I can distinctly remember her face being full of tangible, unavoidable and radiant joy when she came in with it.
Its tail wagging, its tongue wet with the stain of saliva, the patter of its paws as it was placed down on the floor gaining speed. It headed towards me and begged me to life it up.
“C’mon” The Doctor said, applauding the efforts of the little tyke, encouraging me to embrace it.
Her enthusiasm died down when she realised I was keeping one eye out for sign of a collar.
“Doc, you sure it’s a stray?” I asked.
“Came charging at me after I dropped the bag of essentials, before I could pick ’em up, he’d eaten all of them, then he followed me home”
“Into the TARDIS?”
“Into the TARDIS. Nice to have a puppy darting about the place again, usually they’re all made of metal. I haven’t had a proper animal besides cats”
“So that rumour was true then? The one making the rounds from Yaz and Ryan?”
“What have they been saying now?”
“That you had a cat on the ship”
“Oh they must have looked at photos of me and Wolsey back in the day, those were lifetimes, and several manhoods ago. Really shouldn’t leave photos around the place. So, what do you reckon?”
“You want to keep it?”
“Can we leave it with you? Is that a thing we can do?”
“I don’t know Doc, I have friends who aren’t so keen on animals, one of them, Gabriel has a real phobia. One time we were taking a gander around where the estates were being built and one just leapt off its lead and charged straight at him. He flew around the street like a chicken, begging the owner to restrain it. It broke my heart, it’d break yours”
“Probably just the one, the other would be feeling a mite sorry for him”
“Look, just give it a week, it’s not of any real age to start misbehaving, he’ll be on his best behaviour I promise”
“I’ll hold you to that Doc”
Now it was The Doctor’s turn to come charging at me, giving me a spell-binding hug and a kiss around the collar.
“Right, I’ll nip on over to get more essentials, you can get acquainted with-with-oh what are we going to call him?”
“We’ll figure it out when you get back” I said.
The Doctor headed back out the door, and in the hours that ticked by, the little one’s energy was unrelenting. It had a spark about it, a taste for adventure that matched mine and The Docs’. I could envision walks across alien moons, its scent picking up all kinds of new sensations, tugging him, pulling him towards the unknown. He could be strapped up in the most adoring of spacesuits and play fetch across the Milky Way.
And maybe he could be just the kind of therapy dog Gabrielle needed, it’d be trained well, taught to cause as little fuss as possible, just give it an essential, and it can be fashioned into an essential.
And then inspiration came to me.
That’d be his name. Something not all together common in regards to actual names, but a title often used in conversation, or thought of every day.
It was then that The Doctor came in, carrying bags of supplies; she looked a little more drained, haunted almost by an inconvenient reality that had just hit her.
“You Ok Doc?” I asked.
“Yeah…yeah everything’s fine. You got a name for him?”
“Yeah, you’ll love it, we’ll call him Essentials”
“…That fits, that really fits” she said.
I went over to her and stroked her hair, I tried reading her face, it was clear she was hurting.
“Doc, what’s wrong”
“Graham…when I nipped off to get essentials, the actual essentials, I didn’t tell you how far I was going for them…”
“Three months ahead”
“Well, that’s great, unless you’re going to tell me the food gets scarcer…”
“I spotted you, me, we were on a park bench, there was an empty lead in your hand, and you said something to me, and I said something to you. I couldn’t hear, but we both looked at each other, there was distance in our eyes, we glanced up at the sky, we blew it a kiss, and we just sat there…this look of naked raw loss on our faces”
I took a gander at the little fury tearing into the carpets, surely not? Surely there was nothing at fault…I’d barely begun to plot out its future, our future, what we’d do together.
“Doc, you normally don’t tell us the future this far in advance…~
“Maybe it’s essential we know what’s ahead so we can give little Essentials here the best life it can possibly know before…before…it all slips out from under us. From under him”
“Just three months?”
“Just three months” she said.
Finally, after hours of activity, little Essentials knelt down to sleep, safe in the knowledge we were here for it. For the rest of its days.
The Doctor sat beside it and just stared, stroking its furry body.
I knelt down beside her and let her rest her head on my shoulder.
“There’s got to be an answer to all this” I said.
“Sometimes I just never know the answer when it’s important” she said.