The Doctor finally turns away from the newly reset console. It’s not quite identical to how it was before the Flux damage and it takes her a moment to engage the dimensional stabilisers. When she turns, at first she thinks the room is empty.
She realises she hasn’t heard either of her friends in 20 minutes. Dan has doubtless gone in search of a cup of tea and thickly spread blackberry jam on toast and a bed, but she has to confess she expected Yaz to be waiting. She rounds the console, eyes running appraisingly over the doors - perfect. And then she sees her, slumped on the steps, head against the railing and sound asleep.
Well, it had been a long 8 minutes. Even without a Timeloop, Dalek attacks will wipe anyone out and the Doctor speaks from experience.
She knows, also from experience, that if she wakes Yaz now, the girl won’t easily sleep again. She’ll follow the Doctor around the console room and the corridors, asking questions. The Doctor tells herself it’s altruism (not avoiding the explanation she had promised) that leaves her to sleep. Still though, she can’t leave her best friend to shiver on a staircase. She shrugs off her coat and covers her over. Yaz smiles slightly and shifts and the Doctor uses a gentle mindtouch to prevent her from rousing fully, though she does curl as comfortably as one can on a step, pulling the coat up to her chin.
She likes you, you know.
Of course the Doctor knows. She’s known for…a while if she’s honest. But nothing can come of it and why break Yaz’s heart the way these humans always break hers.
She’s not sure when she quite became aware that there was a different kind of look that meant some of them loved her differently to others, but she remembers them all: Jamie, Tegan, Peri, Charley, Rose, Jack, Martha, Amy. River.
Even when she does reciprocate, all that comes of it is pain and loss.
This will lead to it. She knows that, she has stood here before. She cannot give them what they want from her and all she does is hurt them.
And if her own end is coming, as Time had said, she cannot put Yaz in the firing line. Brave, bold, self sacrificing Yaz will think nothing of throwing herself between danger and someone she loves. She’s not an idiot either, she had picked up Time’s rather unsubtle clue. The Master always takes it somewhat personally when humans love her like that.
No, the best she can do, the only thing she can do, is take her friend home. Let her go. Keep her safe. Her console hums, and she feels the TARDIS dance down another timetrack, shifting course on the way to somewhere else; dropping them in the middle of another escapade, no doubt.
Yaz must feel the slight motion too because she moves again, settling deeper into the Doctor’s coat, and it makes her ache. She does love this girl, she does, with all her hearts and with every fiber of her being.
But not like that.
And even if she did- if she could- if she-
She had once burned up a star to say goodbye to a girl she loved just as much and just as deeply.
She had once spent 25 years in a honeymoon suite, burying herself in a girl that she had watched die in her place.
No matter how she feels, no matter what she does, she knows how this ends, and it is never an end she would wish for Yaz.
The TARDIS hums again, pulling her back from the tidal wave of terrible melancholy and loss. The hole in her soul where her friends and her family and her planet should be. She steps back towards the console, and with her hand on the dashboard and the reassuring thrum vibrating through her, she does feel calmer. She inches her hand back to the time/space coordinate plotter. She really should take Yaz home.
The TARDIS lights up a scanner in the corner of her vision and, instinctively, the Doctor turns to look. As suspected, her beloved ship has picked up another trouble spot, somewhere she should go at once, people who need her.
She casts another pensive glance at her sleeping companion. Yaz hadn’t said anything. She had asked nothing more of her than she could give. And when she’s gone, the Doctor will miss her so desperately.
One more adventure won’t hurt her anymore than she already has been.