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Graham O'Brien's Survival Kit For Companions

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1. Sandwich

It took Graham a while to figure out that the Doctor, while enjoying her food when and if she got it, really never considered that human beings might be in need of it on a regular basis. It wasn't malicious on her part, and the way she cooed over, say, the truly horrible dishes Yasmin's father served was quite endearing, but there it was: no cruel diet planer could have been more efficient than the Doctor, what with the constant running and very occasional eating. "Never mind complaining, Graham O'Brien, do something about it", was what Grace would have said, which was why Graham started to carry around emergency sandwiches.

Finding the time to make them wasn't always easy. True, they did return to Sheffield every now and then, but usually five or six alien planets lay between such visits, and thus Graham searched for the kitchen in the TARDIS fairly early on. It turned out to be suprisingly well ordered, with tidy labels on cupboards telling where the knives were, and even how to coach the TARDIS to produce something like bread and fresh butter.

"That was Nardole," the Doctor said when Graham teased her about being a secret kitchen fiend. She smiled a fond smile when she said it, but there was no laughter in her eyes. She didn't add anything either, which was highly unusual for the Doctor, who usually talked a mile a minute and always told you more than you really wanted to know.

Graham knew all about missing people, and didn't push by asking who Nardole had been. But it gave him the idea for the survival kit list. Something for future friends of the Doctor to find and be helped by. "Cheers, mate", he told the unknown, absent Nardole and started to compile.

It was different for young folk like Yas and Ryan. But Graham, who carried cancer in his body, even if it was in regression, who knew his life span was running out anyway due to his age, was keenly aware every day could be his last, so he'd better get on it.


 

2. Sunglasses

Actually, reading glasses as well, but those were specific to Graham. Whereas sun glasses came in highly useful for any member of their team, as the Doctor called them. You never knew when you got stuck in the desert or were faced with a supernova exploding nearby, while the Doctor kept the absolutely minimal safe distance and had opened the TARDIS doors wide so they could all observe.

Being in space, among the stars, and exposed to vacuum, were it not for the air shield the TARDIS provided: it never stopped making Graham's heart race. It was wondrous and scary at the same time, which just about summed up their life with the Doctor.

"Does this star have a name?" Yas asked, and the Doctor, five rambling sentences later, replied it did, but she'd forgotten. "We can go back to when it was born and find out, though", she concluded. "Or better yet, invent one. Would you like that? Name a star?"

"Can we do that?" Ryan asked, wide-eyed.

"Finders, keepers", the Doctor said amiably. "Can't promise the name will stick, though. Names are like that. Some you want to stay around and they get lost, and others you never get rid of. "

It struck Graham then for the first time: they didn't know her name. She couldn't have been born named the Doctor, after all. Or could she? There was no way of knowing, with her.

He watched the supernova, shielded by his sun glasses, and frowned when he saw Ryan was staring at it unprotected. That was why Graham had started to carry several pairs of them around in his coat, though, and he pulled one out, handing them over.

Ryan opened his mouth as if to tell Graham not to fuss, but Yas had spotted the gesture and immediately asked whether Graham had a third pair since her eyes were starting to hurt, and yet she wanted to look at the dying star a little bit longer. After this, Ryan accepted the glasses silently.

"Want some, too, Doc?" Graham asked the Doctor. She waved her hands.

"I'm off sun glasses right now."

Her eyes weren't tearing as she stared into the sun, not even a little bit.


 

3. Hair bands, hair clips and hair pins

Yasmin told him she never left home without them. Grace hadn't, either. When Graham had first met her, she'd had her hair bound back, very tightly, as was requested for nurses. It made his skin ache in sympathy, because just by looking at her he could tell it was wild and yearned for release. Considering he'd been on chemo back then, his own hair was nonexistent, though it regrew later.

Yas tried out different hair styles on the TARDIS, but that wasn't why hair bands and pins made it on to Graham's list. They were locked in some Persian dungeon, with only hours to live and the Doctor's screw driver useless because there was no metal in the lock, when Yas produced her hair pins.

"Yasmin Khan, you are a wonder," the Doctor exclaimed, and used the pins to get them out of the dungeon in no time flat. Later, she offered to teach all three of them how to pick locks, and they accepted. It turned out braids and fillets could be used for that as well as pins, depending on the size and the mechanics of the lock.

Graham, recalling how the Doctor had freed herself from chains under water, asked her whether Houdini had taught her this as well.

"No, A.C. Hobbs did," the Doctor said absently while demonstrating get again. "But he taught Jo first. " She frowned. "Or was it the other way around? Jo's got a museum for intergalactic escapology named after her, you know. Always wanted to tell her, never got around to it. There! Ryan, that was one expertly picked lock, you got it!"

There was that tone of fondness again, though this time the smile reached the Doctor's eyes while she chattered away. Thanks, Jo, whoever you are, Graham thought, and put hair bands, pins and clips on the ever growing list.


 

4. Mobile Phone

Ryan might not have bothered with notifying the warehouse he used to work in about his absence, but Yas insisted, telling him he'd be reported as missing otherwise, and the next time they went home to Sheffield, there'd be search warrants, missing person adds, and maybe even unfair kidnapping accusations. Though Ryan grumbled that the only person who'd notice he was missing was dead, he complied. Which was a relief to Graham, and not just for the reasons Yasmin had given, or because he thought that Aaron, while currently an utter ass about fatherhood, would indeed notice something like Ryan's unexplained disappearance. The thing was, not many people would hire someone who just left his last place of employment with no explanation whatsoever. And one day, this travelling with the Doctor would be over. Ryan would need to earn money again.

The Doctor's ability to make their phones work through all of time and space had other benefits as well. Graham could follow the Bus Driver of the Year 2019 competition, though that was spoiled a bit by his phone accidentally picking up the winner announcement from September 2nd when he'd left Sheffield in June, where not even the 91 runners up had been selected. And that was before he realised the winner named was actually the one from 2023.

"Sorry, Graham," the Doctor said apologetically, and fiddled some more with his mobile. While she waved her sonic screwdriver about, he asked her whether she had one of her own. Personally, he'd held out a bit, but really, there was no point, especially on the job.

"Didn't use to," the Doctor replied, "but then Martha gave me hers when she left. It's been a few centuries, but it's probably still here somewhere. She said I'd better answer when she called, and I owe her."

"They had mobiles centuries ago?" Graham asked, confused, and the Doctor shook her head.

"Not centuries from your time ago. Centuries of my life since I last saw Martha Jones. Actually, make that more of a millennium. Or two. I think?"

Sometimes, Graham was pretty sure the Doctor was teasing him with those kind of remarks, as when she'd told him she was Banksy. Grace always said he was an easy mark for those things. Then again, he'd seen some glowy energy leave the Doctor while she was recuperating on their couch, when Grace had told him she'd felt two heartbeats. Maybe she truly was as old as that, or older, no matter that she looked half his age.

"Here you go," the Doctor said, and handed his mobile back. "No more spoilers."

"Can I take a picture of the four of us," he asked abruptly, "here in the TARDIS?"

"As long as you don't post it online," the Doctor said, adding something about "Sexy doesn't want to become a meme", though that sentence made even less sense than the Doctor's comments usually did. But she let Graham take a selfie with all four of them.

He didn't post it online. What he did was look through the kitchen until, sure enough, he found a collection of mobiles with neatly labeled stickers, written by the same hand as all the kitchen utensils were. One of them said "Martha Jones". It was an older mobile, sure enough, like his first one after he'd finally given in and bought one. But it did have recall of numbers. One said "Martha 2", so Graham figured this had to be the right one. He put it on his own contact list, and then he sent the photo he'd taken, labeled "Hello, Martha Jones, from the current Team TARDIS".


 

5. Medkit

Graham had had his own for years, of course. As a bus driver, and then as a cancer patient. Some of the medication used to be pretty old, though, which had disgusted Grace who'd insisted he threw the old stuff away. These days, Graham's medkit also consisted of more bandages than it used to, because Ryan's dyspraxia meant sprained ankles were often an option.

It wasn't something you could just stuff in your pockets, though. Graham just about was able to get it in his coat, but he couldn't wear that if they went to somewhere hot and sunny, so he usually left it in the TARDIS.

Only at times they were separated from the TARDIS not just for hours, or days, but weeks. As when they were stuck in Byzantium because some weird monk had made off with the TARDIS, yelling something like "Revenge for Hastings!" at the Doctor. The Doctor was confident that the TARDIS would eventually get rid of the man, or at least she pretended to be. In the meantime, Yasmin ended up getting a job as a chariot driver for the Blues in the local races, which on the one hand paid well, but on the other turned out to be the equivalent of being the goalie for Manchester while living in Liverpool. The Byzantines took their racing that seriously, and then some.

"You can overthrow Emperors in Byzantium by using the races," the Doctor told them, looking as if she contemplated doing just that, since she wasn't too keen on the currently reigning Theodosius and thought his sister, Pulcheria, would do a better job.

All of which was fascinating but didn't change the fact Graham's medication ran out after a week. He didn't say anything. After all, he was in remission, and the TARDIS could come back at any moment. Or so the Doctor had promised.

After two weeks, Ryan noticed Graham wasn't looking too well, and though Graham pointed to the local dishes as an excuse, Ryan wasn't buying. He muttered something about "looking after each other" being a two way street and marched off to find the Doctor, currently running interference between Pulcheria and someone named Flavius Marcianus, or, as she referred to him, "Rory's old bestie". When Ryan and the Doctor returned, she was in a rare unsmiling mode.

"Graham O' Brien," she exclaimed, "why didn't you say something!"

"Well, it's not like we could go to a pharmacy ," Graham retorted, feeling somewhat defensive.

"Most of the doctors here graduated at the university of Alexandria," the Doctor said, "but never mind that. Guess what I've got in my pockets?" she continued, pulling out of her coat all three of Graham's ongoing medications.

Graham blinked. He knew for a fact those pockets already were carrying the sonic screwdriver, a mouse, a lollipop and various other items. In all reasonablenes, there should not have been room for his pills and juices. Following his gaze, the Doctor clicked her tongue.

"Bigger on the inside," she said. "Which you should know by now. And did I mention? Rory made me promise always to carry everyone's medication. That's a nurse for you. "

The TARDIS returned, without the monk, not long after. Flavius Marcianus waved them off, looking only slightly bemused when the Doctor made him promise to "salute Roronicus from me and tell him it's just fifteen centuries more". As for Graham, he decided to add one more note to his list: "Use the Doctor to carry the medical luggage". Put like that, it seemed glaringly obvious.

The one thing which hadn't surprised him, though, was to learn the person who'd first thought of this had been a nurse and a Roman centurion both. Grace would have said that as besieged as the NHS currently was by privatisation and other evil designs, anyone working for it needed major battle planing skills.

Graham made a summary of their latest adventures for Grace in his mind, as he did every night, and still thinking about it, he feel asleep.