There was so much that Yaz was still scared to show the Doctor. She didn’t even know what she was frightened of, not really. Perhaps it was just that the Doctor seemed so real, and she still pretended the way she felt inside wasn’t really. The Doctor knowing would be an admission to herself, of something huge. It had seemed far too much, with everything else that was going on.
Still, she had been crying, and this time she hadn’t bothered to hide it. Her mind was full of what the Doctor might say once she’d come back. Assuming that this wasn’t the day when she didn’t.
But when her friend finally burst through the door, she didn’t even seem to notice the tears. Her eyes were wide and her shoulders tense. She clearly had enough on her mind herself.
“It was me, Yaz,” the Doctor said.
“What was?” said Yaz.
“It wasn’t the Time Lords who came here to end the world,” the Doctor said. “I was doing what I always did. Saying history couldn’t be changed, that there were futures that couldn’t happen. That you couldn’t happen. It was always me.”
Somehow knowing that made Yaz feel better. She’d always thought she’d been given special treatment, and now she knew it for sure.
“And it’s tomorrow,” said the Doctor. “I’m sorry. October 27th, 1962. The real date of the end of the world.”
And that made it better too, somehow. It was something like a certainty, at a time when she didn’t have many left.
“Saturday,” Yaz said. “It’d have to happen before there was much of a weekend.”
“The clocks were going back, as well,” said the Doctor, glumly. “A whole extra hour in bed. But that’s life. And death, I suppose.”
They were both silent for a moment.
“You don’t have to stay here, Yaz,” the Doctor said. “You can go back to the TARDIS. It has ways to get out. Emergency protocols”—
“But if the bombs fall my time never happens,” said Yaz. “I’d never happen. What happens to me then?”
The Doctor bit her lip, and shook her head.
“I don’t know,” she said. “But nothing good.”
“I’m sick of pretending there’s a way out,” Yaz said. “I’m sick of… of forcing myself to have hope. If I survived then I’d always wonder, wouldn’t I? If I was about to get erased from time. I’d always be running.”
She shook her head, and laughed mirthlessly to herself.
“I’ll stay here and face it,” she said. “Like everyone else.”
“Yaz,” said the Doctor. “If anything happened to you. I’d”—
“Nothing’ll ever happen to me, right?” said Yaz. “If everything ends tomorrow. I won’t have existed at all.”
“That’s why you do what you always do,” she said. “Save us.”
“Not always,” said the Doctor. “Ruth Clayton, out there now? She’s me; she’s the Doctor. And she’s right. There are times and places where I’d say that this all has to happen. It’s only ever a question of where you’re standing.”
“The Doctor stands for Fate, and the Doctor stands for Hope,” she said. “Those things come to blows, eventually. I’d have to stand against myself someday. It was always a matter of time.”
“And that’s what you’re planning?” said Yaz. “Standing against her?”
“For the Earth?” said the Doctor. “There isn’t even a choice. But Doctor Clayton, she’s… she’s probably the most powerful thing in this universe”—
“You don’t think you’re going to come back,” said Yaz.
“Of course I think I’m coming back,” said the Doctor. “But I thought there wasn’t any chance of war here, too. Maybe hope doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare for the worst. Only fight it.”
Yaz swallowed, and took a deep breath.
“I never believe that you’re going to be alright,” she said. “But if this really is the end, then I need to know”—
“Yaz,” said the Doctor. “Honestly. I already know what you’re feeling”—
“Is there a God?” said Yaz.
The Doctor looked back at her, shocked.
“Mine and Judith’s,” said Yaz. “Is he real? ‘Cause there were so many things I was scared to ask you, and now there isn’t any time.”
The Doctor fell silent. Her face scrunched thoughtfully, as she mulled over what she should say.
“When I first started running, I’d have said that there definitely wasn’t,” she said. “Later on, I’d have said they were probably me. And when we went into the Godsea I didn’t know what I should think. Now”—
“A lot of things seem less incredible than they did,” she said. “A lot of impossible stuff turned out to be true.”
“Then you don’t really know either,” said Yaz.
The Doctor shook her head.
“I don’t feel like I know much anymore. But maybe I once thought that hope, and faith… that they meant that you wouldn’t have to act. But you must’ve always known that wasn’t true. Or else you’d never’ve joined the police.”
“I think that’s maybe the first time you’ve thought I was the wise one,” she said.
“No. It’s not,” said the Doctor. “Maybe it’s the first time I’ve said.”
Yaz stretched, and motioned to the door.
“Judith shouldn’t spend the night alone,” she said. “Whatever happens. I won’t be sleeping anyway. And you should try.”
“I don’t sleep like humans do,” said the Doctor.
“C’mon,” said Yaz. “I’m not falling for that one tonight.”
The Doctor smiled sadly.
“I’ll try,” she said.
Yaz got out and left the Doctor behind her, walking out to the sweep of the night outside. There were still lights on up and down the road, but the stars were still thundering above her, hard and bright. They spoke of the future, of possibility. And they were already dead, consigned to the distant past. The light that was reaching her was from systems that would have burned themselves out long ago.
And they were here of course, with her on the concrete stairs right now. They were here because she was watching them, and for now, at least, she was alive.
Time and space. The past and the present and future. Maybe they’d all felt different once, Yaz thought. Like the present was somewhere safe from the horrors of the past, and the future was a place where anything could happen.
She’d thought the way she’d been feeling – the terror – might mean she was going mad. But perhaps it was the most normal thing that anyone could feel. It was how it was to live at any point in the world before the books had been written, when you couldn’t flick ahead and look up the ending.
She was uncertain, and afraid. But she’d never been alone. She was just another terrified person like everyone else.
She was a citizen of history.
A timeless child.