Yaz had tried to prepare herself mentally, moments before the rescue mission with Jack. Tried.
Truth was, once they broke into the cell where the Doctor was being held, Yaz froze. The image of her, the image she had seen so many times in her dreams and nightmares alike, she should have known deep down that she’d never be ready to see her in that state. Small, tired, weak, pale. All words going through Yaz’s mind in that split second she stood in the middle of the cold and grey cell.
The Doctor’s torso was barely moving as she breathed in and out, barely visible in the shadowy corner where she was sitting. Knees close to her chest as she hugged them weakly, face hidden. All around her, almost mockingly looking down on her, the tall walls were covered by hundreds if not thousands of tally marks. The floor, with dozens of different weird circles, equations and… some doodles?
Yaz would never forget how utterly and absolutely broken the Doctor looked in that split second.
She’d like to say she’d helped, but in reality Jack had done most of the work. He’d picked the Doctor up and carried her all the way back to the TARDIS -not their TARDIS, but the TARDIS Yaz had been living in for the last few months- and then they ran.
By the time they arrived back at Graham’s house, the Doctor had regained consciousness. Though both Yaz and Jack had attempted to talk to her, there was no response and they had to settle by exchanging worried glances at her dissociative indifference. She had also firmly rejected any aid they offered as she started moving and walking around on wobbly legs. The similarity between her and a stubborn toddler learning how to walk almost made Yaz smile.
Another image that caught Yaz by surprise, even though she should have been expecting it sooner or later: Graham’s eyes, as soon as they laid on the Doctor’s small and wavering figure, were overflowing with worry and regret. Yaz knew why, of course. All those months where he and Ryan had insisted she would stop going to the TARDIS, to forget the idea that the Doctor would come back.
It didn’t matter now. Not when the Doctor was finally there. Even if she didn’t look like herself, even if she stood barefoot, paler and skinner than ever, even in the red jumpsuit that seemed to be double her size. She was here.
An eternity seemed to pass as they waited for the Doctor to react to something. Anything really. She was still dazed (god knows from what exactly) but she eventually glanced up at Graham and took a quick look around the living room. She opened her mouth then and closed it back again, Yaz suspected she had been about to ask for something but decided against it in the last second.
Graham had also seemed to notice it, he was very good at understanding people to the surprise of nobody. He approached her slowly, almost in disbelief. And very cautiously, like one would do around a wounded dog, he slowly reached his arms around the Doctor’s small frame and hugged her.
“I’m so glad you’re back, Doc.”
Upon first contact, her body went stiff as a board, Yaz was just opening her mouth to tell Graham to give her some space when the Doctor’s shoulders relaxed and her eyes closed. Yaz tried to force her guard down as she watched the Doctor’s body sink into Graham’s hold as he hugged her tighter.She made a mental note to thank Graham later, as this seemed to be exactly what the Doctor needed in that moment: a grandfather’s warm hug.
Graham had not let go of the Doctor for a second, until the very last moment. He was making sure to keep constant and comforting pressure around her, protective. Yaz distantly remembered her training, and how it was one of the recommended approaches to reassure children and elderly.
Eventually, after Ryan had arrived home from his apprenticeship and joined them in the living room, the Doctor had refused to talk about her time in prison. Yaz mentioned a warm long bath, in hopes of distracting and maybe relieving some of the weight the Doctor was carrying. As they walked to the staircase, she shoot an intense glare to the others in clear warning: do not press the Doctor to talk.
Yaz then took Graham’s place, making sure to hold the Doctor and reassure her in every way that was available to her. They worked so in sync in the following moments one would think they had it all planned beforehand: Yaz would look after the Doctor as she bathed, while Jack and Graham made dinner and Ryan set aside some of his old clothes for her to change into.
“I’m gonna try and find something” he said as they walked up the stairs together “but I don’t think I have anything with rainbows. Sorry.”
Yaz chuckled lightly and noticed with a smile that the comment almost got a smile out of the Doctor. They were slowly making some progress.
Once the bath was halfway filled with warm water and some bubbles, Yaz took a second to marvel at her work:
“Okay! You’re all set. The bath products are all in the sink and Ryan got two towels you can use.” she hesitated for a moment “Uh, I- I’ll just wait outside the door, okay? And if you need me just give a shout.”
Yaz reached for the doorknob with a heavy heart, unsure if she was doing the right thing. The Doctor was never one to care much about modesty, but prison had probably changed that right? On the other hand, wasn’t it wrong to just leave her in a room by herself, after god knows how long she had stayed in isolation?
The barely audible whisper halted all of Yaz’s spiraling thoughts. With her heartbeat picking up its pace, Yaz turned around immediately and glanced back.
Her voice was quiet and rough, hoarse from lack of use. If she hadn't been standing right there to listen with her own ears, Yaz wouldn’t have believed it belonged to the Doctor.
Still caught in surprise and not fully realizing the implications of what she was agreeing to, Yaz nodded warmly and smiled kindly:
“Of course. Yeah, of course I’ll stay.”
As the Doctor started to unbutton the jumpsuit, Yaz quickly spun around on her heels and stared at the door. It was only when she heard some water splashing and a short content sigh did Yaz’s brain cells finally catch up with real time and realized with internal panic what was happening.
She had just agreed to watch and possibly help the Doctor wash herself. She mentally slapped herself.
Good one, Khan.
“You can turn around now.”
For the second time in less than five minutes, the Doctor’s voice pulled Yaz back to reality.
She was then greeted with a very sweet and, at the same time, very sad image: the Doctor had her knees up, covering her chest. It reminded Yaz of how they had found her in prison and she quickly tried to shake it off her mind.
Yaz had never seen the Doctor so vulnerable like this. And as much as she tried her best not to stare, her eyes couldn’t help but wander, noticing how skinny and pale her shoulders and knees were. Thinking back to how Graham had done it earlier, Yaz pushed through a warm smile and tried to speak as softly as her vocal cords allowed.
“Would you like me to wash your hair?”
The Doctor gave her a small sympathetic smile, followed by a short nod.
Yaz then got to work. She took off her fluffy jacket and rolled up the ends of her sweatpants until they were around her mid calf. She reached for the toiletries on the sink and sat on the edge of the tub facing the back of the Doctor’s head.
She spent most of the process talking to herself, only receiving small nods and hums in response. It was weird really, considering usually the situation was inverted. On a positive note, Yaz now felt she could understand the Doctor a tiny bit better now; rambling by yourself like this is a really effective way of distracting oneself while on the outside appearing to be calm and relaxed.
Being so close to her like this was making Yaz understandably nervous, so she decided then to focus on the task at hand: her hair. In very broad terms, it was an absolute mess. Dirty with ash and grease, completely tangled, roots so lengthy they were almost reaching her cheeks.
Yaz didn’t mention any of it, of course. She used an empty cup to fill it with water from the tub and poured it gently over the Doctor’s head, repeating the process until her head was properly soaked. She then spread the flower scented shampoo over her hands and began working carefully to clean the hair, starting at the roots until finally reaching and massaging the scalp. She rinsed and repeated the process two more times.
“Close your eyes now for me.” She spoke softly from where she was sitting behind the Doctor, who still remained with hands around her knees and head hung low.
Yaz filled the cup with water and continued to massage the Doctor’s head, removing the shampoo and any of the dirt that was still left. And yeah, if she were being honest with herself, Yaz did purposefully delay this process just a tiny little bit. She poured water a few more times than necessary, just to get some extra minutes to play and pet the Doctor’s hair.
Conditioning it went by a lot faster. Once again she started at the roots and moved her way up to the roots. When she was halfway rinsing it for the last time, the Doctor (who Yaz thought had fallen asleep by now) mumbled with her head still low:
“It smells like you.”
“Yeah, it’s mine, from the weekends I stayed here with Graham and Ryan. Hope you don’t mind it.”
“I like it.”
The comment, as small and innocent as it was, sent tingles all over Yaz’s body, her face blushing just a little bit more than usual.
As much as she wanted to stay all day there playing with the Doctor’s hair in the tub, Yaz pushed herself to get up and stood facing the door once again for the Doctor to scrub her body privately.
She tried to fight it, really, she did (okay, maybe she only fought the idea for a second or two). But she had been standing there for at least 10 minutes now and she had to check if the Doctor was okay. To be honest, Yaz didn’t know what exactly she was worried that could be happening but still, after so long of not being able to see her, Yaz just couldn't help the urge to keep checking on her.
So she glanced back, just a tiny little bit.
Yaz had never seen the Doctor’s body before, or really had any idea what her body looked like under all the layers she used daily.
All the times she daydreamed about furtive glances like this, Yaz imagined herself blushing furiously at the sight of skin and muscles; becoming a sputtering mess over her crush. But sadly the reality was that seeing the Doctor’s back only made Yaz worry even more. There were scars everywhere, old and recent ones of varying sizes, bruises varying from purple and green tones, even faint shadows highlighting where her bones were prodding and sticking out
Yaz immediately turned her head back, regretting the decision with a single thought in mind: ‘what had they done to her?’
It was only when the Doctor asked for a towel that Yaz was taken out of her thoughts.
Yaz unlocked her phone screen for what felt like the hundredth time that night. Unsurprisingly, it was still 1:27 AM.
And she hadn’t managed to sleep for a single minute.
At first she shrugged it off as just the day’s heightened adrenaline levels: breaking in and out of a space prison, punching a humanoid rhinoceros in the stomach, tripping on what looked like a very vengeful pting… Those were all reasonable explanations on why she would have a hard time falling asleep.
But no. What was keeping Yaz up was the Doctor. Just knowing that she was upstairs by herself in an empty room again made Yaz’s heart ache in her chest. No matter what she tried to distract herself with, it would just not leave her alone, the image of her in her prison cell kept returning to her mind. How small she looked, how dirty and utterly defeated she had been in that cell… And for how long?
And more importantly, what had they done to her in that place? Why did she have so many bruises on her back? She was looking so thin, her hair (even after the three washings) looked worn and dull, missing it’s usual golden shine. Had she eaten any protein at all while in prison? Or any vitamins?
Yaz’s mind made a small detour and went back to wondering about the Doctor’s hair. The moment they spent in the bathroom together had been so nice, it was the first time in months Yaz had felt calm and relaxed. She wondered if she’d ever get to wash and play with the Doctor’s hair again.
It took her another half an hour of going back and forth, but eventually she made the decision to walk up the stairs and check on the Doctor, who was supposedly sleeping in Ryan’s room. It would be quick. Just a little peek inside, then close the door, go back to the sofa and finally be allowed to sleep in peace.
Yaz turned off her phone and made her way towards the staircase, trying to walk as silently as possible not to wake Jack (who was staying in the guest’s room). Soon enough though, she discovered there was no need for that.
When she passed by the kitchen, Yaz noticed the lights were still on and the door was slightly open. Peeking inside, she saw both Graham and Jack at the dining table. They were sitting close and seemed to be talking in between drinking their tea. She was about to turn around and leave them be when she saw it.
It was small and barely noticeable, but when Jack stood up to put the kettle back on, Graham angled his head just a bit to his right and- oh my god . Graham was totally checking Jack out.
Were they… ?
Yaz held in her surprised and amused gasp in favour of not being noticed and forced her body to move away from the door and in the direction of the staircase, leaving them be. As she made her way up, she thought back to all the moments she had seen Jack and Graham interacting.
In particular, Graham’s reaction when she had appeared with Jack on his doorstep yesterday. His awkwardness, the fleeting glances, the accidental brushing of hands.
And Yaz knew all of those signs way too well.
Soon enough, she was standing outside Ryan’s bedroom, gathering up courage. She leaned forwards and carefully opened a tiny little fraction of the door, worried not to wake the Doctor up.
Her eyes took a moment to fully take in what they were seeing. There was a lamp precariously balanced on top of some books, casting a weak light on one of the corners of the room. The Doctor herself looked fine, thankfully, as she sat hunched on the floor cross legged.
Yaz considered turning around and leaving her alone but she knew for sure she would spend the rest of the night awake, imagining what the Doctor was up to. Curiosity got the best of her.
“Doctor, is everything alright?”
Immediately the Doctor jumped to her feet, hitting her head on the bedside table and stubbing her knee on the pile of books keeping the lamp up. Yaz watched baffled -and a tiny bit impressed- as they all cascaded to the floor with muffled thumps.
She continued to watch silently as the Doctor seemed to compose herself, when finally she forced out a smile:
“Oh hey Yaz! What are you- Shouldn’t you be asleep?”
“Couldn’t really sleep, so I came to check if everything were okay. Shouldn’t you be asleep?”
They both glanced down at the wires and electrical trinkets laying on the floor next to the fallen lamp and books. Yaz could identify the old blue flip phone she had gifted the Doctor around a year ago, one of Ryan’s PS2 controllers with some buttons and parts missing and a half eaten biscuit, which the Doctor still held in her hand.
“Well, you know me. I don’t really need sleep and I’m feeling I’m really close to a breakthrough with these fellas.” Another smile. Yaz nodded, pretending to believe it was genuine.
The Doctor finished the biscuit as they remained in awkward silence, Yaz took it as her cue to leave. She’d gotten what she wanted, right? The Doctor was okay, and that had been the only reason she came up here. So why was her heart beating so tightly against her chest?
After a few seconds of hesitance, she finally turned around to leave the room and close the door, but before she could say ‘goodnight’ the Doctor spoke:
“Wait.” Yaz turned around immediately, hand still resting on the doorknob. “Don’t you wanna stay here a bit? Wouldn’t mind some company.”
The vulnerability of the Doctor’s words had taken her back, in all honesty. Still, she smiled reassuringly and nodded.
The Doctor smiled gratefully. “Brilliant. You can also take the bed if you get sleepy later, Graham said you insisted on sleeping on the couch and… well, can’t have a perfectly good bed go to waste just for me.”
Yaz closed the door behind and walked towards the bed, sitting down over one crossed leg.
“It’s okay to say you’re feeling lonely, Doctor.” she spoke softly, slightly avoiding the Doctor’s heavy glare.
“I- no! Of course not. Me? No. I just meant I’m gonna be up sorting these out anyways so there is no need for you to stay on the sofa, that’s all.”
Yaz managed to successfully hold back a smile at the exasperated tone, but it didn’t last long. In the seconds that followed the Doctor huffed out a frustrated breath, causing some of the hair on her face to flutter up and then down like a proper cartoon character. Yaz giggled, noticing the faint smile on the Doctor’s lips.
She then pointed curiously at the trinkets on the floor, deciding to indulge the Doctor and mentally preparing herself for a long ramble about how her newest artron energy detector worked.
“What even is that you’re doing?
“Oh! Well, it’s a…” she gesticulated vaguely for a second and then sighed “Okay, to be really honest I have no idea what this is. I just needed stuff to tinker with”
Yaz’s face frowned a tiny bit in shock. She’d always known the Doctor messed around with random objects and did her “repairs” to pass the time and distract herself, that had always been very obvious. But to hear her actually confessing it? That was certainly a first.
Suddenly she was reminded of a few months ago, being in this same room late at night talking to Ryan (or, rather, venting and crying while Ryan comforted her).
Yaz turned her attention to the bedside table -the one the Doctor had hit her head on- and opened the top drawer. After a few seconds of scavenging, she found what she was after and held out her arm in the Doctor’s direction.
“You can have this then, if you want something to play with.”
That quickly got the Doctor’s attention, as she abandoned the wires and the PS2 controller on the floor and climbed up on the bed, taking the tiny object curiously in her own hands.
“It’s a fidget cube. Ryan gave it to me a while ago, but I think you need it more than I do.”
The Doctor nodded absent mindedly as she inspected each side of the cube, testing each side and its small buttons. It was always cute really, to observe the Doctor’s reaction when she discovered something new. It had been one of Yaz’s favorite things during her time traveling in the TARDIS and she had missed it dearly.
Yaz felt her heart warm as she watched the Doctor in silence, leaning her back down in the soft mattress, head hitting the pillow. The Doctor followed her lead and leaned down without taking her eyes off the fidget cube.
The room was engulfed in darkness around them, with only a faint source of light coming from the lamp fallen on the floor. The bed was a bit cramped, with both of them resting on the same pillow even. But that was the last worry in Yaz’s mind.
Everything was quiet, peaceful even. And for the first time since finding her in that abandoned cold cell, Yaz allowed herself to look at the Doctor:
Her hair was clean, of course, and almost completely dry now, but it was still missing its old softness and golden shine. The blonde strands looked faded and dull, probably from lack of care. The Doctor’s face, although distracted at the fidget cube, carried a somberness even darker than the one Yaz was used to seeing before. She also had dark bags under her eyes and some faint scratches and scars on her forehead, thankfully not as big or worrying as the ones on her back.
Yaz’s eyes then caught a glimpse of hazel irises and she was brought back to the moment. She had been rudely staring and the Doctor had caught her in the act. Her face flushed with embarrassment as she stuttered some words out:
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to just- ”
“It’s fine. I get it” the Doctor interrupted, eyes glossing over her face and focusing back on the cube. “You want to know what it was like, don’t you? At the prison.”
Yaz nodded hesitantly, trying to hide her curiosity. The Doctor nodded knowingly and sighed:
“For a time lord, the passage of time can be one of the most dreadful things'' she then smiled shyly. The type of smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“How long were you there, Doctor?” Yaz’s voice came out weaker and shakier than she expected.
The Doctor’s eyes glanced up to meet her own. Her gaze was so much older, so tired. And then the Doctor finally spoke, never breaking their fragile eye contact:
“Long enough for me to realize how much I missed you, Yasmin.”
Those words triggered something inside Yaz. They came all at once, overwhelming all of her senses, her mind racing, heart starting to beat painfully in her chest. She felt like she had just been hit by a train.
The image of the Doctor still in the prison’s jumpsuit, sitting abandoned in that lonely corner of her cell. Hugging her knees, hiding her face, barely breathing. As soon as Yaz and Jack had entered the cell, the image had frozen her into place. And now, it was as if all the reactions she should’ve had in that single moment were coming back, ten times stronger.
All of those tally marks on the walls, the equations and doodles on the floor. The cell was big, and the walls, tall. It would have taken years for someone to fill them like the Doctor had. Decades. Centuries.
It hit her then, and it all fell into place.
The reason she had turned her gaze away while the Doctor was washing herself, as Yaz refused to look at her bruises and scars. The reason Yaz couldn’t sleep, the reason she had come here to check on the Doctor. The reason she had frozen when seeing her in her cell.
She felt hot tears starting to blur her vision. All at once, the wall she had built around herself, around her emotions, was finally starting to crack. All her feelings started to flood out. She struggled for a few seconds, fighting her emotions and trying to hold back the flooding. And then, the tears began rolling down.
“Oh Yaz, no. Don’t cry”
The Doctor dropped the fidget cube back on the bedside table and scooted her body closer. Yaz closed her eyes as she felt the Doctor’s arms enveloping her body, closing the small distance between them and holding her.
Yaz leaned into the warm touch involuntarily, burying her face in the Doctor’s shoulder as her tears continued to flow freely.
A hint of shame washed over Yaz’s body. Did she even have the right to be the one crying and being comforted right now? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? The Doctor had spent so long in that place, being tortured mentally and physically by the signs of things. Why wasn’t she the one crying in Yaz’s arms right now?
Then, a gentle touch made her mind stop overthinking. The Doctor’s right hand was resting on Yaz’s head now, lightly brushing her hair. Just like she had done in the bath, mere hours ago. It gave Yaz the strength to push some words out:
“I missed you too, Doctor. So much.”
“I know. It’s okay.”
The tears stopped as abruptly as they had started. The Doctor was here with her. The Doctor was holding her, playing with her hair, grounding her. She took deep calming breaths and eventually, after what felt like an eternity, she lifted her head up.
The Doctor glanced down at her, her right hand now reaching for her cheek. Yaz felt herself melting under the soft and gentle touch, as the Doctor’s thumb carefully brushed away the tears drying on her face. Her hand, though calloused and bony, still transmitted care and affection.
Yaz moved her own hands to rest around the Doctor’s body, as she reached her other hand to cup Yaz’s face. Lost in their own little bubble, away from the rest of the universe, bodies close and faces mere centimeters apart. As cliche as it sounded, Yaz stopped for a moment to wonder if this was just another one of her daydreams.
The Doctor simply smiled and gently pulled their faces even closer, foreheads now touching, noses slightly brushing together. The thumb used to wipe away her tears was now slowly caressing Yaz’s cheek, the other one holding her face began drifting lower and lower, until it reached Yaz’s lips. The touch was featherlight, like nothing Yaz had ever felt before.
“Yaz, the time I spent there… I thought so much about you.” she whispered, careful not to destroy whatever it was that was happening “I… I longed for you. Had dreams of you. Of your lips, your body.”
Yaz felt her face flush at the confession as her body grew warmer, heart still beating impossibly fast. She opened her mouth to speak but found no appropriate words and remained silent. The Doctor’s eyes flickered between her parted lips and her eyes.
“I would really like to kiss you. I dreamed about it so many times.” her whispered words sent a vibration through Yaz’s own lips and a chill through her spine. “May I?”
With her mind racing and still half questioning if this was all her imagination, Yaz drowned her insecurities and closed the tiny distance between them.
The first contact was awkward and badly angled. Nevertheless, it was one of the sweetest things Yaz had ever felt.
Butterflies fluttered in her stomach, and a tingly feeling took over her chest. Her shoulders relaxed as she adjusted their mouths and naturally deepened the kiss, her hands coming to hold her waist as the Doctor held her jaw with one hand and her cheek with the other.
They broke apart for a second, staring at each other with a hint of disbelief in their eyes as they slowly breathed in and out together. Closing her eyes again, Yaz leaned forwards and caught the Doctor’s lips for a second kiss, this one more intimate and less clumsy.
Yaz sighed deeply as the Doctor brushed her tongue against hers, still holding her face as if she were made of porcelain. It was like time had completely stopped around them, the faint moonlight and the stars outside taking a second of their time to observe them.
Slowly they came to a stop. Yaz felt her lips slightly swollen from how long they kissed, eyes still puffy from the crying. As they slowly broke apart, the Doctor’s face instantly hid away on Yaz’s neck, nuzzling and breathing heavily on the sensitive skin. She couldn’t tell if it was out of embarrassment or just an involuntary need to be close.
They held each other in comfortable and content silence. Until the Doctor whispered, her muffled voice sending vibrations through Yaz’s body:
“ ‘m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize. Please” she whispered back, chin gently coming to rest on the top of the Doctor’s head, eyes closing. “I’ve wanted this for so long.”
“That’s exactly why I am apologizing. Yaz… I’m sorry for taking so long. I’m sorry it took all of that time in prison for me to understand my feelings. And I’m sorry for only gathering the courage when you’re vulnerable like this. I didn’t mean to take advantage of you, I promise. I’ve just always been such a coward and...”
Yaz pulled the Doctor’s body gently by her shoulders so they could face each other. She then shook her head.
“You don’t have to apologize for any of that. And you didn’t take advantage of me, okay?” Yaz closed her eyes and leaned forwards, bringing their foreheads together again. “I’m just happy you’re here now.”
A small kiss on her cheek caught her by surprise, causing her to open her eyes. Then came another and another. The Doctor continued to pepper her face with tiny kisses, moving from her cheek to her nose, her forehead, her temples, her chin. It was only when they were both smiling and giggling like young teenagers that she stopped, leaving one last peck over Yaz’s lips.
Yaz smiled and repositioned her body around the Doctor’s for a cuddle. It wasn’t long until sleep took them both away.
Breakfast over at Graham’s was always a bit of a mess. A lot of food, plates of different sizes and colors scattered everywhere, everyone still in their pajamas.
Yaz absolutely loved it.
And she loved it especially today. Glancing around the table, things seemed to finally be back to normal. Well, as close to normal as time traveling humans, a lonely alien and whatever Jack’s species was could have.
Ryan was over at the kitchen cooking eggs and making toast for everyone. The Doctor was sitting right next to her, holding a half-assembled monstrosity that would no doubt have inspired Mary Shelley to write a sequel to ‘Frankenstein’. According to her, she had woken up early and filled with inspiration, so she started assembling the ‘ultimate fidget cube’.
“It’s structured like a rubik’s cube with shifting corners and fixed middle parts, so you can keep one hand busy playing with the fidget buttons and the other spinning the other sides of the cubes.”
Graham nodded with a half-confused, half-questioning frown, Jack was sitting close by his side (very close, Yaz noted) making comments every once in a while at the Doctor’s expense. Yaz chuckled lightly as Ryan arrived with even more plates of food, stopping dead in his tracks:
“Doctor, please tell me those joysticks aren’t from my playstation.”
Her face scrunched up with an apologetic smile. “Oh… yeah they are, sorry.” Ryan groaned and rolled his eyes, but Yaz could see how happy he was that she was finally back.
Maybe things could still be okay, after all.