t come. Instead there’s a lump of tears, and she swallows, only to find them pricking at the corners of her eyes instead. For the first time in a while, she really wants to cry.

She has no idea what she’s going to do.

————

She gets the Doctor to take them to Rhesus One, spinning some tale about how well she and Mabli bonded over their time on the Tsurunga, how she’d promised her she’d visit, and since it’s not like they’re doing anything else—

She’s edgy the whole time they’re there together, the four of them and Mabli, especially since the Doctor’s being her usual fantastic self, regaling all of them with an exuberantly-acted tale of facing down some Daleks in New York. Yaz can feel the persistent tickle in her throat, so she stays unusually quiet, and halfway through the story she can feel Mabli’s steady gaze as well, a worried glint hidden deep in her dark eyes.

She drags Mabli away as soon as the others mention something about food, and to her utter relief, Mabli is quick to pick up on the deception. She adds in a convincing lie about letting Yaz check something in her medical history, and lets Yaz pull her away, into an empty patient room.

“So, what’s the problem?” Mabli asks, with a chirpiness that doesn’t entirely hide the worry now evident in her eyes.

Yaz doesn’t waste time, but cuts to the chase. “Have you ever heard of Hanahaki Disease?”

She has, Yaz can see it in her eyes the moment the words come out. They widen, then turn soft, and her mouth forms a small ‘o’ of understanding. “Oh, Yaz—”

“Don’t, please—don’t.” She shuts her eyes, suddenly unable to take hear whatever small comfort Mabli is about to hand her. It’s stupid, because all she wanted was to talk to somebody, somebody who would know what to do, who could help, but now—now all she can think about is the Doctor. How she wishes she could be talking to her instead. She feels a pang of guilt, and shakes her head. “I—I’m sorry. I just—”

“Don’t be.” Yaz opens her eyes, and sees Mabli watching her with kind eyes. There’s no sign of offense in them. “It’s a hard thing to take. You have the right to react however you want.”

“T-thank you.” Yaz nods, and for the second time in recent days, feels tears pricking at her eyelids. “So you know about it?”

“It’s a rare disease, but yes.” She’s eying Yaz, laying each word down carefully, as if she’s afraid she might crack. “Do you know who—who—?”

“Yeah, I think so.” It was the wrong thing to say, because now she’s thinking of her, and the tickle, which has remained thankfully dormant, is scratching at her throat. She can almost feel the petals creeping up. “It’s, um—”

“It’s her, isn’t it?”

Yaz stops, stiffens, then forces herself to nod, once. “How did you know?”

Mabli smiles sadly. “I saw you looking at her. Actually, I saw you not looking at her, the entire time she was talking. And I can see why, if it helps. She is amazing.”

“She is, but—” Yaz stops, because something really is scratching at her throat now. She swallows it down, and continues. “That’s not the point. I was wondering if, maybe, you could help—?”

She lets it drop off into a note of useless hope, because she can already see Mabli setting up to say no. She crosses her arms, studying Yaz with big, far-too-understanding eyes, then gestures for her to sit on the hospital bed tucked into the corner.

“I can examine you, if you’d like. See how far it’s progressed. Would that help?”

It’s not the answer Yaz was looking for. Then, what had she expected? She nods, and climbs onto the hospital bed, letting her legs swing over the side. Mabli finds a strange looking tool she claims is a stethoscope, and brings it to her chest.

The examination only takes a few minutes, and when Mabli pulls away, Yaz can’t read her expression. She watches her tuck the stethoscope away with building impatience, until she can’t take it anymore.

“What is it? Is it bad?”

Mabli turns to her and gives her a small smile. It’s enough to send a surge of relief running through her, even though she knows the eventual prognosis.

“You’re not too far along. You’ve still got several months, I would say. But of course, it depends on the strength of your feelings. The stronger they get, the worse off you’ll be.”

“Oh.” Yaz considers this in surprise. The book hadn’t mentioned anything about that. Hadn’t mentioned much, actually. “I didn’t know that. See, I only read about in a—hang on. Does that mean, if I sort of, stop, um—you know, I’ll be cured? Like, if I stop—loving her?”

It’s a straw, she knows, but she’s grasping at it like a life buoy. And of course, Mabli shakes her head. “I’m sorry, Yaz. There are only two cures. Do you know what they are?”

“I think so.” Tears are forming again, and this time she can’t swallow them down. She sniffles instead, and works on ignoring that scratch in her throat. “It’s either she falls in love with me back, or—or surgery, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Mabli nods, and takes a step forward, tentatively hopeful. “We can do the surgery here, if you’d like. Best to do it before it’s too late. And it wouldn’t take long for us to set up. You don’t even have to tell your friends. I’ll tell them we found something dangerous in your medical history, if you’d like.”

It’s an option. It really is an option. Yaz tries to think it over, which is hard, because she’s starting to feel a bit nauseous, and her throat really hurts. “But if you do the surgery, won’t I—I’ll just lose the feelings, right? We’ll go back to being friends, and I just won’t think about her like—like that?”

“It depends,” Mabli says. She’s choosing her words carefully again, Yaz realizes. She wants her to take the surgery. Which means—

“It really depends on the person. If you love her enough, it’s almost like a rebound effect. You might lose all feelings for her, neutral or otherwise. You simply wouldn’t care. Which, some say, might be a good thing, depending on who they love. There have been severe cases, where some—they pretty much forget about the subject. We can’t be certain, which is why it’s a risky surgery. But it’s worth it for your life.”

Yaz stares at her, and wants to shake her head, to object, but she can’t. She’s frozen in place. All she can think is that she’s wrong, she’s utterly wrong, her life can’t be worth more—

She wants to laugh, because Mabli doesn’t know. What was her life before this? No friends, only a job half as good as what she’d imagined, stuck doing nothing every day. She hadn’t even realized how much she was missing out on before she’d met the Doctor. She’d never even been in love.

Her stomach flips, abruptly, and Yaz feels that telltale sensation in her throat. She brings a hand to her mouth, and slides off the table, looking for a container, something. “Mabli, I think I’m—”

Mabli, to her credit, reacts quickly. She grabs a container Yaz assumes is for exactly this situation, and rushes forward, thrusting it under her chin. Just in the nick of time too, for a millisecond later, Yaz is vomiting, blood and flower petals all mixed together, and something else is forcing its way up her throat—

She chokes it out, and waits for something more, but there’s nothing. So instead she stares into the container, to the blood-spattered blossom, stem and all, sitting amidst a smattering of flower petals. Distantly, she feels Mabli beside her, rubbing her back.

“Mabli, I—” she pauses, takes a deep breath. She’s still staring, miserably, at the flower. “I don’t think I can. Do the surgery, I mean. I can’t—I can’t take that chance.”

She hears Mabli release a long, disappointed breath. She can tell it’s not the answer she was hoping to hear. “It’s your choice, Yaz. And you know, if you ever change your mind, you can come back here, right? Please don’t give up on the option completely.”

“I won’t,” Yaz promises. It’s the least she can do, considering all the help Mabli has given her. But even so, she can feel her answer won’t change. She can’t imagine a universe without the Doctor—and with herself by her side. The risk, the fear that she’ll forget, is almost worse than the fear of dying. Because what had she been living for, really, before she’d met the Doctor?

“I’ll keep it open,” she says again. Mabli gives her a comforting pat on the back, then leans around her and takes the container away. She glances at the contents, just for a moment, and gives another one of those small smiles. “Jasmine. Maybe it’s a sign.”

Yaz is too sick to her stomach to register exactly what she means by that, but she tucks the name away for further notice. Jasmine, she remembers, were her Nani’s favorite flower. She can’t remember the meaning behind them. Something to do with love.

She smiles to herself, though it’s tinged with bitterness, and watches Mabli dump the flower into the waste disposal. She wonders if this is the universe’s way of laughing at her. She wonders if maybe, she should be laughing at herself too.

————

She knows it’s a futile hope, but she tries to distance herself from the Doctor. Tries to delay the inevitable, as long as she can, half-hoping that it’ll give her the strength to go through with Mabli’s solution.

It doesn’t. It only makes things worse.

The more she tries not to talk to the Doctor, the more the Doctor comes to find her. Suddenly she’s showing up in the library when Yaz is trying to read, or joining her in the kitchen, even when she’s just brewing a midnight cup of tea, or inviting Yaz to watch her work in the console room. It’s wonderfully, terribly, endearing, and every single time Yaz has to say no, and even then, more often than not she finds herself in the bathroom, retching up flowers.

It’s worse now, every time, because they’re not just petals anymore. She’s vomiting up full blossoms, bloody and painful, and it crosses her mind occasionally that it would be sort of tragically romantic, if the whole thing weren’t so utterly disgusting.

And despite the distance she tries to set, the Doctor keeps stubbornly reaching out to her, time after time, with cheery optimism that slowly turns to confused hurt. Sometimes, Yaz entertains a painful hope, a dream that the Doctor’s hurt is a sign she loves her in return. That they’re more than just friends, and the Doctor simply doesn’t realize it. And one day, it will hit, and they’ll talk, and the next day Yaz won’t find it so hard to breathe—

She turns the option of surgery over in her head, again and again. It’s the right thing to do, she thinks. And it makes sense, in a logical sort of way. Only every time she imagines doing it, she starts trembling, and can’t stop until she’s crying, because she can’t imagine that her, on the other side of things. Can’t see a world where she doesn’t love the Doctor, or a world where she doesn’t care enough to know her. It scares her more than death, in a way, which is easy because Yaz has never actually imagined death happening to her. Even now, when nearly every day finds her excusing herself to the bathroom, hiding bloodstains and flower petals, praying nobody will notice, praying the Doctor won’t notice—she can’t imagine the end.

One day, they’re running from some sort of alien hunter, sprinting through an alien jungle, and Yaz is furiously trying to ignore the similarities to that one movie, when she suddenly can’t breathe. She doubles over, thinking this is it, either she’s going to die or she’s going to puke and they’re all going to see, they’re all going to know—but she doesn’t do either. She starts hacking, thinking something will come out, but instead she just feels, rather than hears, a rustle of plants within her. The flowers, growing in her lungs. They’ve finally started to choke her.

She wonders how long it will take.

The Doctor doubles back and bounds past Yaz, raising her sonic screwdriver, and Yaz doesn’t see what she does but moments later she hears the sounds of alien footsteps in the opposite direction. An instant later the Doctor is right beside her, hand on her back, worried face inches from hers, even as she’s coughing and praying nothing comes out.

“Yaz? Yaz, are you okay?”

Yaz shakes her head, because it’d be pretty silly to lie about that part, and manages to rasp out, “asthma,” and vaguely, at the back of her mind, congratulates herself for thinking on her feet.

The Doctor frowns, concern mingling with disapproval. “Yaz! You didn’t tell me you had asthma. I could get you an inhaler if you want.”

“No need.” Yaz focuses on taking deep breathes, ignoring the gag reflex at the back of her throat, and tries not to shudder when she imagines the blooms crowding her lungs. “I—I haven’t had an attack since I was a kid.”

“Until now.” The Doctor’s voice is soft, and she begins rubbing circles into her back. “Are you sure? I can get you the most advanced human-use inhaler—”

“Doctor, really, I’m fine.” Yaz straightens up, and breathes in through her nose. It’s still hard, but not as hard as it had been moments ago. She’s not dying, yet. “But thank you. I’m sorry about the—”

She gestures vaguely to the direction the creature had come, and the Doctor laughs, shaking her head. “Oh, don’t worry about him. Managed to scare him off, just in time. But don’t go on thinking you can scare me like that, yeah? Nearly had a heart attack.”

Don’t, Yaz wants to say. Don’t talk to me like that, like you care so much, like you—she can’t even think it. If the Doctor loved her, truly loved her in the same way, she wouldn’t be bending over with her lungs clogged up, trying desperately to breathe. She wonders how long it’s going to take her before she can’t, at all. She wonders if maybe she should be thinking about that surgery.

She calls Mabli the next day, using the number she gave just before she and Yaz had parted ways. She isn’t sure how the whole ‘cell phone in space’ thing is supposed to work—she’s never had to call someone before—but after only two rings, Mabli picks up with a cheery, “Hello?”

“Hey, Mabli,” Yaz answers, quiet and slightly defeated, and she senses the immediate shift on the other side of the line. “It’s Yaz.”

“Oh, Yaz.” The chipperness is gone, to be replaced by seriousness. “How are you?”

“I think—” she swallows, feels the flowers rustling, practically at the back of her throat. “I think I need the surgery.”

“Oh, that’s good to hear,” Mabli says. There’s genuine relief in her tone. And then— “How far has it progressed?”

“I-I don’t know.” Yaz pauses, sudden trepidation gripping her. She remembers, in that instant, part of what Mabli had said, lost in the overwhelming shock of the news.

Best to do it before it’s too late.

“I-I had trouble breathing, yesterday,” she spills out, suddenly anxious, heart thumping at the possibility that she might—she might not be able to— “We were running, and I just—I couldn’t breathe. And I can feel them, now. All the time. It—it hurts, Mabli.”

She says the last part quietly, her voice small like a child’s, and hears only silence radiating on the other end. And then—

“Yaz, I’m so sorry.”

Mabli keeps talking after that, saying something about a certain point of growth, where past that no surgery will help, they’ll only return, but Yaz is barely listening. She feels far away, her mind spinning slowly, finally settling into the possibility that she really, might actually, die.

“Mabli?” she cuts her off in the middle of her explanation, a single, desperate, useless question rising in her mind. “Can you—do you remember what jasmine stands for? The flower?”

Mabli pauses on the other end, and Yaz briefly wonders if she’s looking it up. Then she says, “If I remember right, it means eternal love. It also can mean good luck, which is why I thought—”

She trails off, though the meaning is clear, and Yaz can’t quite summon a smile, but she decides to go for bravery anyway. “Maybe it does. I mean, it might still apply.”

Her own raspy voice seems to rebuke this statement, but she hears Mabli’s quiet laugh on the other end of the phone. “You might be right, Yaz. And I’m still hoping for you, you know. Right til the end.”

“Right.” Yaz smiles, though it’s filmed with tears, and at the back of her throat, she feels a persistent tickle. “Til the end.”

————

Once it sinks in that she’s dying, Yaz throws in the towel. It was hopeless anyway, the whole staying away from the Doctor thing, especially since they live together on the same damn ship, which is supposedly infinitesimally big and yet feels so infinitesimally small. She lets the Doctor find her in the library, and they sit together, reading, and when she treads into the kitchen for a late night cup of tea, she brews two, knowing the Doctor will be there.

And it’s wonderful, in a way. Because once she takes away the whole fact of inevitable death,and her unreturned feelings, it’s like they’re meant to be together. They fit, in a way that she’s never fit with anyone before. The Doctor’s goofy humor is just the right amount to balance out her slyer wit. Her desire to do good, everywhere she goes, meshes with everything Yaz has ever wanted to do. Her bravery inspires Yaz to do better, all the time.

Which just makes it sting even more, to know that, though the Doctor might be a perfect fit for Yaz, Yaz isn’t necessarily the perfect fit for the Doctor.

By the time two weeks have passed since the phone call with Mabli, the others have started to notice her declining health. She’s not surprised, to be honest, because she can see it every time she looks in the mirror. Her face is drawn, her skin waxy and pale. She can’t keep a single thing down. The others notice when she starts skiving off meals, and though she at first manages to fend off their concern with a litany of excuses, it doesn’t take long before they corner her one day, when she sneaks into the kitchen for a cup of tea. It’s the only thing she can stomach.

“Yaz!” the Doctor greets her, with clearly forced cheeriness, and she freezes in the doorway. It’s late at night, her usual time for sneaking in to get tea, and clearly the Doctor has shared this particular habit with the rest of the gang, because all three of them are sitting around the table, faces filled with worry.

“Hi—guys,” she manages, surprise knocking all her ability to improvise to the ground. Not to mention she’s dizzy, and just got back from a terrible bout of kneeling in front of the toilet, coughing up blood and flowers, and all she wants is some tea and to sleep. She feels a bit like a wounded animal, drawing in on herself for the inevitable end. She doesn’t want to talk to anybody, to face anyone. She hates that she feels that way. “Thought you were all asleep?”

It’s useless to play dumb, she decides. Best to just go straight for the chase.

“Nope!” the Doctor pulls out a chair, and gestures for her to sit. “Thought we’d have a cuppa with you.”

“Right.” Yaz nods, and her eyes roam over the table. “So you were waiting on me for the tea, then?”

The Doctor’s gaze casts over the table, and Yaz sees her wince slightly at the realization that she’s seen right through her lie. There’s no tea on the table. Not even a kettle on the stove. “Well, actually, uh—”

“We want to know what's going on.” It’s Graham who breaks right into the subject at hand, slicing neatly through the excuses Yaz has so carefully been using as camouflage. “You look don't look good, Yaz. You look ill, like—”

“Like you’re dying,” Ryan butts in, tone sharp and blunt. His eyes are hard with worry, his jaw set in determination, as if he’s not planning on letting Yaz leave without an explanation. “You look like you’re about to keel over any second, Yaz.”

“We’re worried about you, Yaz,” the Doctor says, her voice so quiet that Yaz can scarcely doubt the sincerity of her words. Her heart sinks. She looks between the three of them, her first instinct to deny, and then realizes that it’s futile. Defensiveness will get her nowhere. Especially not with the Doctor, who’s watching her with a keen, incisive gaze, her brow creased in open worry.

But there’s no way in hell she’s admitting the truth.

“Okay, truth is—I haven’t been feeling good, the past couple weeks,” she admits. It feels absurdly easy to lie about it, now that she’s pushed up against a wall. She’s never been a good liar, really, never been able to pull off a poker face, but now—well, there’s no choice, is there?

“I’ve been feeling a little sick, if I’m being honest. I thought it would pass, but—I guess I’m just under the weather.”

Or maybe she isn’t such a good liar after all. She’s trying to pass it off as nothing, make it sound like she’s caught some space bug, but the others aren’t buying it. The Doctor crinkles her nose immediately.

“There’s no weather in the TARDIS, Yaz.”

She says it almost jokingly, but there’s a disappointed undertone to her voice, and Yaz realizes she’s caught. Not that it makes a difference. She’s not planning on giving up so easily.

“No, really. I’m fine, guys. There’s nothing to worry about.” The wall against her back isn’t providing her with as much desperate ammunition as she thought. They’re all looking at her with open disbelief, Graham and Ryan slowly shaking their heads. The Doctor is just looking at her with a gaze that cuts right into her heart, as if, through the sheer force of it, she can get Yaz to open up and share what’s wrong with the rest of them.

And as soon as that thought occurs to Yaz, she wants to laugh. What exactly would they find, if they cut her open? How many flowers are blooming in her chest, by now? She sucks in a breath, and feels them rustle with the rush of air. “Really. You all look like I’m about to die. I’m not. I’m fine.

Her protestations are only making things worse, it looks like. The Doctor gets to her feet, the chair legs squeaking across the linoleum, and her hand goes to her pocket. “Yaz, how about I just give you a scan? Just to see if there’s really—”

“No,” Yaz snaps, and instantly regrets it, because it gives everything away. They know that she knows, she realizes sinkingly. There’s something wrong, they can tell, it’s written all over their faces.

The Doctor moves her hand away from her pocket, but takes a step closer, and Yaz feels a familiar scratching at the back of her throat.

Oh no. Not now.

Panic makes her turn, abruptly, and she barely manages to force out a “I’m going to the—the bathroom,” before she lunges for the entrance. Behind her, she hears the Doctor tell the others, “Let me go after her,” but barely has time to think about that, because the TARDIS has gone and changed her corridors again, and Yaz has no idea where her bedroom is. She plunges down one blindly, and prays it’s the right one.

For once, the TARDIS has decided to be kind to her. She finds her bedroom two hallways down, and wrenches open the door with trembling fingers. Her stomach is flipping over and over and she can barely breathe, as she feels the flowers work their way up her throat—

She only just remembers to close the door, and barely has time to do that before the sensation overcomes her, and she collapses in front of the toilet, retching worse than she ever has before. A flurry of petals flutter from her mouth, all specked with blood, and then more, and more, and then she’s coughing up blossom after blood-soaked blossom, so many she can’t breathe, and now she’s crying too, which only makes things worse, because she really thinks this is it. Her vision turns fuzzy, then starts to fade, and there’s a funny moment where she wonders if this is what it feels like to asphyxiate, before she slumps over, and doesn’t think much of anything.

————

When she wakes, she knows instantly that it’s not over. She can still feel the flowers climbing up the back of her throat, but fights down the immediate urge to gag, because she's too confused at her surroundings. She’s still in the bathroom, which she remembers, but it’s not the angle she expects to be at. She’s propped up against something warm, and there are fingers running through her hair, and she isn’t sure, but she thinks she knows who they belong too.

“Doctor?” she croaks. Above her she hears a small sigh, and though she knows it's directed at her, there’s enough grief in it to break her own heart.

“You have Hanahaki Disease.” She delivers it as a statement, rather than a question, her voice so swollen with pain that Yaz can’t bear to look up and see her face.

“Yeah,” she says, her voice small. “…sorry.”

Above her, she hears a harsh, teary laugh. “Yasmin Khan, what on earth are you sorry for?”

Yaz moves her shoulders in the barest indication of a shrug. She doesn’t have the strength to do more. She wonders vaguely why she’s not still coughing up flowers, because she can feel them crowding her lungs, and her mouth tastes of iron, but she’s too tired to give it much thought. Really, she just wants to stay like this. Forever, if it were possible.

The fingers are still stroking through her hair, and then they brush over her cheek, and Yaz sighs. She’s suddenly aware of just how much she hurts—how much she’s been hurting the past few weeks. The roots planted throughout her lungs ache every time she draws in a breath; coupled with the feeling of the Doctor running her hand through her hair, it’s almost too much to bear.

“How long has it been?”

The Doctor’s voice interrupts her reverie, but she’s grateful for it; she’d rather not focus on the pain.

“A while,” she rasps. It’s hard to speak—every time she does, she wants to gag. “A few months, I guess.”

The Doctor doesn’t say anything, but her hand stutters, just for a moment, before resuming its stroking. After a moment, she speaks again.

“You know, if you spoke to him, he might feel the same way.”

For one wild instant, Yaz has no idea what she’s talking about. Then it hits her, and she starts to laugh. It’s immediately a bad idea; petals fly out of her mouth, and in moments she’s choking again. She clambers upright, tries to make it to the toilet, but falls back, only for the Doctor to catch her. She helps Yaz up onto her knees, and doesn’t say anything, but holds her hair back as she tosses up full blooms of jasmine, sticky with blood. When she finishes, and sits back, the Doctor’s hands are already there, and she lets Yaz sag into her lap.

“It’s not Ryan,” she says woozily, blinking against the fuzzy lights of the bathroom. They suddenly seem far too bright. “It’s—it’s not—”

“Shh, Yaz, it’s okay.” The Doctor’s voice is soothing, and close enough to her ear to only make her dizziness worse. “You don’t have to—”

“No, it’s—” she’s sniffling, she realizes, and her eyes are watery, but she doesn’t find it in herself to care. She struggles upright, only half makes it, but feels the Doctor’s arm around her, and somehow knows she won’t let her fall. “It’s not okay, it’s—”

“Yaz, you don’t have to—”

“It’s you, you dummy. It’s always been you.”

She’s crying now, tears running down her face, and she feels all at once incredibly pathetic and extremely relieved. There it is; out in the open now, with no way to take it back. The last confession she’ll make before she dies. And in that moment, she feels the Doctor stiffen beside her, and knows that finally, finally, she gets it.

“I—” the Doctor stops, then starts again, in a tight voice. “Yaz, us Time Lords, we—we don’t love in the same way humans do. It’s a different—”

“I know, I know,” she rushes to say, because it’s getting even harder to speak, and either way she doesn’t think she can take whatever the Doctor is about to say. “I know it’s not the same. It’s not your fault. I didn’t even mean—”

“Oh, Yaz.” The Doctor’s voice is a sigh, and she leans her head against Yaz’s, pressing her cheek against her hair. “That doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

“Yeah, but—” she’s struggling to get the words out, and she can feel her vision growing dark again, so she chucks whatever she was about to say for the thing she really wants to say. “I love you, anyway. I do. I don’t—”

Everything really is turning gray now, and Yaz’s throat really is filling with flowers, not because her body is rejecting them, but because they’ve begun to sprout, crawling up like vines. She tries to sit upright, suddenly panicking, and, when she can’t manage that, tries to speak. “Doctor—I can’t—I can’t breathe—”

“Shhh, Yaz, it’s okay. I’ve got you.” She hears an undercurrent of anxiety in the Doctor’s voice, but it’s smothered by a calm certainty, a steady layer of reassurance that allows her to sink back into the Doctor’s arms. She lets her stroke her hair with one hand, a soothing, repetitious movement. “I’ve got you.”

She feels the Doctor shift beside her, hears a familiar buzzing noise. Then, just before she slips into darkness, she hears one last sigh, heavy with relief.

————

Yaz wakes up in her bed.

She blinks, then pushes herself into a sitting position, and rubs the sleep out of her eyes, before looking around confusedly. She immediately spots the Doctor in a chair pulled up by the bed. She’s clearly asleep; her head is lolling, her arms crossed loosely over her chest. Yaz looks at her, and unbidden, a smile comes to her face. Then she waits for the familiar pain, the gag reflex, to accompany it, but it doesn't come.

It takes her a moment to understand. Then, hastily, she draws in a breath, the deepest she can muster, half expecting the smothering sensation of flowers crowding her throat, but—there’s nothing. The air rushes freely into her lungs. The flowers are gone.

Which can only mean—

“You’re awake.”

She’s startled by a gasp off to her left, and twists to look at the Doctor. She’s sitting up and leaning forward, eyes bright and anxious.

“How’re you feeling, Yaz? Are you okay? Do you feel—” she makes a vague gesture to her throat, and Yaz shakes her head. She’s not sure she trusts herself to speak.

But at her sign, the Doctor heaves an enormous sigh, and her shoulders sag. “Oh, thank—I was so worried. The whole three days, I was so scared that I was wrong, that the readings were wrong—”

“Three days?” Yaz interrupts. Confusion flashes across her face. “I was—I was asleep for three days?”

The Doctor shakes her head. “You were unconscious for three days. Practically in a coma. I had you in the medbay at first, to do more advanced readings, but once I was sure the flowers really were going away, I thought you might want to wake up in your own room. Didn’t want to give you too much of a shock.”

“Oh.” Yaz stares, trying to process the news. It’s a tough task, and not only because it seems so impossible; her mouth feels fuzzy as well, her tongue swollen, her head thudding dully. She can still taste the faint tinge of iron at the back of her throat, and resists the urge to shudder. “So I’m—I’m not going to die?”

It’s a stupid question, she thinks, but the Doctor doesn’t take it as such. Instead a slow grin spreads across her face, and she shakes her head. “Yasmin Khan, you are one hundred percent going to live.”

“I—” Yaz is trying to wrap her mind around it, but it’s—it’s too unreal. Because if she’s going to live, if she’s cured, that means that the Doctor—

And the Doctor seems to realize what she’s thinking, for her expression immediately grows sober. She launches herself to her feet, and crosses the few feet to the bed, thumping down beside Yaz. Then she reaches out, and rests her hand upon Yaz’s, lying atop the covers. She doesn’t take it, but just lets it lie there. It’s a comforting weight.

“Yaz,” she says, and her gaze pores right into her, open and tentative and anxiously sincere. “Listen. It’s not—I’m Gallifreyan. And you’re human. It’s different between us.”

“I know,” Yaz says quickly, and then flushes. “I mean, I’m not expecting any—”

“Wait.” The Doctor silences her with a quick shake of her head. Her gaze is utterly serious, so Yaz shuts up and lets her talk.

“I’m not trying to—dissuade you. What I mean is—I can’t love you the way another human would. That’s not what I am. But I can—I can love you in my own way. I do love you in my own way. I was so scared it—it wouldn't be enough. And I know it might not be what you’re looking for, but—”

“It is,” Yaz blurts out, before the Doctor can finish. “I mean, I don't care what I'm looking for. I just—I want to be with you, all the time, Doctor. Wherever you’re going, I want to be with you. I don’t want to leave your side.”

She stops, because she can feel a blush creeping its way up her cheeks, and resists the urge to duck her head. The Doctor is still watching her, eyes large and unreadable. “I—I hope that’s not too much.”

“It’s not. It never will be.” The Doctor is silent, eyes still fixed upon her, and then she says, in the softest voice imaginable, “I wish you’d have told me.”

“I—” Yaz starts to make an excuse, but stops when she realizes she doesn’t have one. So she tells the truth. “I thought it’d just hurt more.”

“Who? You or me?”

The Doctor’s question is unanswerable. Yaz stays silent, and her eyes fall to her sheets. With one hand, she fiddles with a loose thread. For several moments, neither of them speak.

Then, the Doctor lets out a quiet sigh, and removes her hand from Yaz’s. Yaz looks up at the movement, half-fearful that she’ll see her straightening up, moving away, but instead the Doctor leans forward, and uses her hand to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear. It’s a small touch, and yet there’s something about it that leaves Yaz frozen, unable to breathe in an entirely different way. It occurs to her that such a small action, inconsequential to a human, means something entirely larger to the Doctor.

She wonders why she never noticed before.

The Doctor leans back, and lets her hand fall to her side. She gives a small, lopsided smile, as if she’s not quite sure everything’s okay, and Yaz smiles in return. She’s not sure how to reassure her that it is.

“I think I’m okay, Doctor. You don’t have to worry about me anymore.”

“Yaz—” The Doctor’s smile grows larger, though a hint of sadness still glimmers in her eyes. “As if that’s going to stop me.”

Yaz chuckles, and then revels at the free, clear feeling of it. There’s something blooming in her chest, worlds away from the awful, clogging sensation of the flowers. It’s contentment instead, deep and fathomless as a still lake, and just as calm. She wonders if this is what it feels like to properly love someone. She’s never really experienced it before.

“I think,” she says, and looks up to meet the Doctor’s gaze, only once she does, she realizes she’s not sure what she wants to say. There are things swimming below the surface, but they’re much larger and heavier than she has the strength to formulate at the moment. So she just says the first thing that comes to mind. “I think I’d like to stay here, for a bit, if that’s okay with you. Before I meet the others. I’m just—I’m not ready.”

The Doctor nods. “Of course. Do you want me to—?”

She tilts her head to the door, and Yaz instantly shakes her head. “Actually, I’d rather—if you want to stay—”

She doesn’t finish the sentence, but the Doctor picks it up immediately. She grins, a real, happy grin, and before Yaz can react, kicks her shoes—already untied, Yaz notices—off her feet, and falls into the open space, right next to Yaz.

“I hope you don’t mind,” she says, and Yaz shakes her head, her heart singing. “The chair was uncomfortable.”

“’Course it was,” she replies, and because she doesn’t quite have the courage to actually move closer to the Doctor, she just lies back down, her heart thumping madly, and wonders if this can possibly be real. She’s not entirely convinced it is. “I’d rather you here, anyway.”

“Brilliant,” the Doctor murmurs, and stretches her arms behind her head, head tilted toward the ceiling. Yaz does the same. And they lay like that, not quite apart, not quite together, and even though it’s not exactly what she’d imagined, Yaz can’t think of any other way she’d rather it be.

“Doctor?” she says, after a few seconds pass. There’s a moment of silence, and she’s half afraid the Doctor’s fallen asleep, but then—

“Yes?”

“I love you.” She says it tentatively, and holds her breath. She needn’t have.

“I love you too, Yaz.”