“Come along you lot, this is a special occasion” The Doctor said, beaming as she presented a colourful box to Graham, Yaz and Ryan.
“What’s in the box Doc?” asked Graham as they all gathered around.
The Doctor looked at him with a spirited frown, no intention to scold, but expecting better of him.
“If I told you that, the surprise would be lost now wouldn’t it?”
“This doesn’t come with bubble wrap does it?” said Yaz with a cautious tone.
“Yeah, we won’t want to go through all that again” said Ryan.
“You can trust me fam, you won’t want to miss this” The Doctor assured them.
Yaz, ever the curious, asked what the occasion was.
“Why should the day matter?”
“Usually, we don’t get presents unless it’s an anniversary, or a birthday, or a wedding, or Christmas”
“Or it could be because you’re my lifers” said The Doctor.
“Lifers?” said Graham.
“Lifers, best friends, the ones that stick with you through all your days, short or long”
“Oh I’m sure you’ve met a long list of lifers on your travels Doc, we’re not that special” said Graham.
“You’re the first faces I set my eyes upon in this form, you never forget your firsts, everyone’s equally important to me, and I’ll show you what I mean with this”
The four formed a circle around the box as The Doctor prepared to open it.
“Excited?” she asked.
“Terrified” said Graham; The Doctor nudged his shoulder with her arm.
Wasting no time, The Doctor opened the box. White smoke poured from the contents, and a loud, warm almost emotionally stirring howl could be heard emitting from it.
“It’s essence, pure essence. Say hello to it, it won’t bite”
“Hi there” said Ryan, waving to whatever form he assumed was in the box.
The wisps of white energy flickered and briefly burst into a mesmerising light that almost blinded Ryan.
“What just happened?”
“It absorbed that moment and stored it in its tidy little memory”
“A little? Doc, I can hear about a thousand different voices in my heads, I’m pretty sure it’s coming from there, it’s packing a lot”
“The universe is a big place Graham, more than a billion souls inhabit it, and I’ve only ever explored a fraction of it in this rackety old thing”
The TARDIS let out a slight wheeze from its engines, almost in protest at this.
“Sorry” The Doctor said.
“So this box somehow contains the essence of everyone you’ve ever met, and it now includes Ryan?” guessed Yaz.
“It’s called The Cloud, it was developed on my homeworld, my people had created technology that could allow us to send telepathic messages through time traversing space cubes. One brilliant scientist, a mentor of mine, proposed we upgrade the technique so as to gather the telepathic recordings of people we met on other worlds for research. This was the only one of its’ kind created”
“And it fell into your lap how exactly?” said Ryan, most intrigued.
“My people had a strict rule of non-intervention, so the cloud was bequeathed to me, and I’ve put it to good use with all of my loved ones ever since”
“Well, consider me in this for life” said Yaz, and leaned over to add her voice to the cloud.
“My name’s Yaz and the tea at my place is never cold” she said.
There was another bright flash, Yaz stumbled back, and The Doctor gathered her up in her arms.
“You OK?” she asked.
“Yeah, I feel real good about that, it felt right, like something I needed” Yaz revealed.
Graham looked hesitant; The Doctor grabbed him by the arm and dragged him back over to where the cloud was stationed.
“Oh don’t drag me into this Doc; I wouldn’t know what to say”
“Yaz and Ryan didn’t say much, you’ll be fine, if you want to, you can tell it a story, actually I’d really like that, it can even be a sad story, maybe you’ll feel better when it’s finished, you look like you’re in need of something that can perk you up this winter” The Doctor insisted.
“I’m at the age where I don’t need anything really”
“Oh don’t talk rubbish; everyone needs a bit of the universe in them”
“I’ve got the entire universe I’ll ever need Doc, you, Ryan, Yaz, I don’t have to be part of a bigger club to know where I stand with you”
“You’re the sweetest man I’ve ever known Graham, but you’re thinking a bit too selfishly here. That’s not what the fam’s about. If you’re not going to do it for yourself, then at least do it for me”
“The Doctor’s right Granddad, she wants us to share parts of ourselves with this Cloud so she can be reminded of us when we leave, or pass on”
“She’s got a time machine, she can see us anytime”
“You’re right, I can visit them at any point, but there are paradoxes to consider, there’s a matter of whether or not they recognise me, go too far and it’s almost too late. When I go well beyond my reach in the universe, where all that greets me when I return is a grave yard, I need them to still be around me, sending me reminders of who I was thirteen times over, letting me know it’s ok to still be who I am. I lose that, and I lose all sense of myself. I need my sense of identity, without that I am not a Doctor, I am a Warrior, I am someone who forgets, someone who regrets, and I don’t want to be made of those things. I’m a healer Graham, and maybe not right now, but eventually I’ll be in need of healing myself and I need everyone to help me do it. I need my universe around me Graham, and most of all, I need you”
Graham made eye contact with The Doctor’s startling eyes as they welled up ever so slightly, a look of genuine care and desire in her eyes, he realised how much this cloud meant to her, and what he could provide for it and her.
“A friend of mine I knew from work, a bit of a lifer to me actually, told me this morning he couldn’t get his car started today, he’s calling to get it towed over to the work shop in a couple of hours and that they’ll work on it tomorrow. Trouble is, he’s always telling me tomorrow never comes with these mechanics, the car’ll sit in there unattended to while they got on with work on motors whose owners all pay better for their services. It’s a real disgrace. I told him yesterday’s full of mistakes but tomorrow is the future, and it’s always better to look towards that than what you said then, because before you know it, tomorrow is today, and today’s the day.”
The Cloud flashed brightly yet again, Graham threw his hands over his face as his eyes reacted harshly to the burst of energy, he reeled back only for The Doctor to catch him by the back and hoist him back up, giving him a tight hug in the process.
“That’s more like it” The Doctor said
“You were right Doc, that did perk me up”
“I knew something was on your mind, you’re always thinking of others, that story of yours will go a long way towards reminding future me of what matters in a life that goes between today and tomorrow, whichever it is, today will always be the day”
She gave Graham a quick kiss on the cheek.
“And you lifer, as always, have made my day”