Yaz had seen the Doctor look shocked before. She hasn’t seen anything like this. Not so long ago, her friend had found out about a past she’d never known. That her species wasn’t hers, that they’d tortured her and stolen what made her special. And she’d recovered, somehow, she’d even grinned. But she was clearly a long way from anything like grinning now.
“I was wrong about everything,” said the Doctor. She sounded dead.
“Well,” said Yaz. “I’d like to pretend I’m surprised.”
“Not just about the Earth. I thought”—
The Doctor sighed.
“I thought I understood why I was doing this. Being the Doctor. Saving your world. Silly to think that anyone understands themselves.”
She looked out through the grimy bedroom window, squinting at the sky and the barren trees.
“It was stupid,” she said. “I thought that it all might have mattered.”
“What did,” asked Yaz.
The Doctor shook her head.
“Nothing,” she said. “A nothing I thought was something. But it doesn’t matter how. What matters is that all of this is wrong”—
She went over to the mattress of her bed, where she’d spread out her map of London again. There were pins stuck into places where the Doctor had scrawled herself notes, in writing which Yaz assumed was English but was still impossible to read. Wincing, the Doctor started plucking hairs from her head and tying them to particular pins, sometimes licking her finger and sticking it down on the map. And then she was rattling her device like a pile of whisks round and round above the mattress, cranking it like she was scrambling eggs and the fate of the world depended on it—
—and then she gasped and stopped churning, as one of the whisks whined and moaned.
“That’s bad,” she said.
As suddenly as it had started the moaning stopped, and was replaced by a soft, cheerful tune.
“That’s much worse,” she said.
“So,” she added. “War’s coming.”
Yaz smiled sadly. Somehow it didn’t have the impact that it should.
“Hey,” she said. “I’m from Sheffield. I’ve seen Threads.”
The Doctor shook her head.
“Nuclear war’s not like that in real life,” she said.
“So it’s better?” Yaz asked.
The Doctor looked grim and didn’t respond.
They were both silent for a moment as the whisk’s jolly tune continued to play.
“I know I should be more worried,” said Yaz. “But it still just doesn’t feel real. It’s a weird thing to say with us going around meeting aliens, but I keep thinking it all feels like science fiction”—
“You’re the science fiction, Yaz,” the Doctor. “This? It’s how the world should’ve been. No men on the moon, no Internet. Not all human knowledge on a phone in the palm of your hand. Just bigger bombs than the Blitz, all falling on London again.”
Yaz smiled sadly. “And I’m supposed to be the one who’s been gloomy,” she said.
The Doctor didn’t seem to be listening. She was looking at the pins on the map again and drawing out her sonic screwdriver, waving it over the mess that she’d made on her mattress.
“Hang on,” she said. “Some of these readings’re different. Like time and space distorting round a central point; other endings seeping through. All the times the Earth could’ve been destroyed. The times I stopped it.”
With the same big marker she’d presumably used to scribble on the map she drew a black circle near a cluster of pins. Gritting her teeth, she then turned back to Yaz.
“That other me and the Time Lords,” she said. “Whatever beef they have; whatever set me down this road. It happens there. Who knows how far back my whole story goes? Not me, that’s for sure. I feel like I know nothing anymore.”
“And you feel like you have to find out,” said Yaz flatly.
The Doctor sighed heavily, blowing out her cheeks.
“Yeah,” she said. “I think so.”
She looked at a point at the wall a long way from Yaz’s eyes.
“You were right, Yaz,” she said. “About this crisis.”
“You didn’t take it seriously,” she said.
The Doctor shuffled awkwardly, uncomfortably.
“Yeah,” she said. “And I’m sorry. I’ve been used to thinking I know everything. And now I’m getting used to being wrong.”
“I’ve felt that too,” said Yaz. “It isn’t the world that I thought it was. It’s been hard to have hope. To keep hold of things.”
“It feels like it isn’t the universe for it,” said the Doctor quietly.
Yaz looked over to her friend, who looked slumped, defeated. She smiled over to her, as best she could.
“Sad Fam?” she said.
The Doctor smiled weakly.
“Sad Fam,” she replied.
They gave each other a half-hearted fist bump and then were quiet again.
“Do you want to come?” the Doctor asked, pointing at the map. “It’s— it’s going to be pretty dangerous”—
“It’s always dangerous,” said Yaz. “Do you want me there?”
The Doctor didn’t respond, looking even more uncomfortable than she had.
“Be honest,” said Yaz.
The Doctor looked at her, her eyes conflicted.
“I can’t lose you as well, Yaz,” she said with a catch in her voice. “And I’ve felt that”—
“Travelling through time and space is supposed to be wonderful,” she said eventually. “And going on holiday in London’s supposed to be okay. You should be having fun. Not getting caught up in all of this.”
Yaz looked around the grimy walls of the Doctor’s bedroom, which right now felt like the least fun place in the world. She wasn’t wild about it. But she knew when her friend had made up her mind.
“Stay safe, right?” she said. “I don’t want to lose you, either.”
“Yaz,” said the Doctor. “If I don’t come back”—
“I know. Emergency Program One’ll get me home. But you will come back. It’s what you do.”
She could see in the Doctor’s eyes that her friend didn’t really believe that.
“I know you’re trying, Doctor,” she said. “And I know it’s been hard. You’re the one who actually lost her planet. Who lost her identity.”
The Doctor smiled. She gave something like a laugh, after everything that could be funny was dead and gone. And then they hugged, tentatively, awkwardly.
“I don’t deserve friends like you,” said the Doctor. “And you’re right I’ve beaten worse. Back before teatime. Set a watch by it.”
Then she flashed something like a smile, and she was gone.
Yaz stood alone again in the flat, feeling chilly, nothing left to do but to think about the end of the world.