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Copper Etchings

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Graham liked Yaz. She didn’t seem like many of the coppers he’d known in his life. He never said that to her; he could tell she was still proud of having made the force. Funny, that, he thought. Why be so proud of being a policewoman, instead of being a friend to one of the universe’s most famous aliens?

He asked Ryan one night, as they were decompressing from a particularly nerve-wracking adventure. 

“That’s simple, isn’t it,” Ryan responded, in that “Oh, Granddad” tone of voice that both irritated and delighted Graham. “She’s lucky to be the Doctor’s friend, sure. But that’s not the same as working hard to be, like, probably the only Pakistani Muslim woman in Sheffield with a warrant card.”

“Well, doesn’t she figure that it’s more than luck making her the Doc’s friend?” Graham was indignant on Yaz’s behalf. ”My bet’s you’ve got to be pretty amazing to be her friend.”

“Like you, eh Granddad,” Ryan teased. 

Graham winced, wishing he could take what he said back. It made him sound like a bit of a prat. Might as well bull on through. “Yeah, like me.” Then he gently elbowed Ryan, looked sideways at him and smiled. “And you.”

Ryan looked taken aback, but only for a moment. His slow answering smile was a joy to behold. “Yeah. Like us.”

“And we didn’t even have to put out the dosh for uniforms.” Graham felt like a mild joke was in order, before he continued quietly. “You’re right. I shouldn’t make light of what Yaz did for a living. I couldn’t do what she does, or did before, well, all this. It took a lot of effort, I imagine.” He stopped. “Did Yaz ever tell you what her mum and dad thought of her career choice? It still makes me wonder, and I’ll bet it threw them for a loop, her going out to be a policewoman.”

“Police constable Granddad.”

A discreet cough behind them.

Graham whirled, afraid it was Yaz who’d come into the kitchen unnoticed. He tried not to show his relief at seeing the Doctor. 

“Hullo.” That was smooth enough, he reckoned. 

“Hullo yourself. Hullo, Ryan. What’ve you been saying about Yaz?”

Busted.

Before he could explain the conversation, or say anything in his own defence, Ryan said, “Granddad was saying how he liked Yaz even though coppers aren’t his favorite types.”

Graham wanted to sink through the floor.

“Really?” The Doctor’s curiosity seemed genuine, and not at all surprised. Nor did it seem judgmental.

“It’s not that there aren’t good ones,” he said hurriedly, “And I know Yaz is one of them. I mean, truth is I’ve known plenty of good cops — you’re bound to when you’re a bus driver, what with accidents and traffic dust-ups or drunks making trouble at 3 a.m.”

He looked quickly at Ryan. “But … well, after I met Grace, I started noticing things I hadn’t before, eh?”

The memory of 1950s America was still hot and painful in his mind. Somehow that made talking about this a little easier, even with Ryan listening. Graham switched his attention to the Doctor, who nodded just a little.

“Ryan, love, could you drag that chair over to the table for me?” She gestured to a corner, which Graham was reasonably sure had not held a stick of furniture prior to her entry. The hand with which she pointed grasped a very large sandwich which, from the look and smell of it, was composed of a fried egg and some sriracha sauce. He coughed involuntarily.

“Here you go, Doctor.” Ryan was eyeing the sandwich as warily as he had, Graham thought. He approved. 

The Doctor seated herself. “D’you mind my finishing this off while you talk?” 

Before either of them could answer, she took one bite, pulled a face, jumped up from the seat she’d just taken, and put the remainder down on the counter behind them. “Too much hot sauce. Must remember that I don’t like too much hot sauce.”

She resettled herself. “Sorry. Go on now, Graham. What did you start noticing?”

Graham shot a look at Ryan before answering. The boy — no, the young man, he corrected himself mentally — looked apprehensive. You know what’s coming, don’t you, son. “The way people looked at the two of us together. That was the first thing. Nothing like what we saw back … back then, in America. Not here, ‘cos there’s lots of people like us. This is England, right? So you’d think Grace and me, we wouldn’t have any problems.

“But my old mates … they looked at me kind of sideways after we became a couple. They still talked to me, still went down the pub with us for quiz nights, all of that, but when Grace was with me, they ignored her, like she wasn’t worth their attention.” He snorted at the memory of Grace’s irritation steaming up the place when she realized Alun MacNeice was doing it one night at the Lion’s Pitch. That team partnership evaporated pretty quickly, he recalled. “She didn’t let them get away with it, not Grace — but these were my friends! They knew what I felt for her!”

The Doctor looked sad. “That started you lookin’ about yourself, eh?”

Graham nodded and took a deep breath. “Other things. Like anytime we were in the Tesco, and we split up the grocery list, I’d be fine, but as like as not, I’d see store security eyeing Grace from the other end of whatever aisle she was shopping. As if they thought she was going to put a box of P.G. Tips down her blouse.”

He stopped again. Do I have the right?

“And?” the Doctor prompted. 

“It might be Ryan’s to tell,” he equivocated.

Ryan’s eyes widened and Graham saw that his grandson knew what he was about to say. He was relieved when the younger man only answered the unasked question. “Nah. It’s OK, Granddad.”

Graham nodded, having been given the go-ahead. 

“Well, one day Ryan came home from his part-time job, and he’d lost his key. He knew we kept one under the back door planter, so he went round the back, found the key, headed for the front door — and ran right into a copper who’d followed him halfway from the shop to our home.” 

He could still see the mortification on Ryan’s face when he and Grace came to the station to pick him up, could still feel Grace’s anger as she lit into the unlucky woman staffing the desk when they came in, anger that boiled into rage when the woman wouldn’t speak to her, addressing Graham instead. 

Don’t you do that, she’d said, you’re going to talk to me, not my husband. It was the first time Graham had been afraid of the woman he loved, but not the first time he’d been proud of her. Your man took my boy — my beloved grandson — at the front door of his own home, and treated him like he was a criminal. Because he’s brown and he lives on a white street? You going to tell me that? You bring out your constable. I want to speak to him — no, don’t look at my husband, you look at me. I’m the one you’re going to deal with, like it or not.

In the end, nothing really changed, not officially. But the man who brought Ryan out looked as if he was walking to his own execution; Grace had not bothered to modulate her voice, and every person in that station could have been forgiven if they’d thought they were in the line of fire. She’d grabbed Ryan and hugged him fiercely, dismissed the officer who handed him over with a disgusted sniff, then pronounced judgement on everyone in the building. You all can do better, she’d said. You all had better do better.

With that, she’d sailed out of there, Ryan and Graham pulled along helplessly, gratefully, in her wake.

“After she got disrespected so badly at the station, I started feeling … weird, I guess … yeah, weird, any time I saw a constable looking at me or looking at Grace or Ryan. And I couldn’t stop seeing how I got treated differently to them.”

He looked at his hands. “I never said much about it. Should have, I reckon. I did with Alun, grabbed him and took him into the Pitch’s loo and read him the riot act. But I didn’t stand up for her with strangers. Didn’t want to cause a scene. 

“And I should have. Grace didn’t mind; she told me she could handle things herself and that she loved me just for wanting to do it. But  I couldn’t … couldn’t feel good about myself.”

When he looked up from his hands, belatedly amazed at how much had tumbled from his lips, he saw Ryan staring at him, and he wanted to sink through the floor again. “It’s not about me, though, is it?”

Ryan had been leaning against the kitchen counter. He stood up straight and sucked in his lower lip before speaking. “You came down with Gran to the station. You didn’t have to. I never thanked you for that.”

Graham leaned back in his chair. He didn’t know what to say in response; of course he had to come with her. There was nothing to thank him for, was there? It did his heart good to hear Ryan say it, nonetheless.

“So has Yaz ever acted like that?” Once again, the Doctor’s question wasn’t judgmental, simply curious in that ineluctably alien way she had of speaking. 

Graham shook his head. “Nah, never. I don’t think she’d ever do that. She’s been called Paki enough that she never wants to hear other people get bad mouthed. She told me that.”

“And you trust her, right?”  

That question was definitely leading to something, Graham saw. The Doctor’s brown eyes were on him, and he felt a little as if he was under the gaze of a very kind but possibly dangerous wild animal. Well, he’d started the conversational ball rolling, so he’d just keep rolling along with it. 

Come to think of it, Yaz and police and Grace and all, they’d all been rolling around in his head ever since Alabama and his painfully reluctant silence on James Blake’s bus — 

Oh. Oh, that’s what it’s all about, not ….  

Graham wasn’t used to having epiphanies, even small ones in the confines of a cozy kitchen. But he couldn’t shrug it off, so he did what Grace would have wanted him to do; he worked with it.

“I’d trust her with my life,” he told the Time Lord, wondering if she’d known he’d realize what he’d really been thinking about all this time. “Fact is, I’ve done that I don’t know how many times since we came on board the TARDIS.”

“Well, there you go, then,” the Doctor said. She grinned at him. “Knew you’d figure it out.”

Ryan looked at Graham, then at the Doctor, confused. “What did he have to figure out?”

“I’m sure your Granddad can fill you in. Right, Graham?” The Doctor launched herself from her chair, narrowly missing barking her hip on the kitchen table. “But I have to run now. I’ve got a spot of TARDIS tweaking to do in the console room.”

After she left, Ryan took her seat. “What do I need to be filled in on?”

Graham smiled, just a little. “Not much, son. I’ve just missed Grace a lot since America. And I’ve wished I could tell her about Rosa, and have her tell me it was OK, that it was right, what we did. I think I’d believe it a lot more from her than I did from the Doctor.”

Ryan still looked bewildered. “But what’s it got to do with Yaz?”

His smile got a little lopsided, but it didn’t disappear. “That’s the point. It wasn’t about Yaz. It was about your Gran, and … oh,  I guess about the way the world works. And I just needed to talk about it, and I wasn’t doing that, and thinking about Yaz and her being a cop ….”

Graham stopped, eyeing his increasingly perplexed grandson. It made perfect sense to him, and it obviously made sense to the Doctor. But he suspected that the more he tried to explain to anyone else, the more he’d sound like a loony. One last try, though, he decided. 

“It means I think Yaz is right to be proud of what she does. We need more of her type on the force, and I think I’m going to tell her that.”

“Tell me what?”

Yaz came in, wearing a tee-shirt whose unhappy kitten proclaimed that it couldn’t adult today. Graham’s laugh startled her and Ryan alike. So did his quick hug of them both. “Thanks, kids!”

When he left the kitchen and took off down the corridor to the console room, he was still laughing. 

“What was that all about? What did he want to tell me?” Yaz had her Let’s Get To The Bottom Of This face on. 

Ryan shook his head. “I’m not sure, but I think it’ll be good. He hasn’t laughed like that since Gran died.”

“O-okay.” Yaz started for the fridge, but stopped dead at the counter. “Oh my god. Who perpetrated that?

It was the Doctor’s half eaten fried egg sandwich, dripping with Sriracha sauce.

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