[Spoilers for the climax of ‘Midnight’. Prepare for angst. You’ve been warned.]
Shock hit every single passenger at once as the shielded doors slammed shut. Val Cane sat down heavily in a nearby chair, her grip on Zepheera suddenly loosened. The borrower fell three feet and hit the floor hard. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t do her much damage, but she was already bruised and sensitive from the human’s tight grip. Her entire right side felt on fire. Anytime she tried to move, her whole body would ache in protest.
Less than a second after she landed, a greater impact shook the floor just ahead of her. Ignoring how much it hurt, she lifted her head to look. The Doctor had been released and fell forward, barely catching himself. His eyes and mouth were still wide from the scream he’d been mimicking, and he gasped at the sudden return of control over his own actions.
“It’s gone,” he breathed. “It’s gone, it’s gone…” He repeated the words over and over as he rolled onto his back, panting all the while.
Zepheera pushed herself to her feet with her good arm and limped closer to the Doctor in spite of her pain. At best, she was badly bruised, but none of that mattered. Her injuries would amount to nothing in a minute thanks to her healing factor. Right now the Doctor needed a friend, and none of these humans could come even close to fitting the bill.
She leaned her good side against his upper cheek, the only part of his face she could reach the way his back was arched and his body tensed. The muscles beneath her flinched faintly at her touch and the Doctor gave a surprised hiss.
“It’s okay. It’s just me,” she whispered into his nearby ear, laying a tender hand near his sideburn. “I’m here, you’re gonna be alright.”
“It’s gone, it’s gone, it’s gone…”
“You’re damn right, it’s gone,” she agreed, jaw clenched in emotion and slowly fading pain. “It can’t get you anymore. I won’t let it. As long as I have anything to say about it, no one will touch you. That’s a promise, Doctor.”
Haltingly, the Doctor turned his head toward Zepheera, who pulled back so his wide eye could find her. Not knowing what else to do, she pressed herself against his cheekbone just below his eye, good arm extended in the best hug she could give. With a shaky sigh, the eye closed and he leaned into her tiny embrace, curling his trembling hand behind her in return. His eyelashes mingled with her short hair, and if she noticed she didn’t react. Slowly but surely, his body relaxed and he began to control his heavy breathing, wary of Zepheera as always.
Eventually the Doctor sat up and leaned on the side of a seat with the borrower nestled against his neck. They were across the aisle from Val Cane who, like everybody else in the van, was staring at them. While the Doctor continued to catch his breath and regain his composure, Zepheera looked Val up and down. This was the woman who had grabbed Zepheera without her consent, treated her like a child at best and a pet at worst, and had seemed intent on keeping her after the company had disposed of the Doctor. Even so, the look on the woman’s face gave Zepheera pause. She seemed repentant, and for one naive second Zepheera thought she’d gotten through to these humans. They all knew now that they had been wrong about the Doctor, and now perhaps Zepheera had proved that they were wrong about her. The Time Lord took care of her, yes, but she took care of him, too.
And in five words, Val Cane tore down every mite of hope in Zepheera.
“I said it was her,” she insisted, in reference to Sky.
Zepheera shot to her feet angrily because she most certainly had not–in fact, she had been the most vocal about getting rid of the Doctor! But before she could tell the enormous woman off the Doctor angled his head so his chin partially blocked her view of the human. Zepheera almost turned her wrath to him, but after seeing his clenched jaw and the way Val seemed to wither under his gaze, she realized the Doctor had made her point for her, only more poignantly without words.
Deciding to follow suit, Zepheera strode purposefully across the Doctor’s clavicle, pulled up his loosened collar and ducked underneath, pulling it down pointedly over herself. She curled up in the comforting dimness, allowing herself to pretend that the humans weren’t out there. Their silence made it easy. She could forget about them until they were all rescued from this broken-down wreck.