I really was going to leave Sweet Thirteen alone until after I’d internalised more Dr. Who. But then yesterday I saw the above art, and CT’s been very politely not saying anything about how much she’d like it if I could just get her and Benny to Salem already (so she can continue with her part of the story), and, well, here’s part whatever of CT as the Doctor and Benny as her Companion.
“Where,” you say, and you are careful to keep your voice even, “did you get that?”
“What, this?” He twiddles the screwdriver like street performer. “Brilliant, isn’t it? Some chappie was giving them away at the Triangulum Freight booth. I kept telling him that we don’t really get out that way much, but he said that his crewmates would toss him out the airlock if he didn’t unload all the convention goodies. Something about not having enough fuel.”
“Not that,” you say. Truth to tell, despite its neon purple paint job and “Triangulum Freight” in glowing letters along its handle, you hadn’t even noticed that he’d finally laid his hands on a sonic screwdriver. “That,” you specify, gesturing to the 6-metre long striped monstrosity he has draped about his neck like a boa constrictor. You manage, barely, to refrain from enhancing the imagery by throttling him with it.
“Don’t you like it?” He finds a fringed end and flaps it before your face. “I thought it was rather smart, myself. And it’ll come in handy if we ever go back to that Volag-Noc place. I nearly lost both my nipples to frostbite last time we were there.”
“Where.” You take a pause to swallow your ire and your sorrow and your shock. “Where. Did you. Get it.”
“Woman said she was giving them out as swag. Funny, though,” he says, realisation leading to confusion, “she didn’t have any others. Just this one. And I didn’t see anyone else wearing one. And she seemed really insistent about giving it to me. She had some kind of, um, some kind of dog-thing with her. Well, not a dog, you understand, but it sort of sat with her like a dog and pointed like a dog when I walked by. Hey, do you think we could get a dog-thing? I’ve always wanted one, but you know, shooting schedules rendered me rather useless in that arena. Don’t you want a dog-thing?”
Him being your favourite companion does not preclude the rather frequent impulse you have to shake him by his ridiculous orange hair until the sentences of his jumbled narratives clatter into a proper storytelling order. “Did she say anything else, Benny?”
“Nope. Just handed off the scarf and then winked out of sight. Literally winked out of sight, I mean, she winked an eye, let me see, must have been her right eye, and then poof! Disappeared. Even left her dog-thing behind, so we could really just pick it up and TARDIS break—oh. Oh no. She left her dog-thing. Do you… do you think something’s wrong?”
The depth of his distress lets you forgive him being an utter thickhead about the whole thing. Still… “Let me see that,” you say, tight but gentle. He unwinds it as quickly as he can, managing not to strangle himself in the process, and passes the mass of yarn over to you.
It’s seen better days. You started it millennia ago, after all. Your first companion, rest her soul, gave you the idea. “All these places we see,” she said, the light of the countless stars sparking in her blind white eyes. She fingered the clinging silver garment that hugged her in its spun softness. “All these lovely things I get to wear. I can barely remember what I was when you met me.”
Hours after she fell asleep, swaying in the breeze of her own breath like the tree she would eventually become, you slipped into the wardrobe and clutched to your chest the tatters she’d been shivering in when you found her. They still smelt of sap and snow, even after all this time and space.
She woke when the TARDIS changed course. “Where are we going?” she asked sleepily.
“Earth. Egypt. 1000 or so. Hard to say, really. Won’t know until we find it.”
“Find what?” She reached out her long fingers and felt the air. “Are those my old clothes?”
“Yes,” you said. You were wearing them draped around your shoulders, the ends dangling down your chest.
“I thought I’d gotten rid of those ages ago. Last time we had a good cleaning day. No, I’m certain I got rid of those. I tossed them along with all those bizarre, non-decaying Earth logs you said were edible. What did you call them? Twinkles, or something.”
“I rescued them,” you said, concentrating harder than you strictly had to on navigating.
“Rescued them?” Surprise knots her mouth into a dark O. “Whatever for? They’re junk.”
“Not to me. Not then, not now, not ever.”
She shrugged, rustling. “Well, suit yourself. You could always use them as rags or something, I suppose.”
“I’m going to learn to knit,” you said. “I’m going to turn them into string, or whatever it is people knit with, and then I’m going to knit me a scarf.”
“That’s nice.” She walked toward the water closet, stretching. “Give you something to wear about your neck other than that ridiculous bow tie. I’ll be in the bath, all right?”
“What’s wrong with my bow tie?” you demanded. But she was already gone.
And now you’re holding the soft knitted heap in your hands. There’s her stripe right at the beginning of course, but not just that; all your companions donated a piece of clothing, something they were wearing when you met them. You took each shirt (it was almost always a shirt, though Grufus’s lack of clothing meant that his stripe comprised his own rich fur, gathered and washed and spun into fluffy lavender yarn) and ripped it into long strips, then joined an end to the scarf and knitted another stripe.
There were a lot of stripes.
Until Mary. Mary, who disappeared without a warning and without a trace. You were always busy having too much fun with Mary to remember to ask her if you could demolish the emerald dress she was wearing (was still insisting on wearing despite her covetous admiration of Hellaxian fashions) whenever she finally decided to tire of it. Mary, who left you nothing to remember her by outside of the memories you hoarded in your head, and who took with her the exact thing you made to help you remember all the others.
You find the end. A wide band of green sits in your hands, smooth and slippery. And into the stockinette loops of satin yarn, someone has stitched letters in bright golden thread:
Benny’s face is crimson. “I didn’t see that,” he says through his rising tears. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Having all the time in the universe is no guarantee of getting a second chance. All it usually means is that you have even more opportunities to fail. But not this time, you promise yourself silently. This time, you’ll do it right. You have no idea what you did wrong in the first place, what precise sequence of events plucked Mary out of your life like a sadist pulling the wing off a freshly lit phoenix. But whatever it was, you’re going to change it. You’re going to change it right now.