They've been on a picnic on an otherwise empty planet. Yaz pulls ahead from the others to walk beside the Doctor, and they chat about nothing. It's a beautiful day, three small suns in the sky, no clouds.
The Doctor pauses, lifts her hand to her forehead.
“You alright?” asks Yaz, polite rather than concerned.
The Doctor waves her other hand. “Bit of a headache. Nothing, really. Probably just that time of the decade, you know how it is.” They continue walking back to the TARDIS.
When they reach the ship the Doctor leans against it for support, suddenly weak. She pulls the key from her pocket and misses the lock twice. She mutters, frustrated.
Yaz takes the key from the Doctor's hand. “I'll get it,” she says, and now she's beginning to worry.
“I just need to get inside,” says the Doctor. “Maybe have a little nap.”
Yaz is turning the key when the Doctor falls, stumbling backwards and falling into Ryan's arms.
“What's going on?” asks Ryan, shifting his grip to something more secure.
Graham picks up the dropped picnic basket and looks around. “We should get her inside,” he says, and the others see no reason to disagree.
They take the Doctor to the first bedroom the TARDIS offers. Ryan lays her on the bed carefully and Yaz removes her boots. Graham hovers, temporarily useless.
“She's hot,” says Ryan. “How do we cool her down?”
“Maybe we shouldn't,” says Graham. “Sometimes you need to let a fever do its thing, don't you?” The last two words are spoken as a question, because he honestly doesn't know.
“We should take her to a hospital,” says Ryan. The three of them head out to the console room, where if nothing else they won't be any more helpless.
“How?” asks Yaz. “None of us can work the TARDIS.”
“It can't be that hard to fly this thing,” says Ryan, staring doubtfully at the controls. He reaches out to flick a switch but Yaz stops him with a touch to his hand.
“You might accidentally kill us all,” she says, which is entirely reasonable.
“And I might not,” he counters.
“We need to think,” says Graham, taking over as the oldest person in the room.
So they think. They think for two days, as the Doctor lies unconscious and Ryan's argument that they should fly the TARDIS becomes ever more tempting. What's the worst that could happen, after all?
There's a sound outside, muffled, and then the outer doors swing open. They look up.
“Shit,” says Ryan, and Graham doesn't tell him not to swear. Swearing is entirely understandable in the circumstances.
The three of them draw together as the Master steps into the room.
“Where is she?”
Nobody answers until eventually Yaz says, “Get lost.” It's not even a threat but it's the best they can offer.
“I know she's sick,” says the Master. “I'm here to help.”
It's hilarious but they don't laugh.
“You're always trying to kill the Doctor,” Ryan points out.
“And us,” adds Graham.
The Master looks unimpressed. “The Doctor's always trying to kill me.”
“You're evil,” Yaz states what should be obvious.
“The Doctor dies when I say she does, not before.” He looks across the room to the inner doors. “Show me where she is.”
They take a moment to confer among themselves in whispers: “What do we do?”; “He'll kill her.”; “We can't just...”
The Master clears his throat to get their attention. “I should mention,” he says, calmly, “that I'm going to start killing you one by one if you don't take me to the Doctor.”
Graham steps forwards. “Okay.”
He looks at Yaz, holding up a placating hand. “We don't have much choice.” Hesitant, he extends a hand towards the corridor. “She's down there. I'll show you.”
The Master nods. “Good decision.”
When they arrive at the Doctor's room the Master enters without waiting. He moves to the bed, touches the Doctor's forehead. He pulls an eyelid up and checks her eyes. He pulls down the covers.
“Oi!” says Graham.
The Master rolls his eyes. “I need to listen to her hearts.” He pulls a stethoscope from his coat pocket and continues his examination. Finally he straightens up. “Follow me,” he orders, heading from the room.
The Master seems to know his way around the TARDIS, which is worrying for all sorts of reasons. He leads Graham to the infirmary and begins to load his arms with equipment. “Don't drop anything,” he warns. He selects a few medicines from the cabinet and then, without a word, heads back to the Doctor, clearly expecting Graham to follow.
Graham carefully piles his boxes on the side-table. “What's wrong with her?”
“An infection,” says the Master. “Probably forgot to get her shots again after she regenerated.” His lips moved into something like a fond little smile. “She's an idiot.”
“Can you make her better?”
The Master doesn't answer, just rolls up the Doctor's sleeve and slides a needle into her arm.
“What's that?” asks Graham, suspicious.
“A saline drip. She's dehydrated.”
“Okay.” Graham watches because someone has to, even though he has next to no idea what the Master is doing. He tries to convince himself that this is a very round-about way to kill the Doctor, and surely the Master would have murdered her some other way by now.
Finally the Master sits in the armchair by the bed. “You can go,” he says, dismissive.
“I said, you can go.” There's an unspoken threat in the Master's voice, and maybe a dignified retreat really is the best option. So he nods, and leaves.
The day passes slowly. They sit in the console room, in silence bar the occasional “We should check on them” which nobody ever follows up on. They are torn between fear of the Master and fear for the Doctor.
Finally Ryan stands up. “I'm going to see what's happening.”
“Be careful,” says Graham.
He heads along the corridor and pauses at the door. Should he knock? Deciding against it, he steps into the room. The Master glances up at him. “Oh, so you're the brave one.”
“Is she any better?” asks Ryan.
Ryan nods. Stable is good, isn't it? “I suppose we should thank you,” he says, reluctant.
The Master is unmoved. “If she dies I'm going to kill all of you, slowly.”
He shrugs. “Cheer myself up, I suppose.” The Master reaches out and rearranges the covers on the bed, making sure the Doctor's comfortable and tucked in. It's almost tender. Ryan retreats back to the others.
“This is driving me mad,” announces Graham the next day.
“I can't believe you trust him to look after her,” says Yaz.
“He cares about her,” says Ryan, announcing his conclusion.
Yaz lifts her eyebrows. “Oh, is that why he keeps trying to murder her then? Fancy me not seeing something that obvious.”
“I think it's like...” Ryan pauses to find the right words. “When you pick on someone in school because you want to talk them but you're too shy to ask.”
“Pulling her hair and running away?” quips Graham.
Ryan nods. “I don't think he's right in the head. But I do think he wants her to get through this.”
“Bollocks,” says Yaz, unimpressed.
Yaz's turn comes later, when Graham sends her from the kitchens with a tray of cheese sandwiches. She stops at the door and pushes it open quietly. She peers into the room.
The Master is talking to the Doctor in a language that the TARDIS doesn't translate. It sounds a bit like rainfall. He's got her hand between his, holding it against his chest.
Yaz swings the door wide and clears her throat to announce her presence. The Master drops the hand like he's been burned and glares at Yaz.
“You must be hungry,” she says, holding up the plate.
She tries to act casual. “I'll just leave them on the dresser then, case you change your mind.”
He doesn't thank her. He doesn't say anything. He turns his attention back to the Doctor.
Maybe Ryan's actually right.
After three days the Master walks into the control room, pulling on his coat. “She should be awake by morning. Don't tell her I was here.”
“She's going to wonder what happened,” protests Yaz.
The Master looks unconcerned. “Then lie to her. I'm sure she lies to you constantly.”
They watch him leave, and when the outer door slams shut all three release a breath.
It's Graham's turn to watch over the Doctor when she finally wakes up. This is good, because Graham is the best at lying to the Doctor. They couldn't have planned this better if they had tried.
She looks at the drip in her arm. “Did you do this?”
“Well, marry a nurse, you learn a few things.”
She looks at him, brows creasing together in a frown. Graham keeps his expression open and neutral. “You looked after me?”
“All three of us. We took turns.”
The Doctor looks like she's about to call him a liar. She narrows her eyes. She draws in a breath. Then her expression changes, becomes calm.
“Thanks,” is all she says.
“Don't mention it.” He pats her shoulder. “I'll get you a cup of tea.”
“And some custard creams,” she adds.
“Anything you like, Doc. You had us worried there for a bit.”
She seems distracted, opening her mouth slightly like she's trying to taste the air.
Graham stops at the door. “You've got some good friends,” he says, carefully.
The Doctor settles back against her pillows. “Loyal friends,” she says. “Friends I can trust.”
Graham doesn't flinch. “The best kind.” He goes to put the kettle on.