The Strands of Fate

by lurking_latinist [Reviews - 0]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Humor, Romance

Author's Notes:
Originally published August 6, 2021, on AO3.

“You don’t look well,” said the Doctor with concern.

“It’s just the heat,” said Romana. They were walking in a garden, and the three suns did indeed beat down powerfully.

“I told you that jacket was a bad idea,” he said, to lofty silence.

But a few minutes later, she missed her footing and clutched at his arm. She was visibly flushed and looked a bit glassy-eyed, too. “I think you’ve got heat exhaustion,” he said.

“No, I haven’t,” she insisted with a sniffle. “Maybe I’m allergic to one of the plants. I got some pollen in my face earlier when I smelt one of those funny bluish flowers.”

He inspected her more closely. “I see that,” he said, and wiped a smudge of orange powder from the tip of her nose. She crinkled up her nose and they both laughed.

“Still, though,” he said, becoming serious again. “You ought to get some rest. Let’s go back to the TARDIS.”

“All right,” she said, suddenly amenable, and took his arm for the walk back.

From being tired and listless, Romana became increasingly agitated as they approached the TARDIS. When they arrived, she almost dragged the Doctor inside.

Once they were safely in the console room, she smiled, wide and excited. She hung the over-warm jacket on the hatstand and slipped off her dainty lilac heels, lining them up by the door.

“Feeling any better?” said the Doctor, leaning on the console.

Romana didn’t answer. Instead, she walked purposefully up to him and took one end of his scarf, running the rough knit material through her fingers. Then she slowly unwound it from his neck, letting it coil around their feet as she did so.

“Look, I didn’t say I was warm—”

She silenced him with a raised hand, an expression of intense concentration on her face. Then she reached to the collar of his cardigan, a bulky old thing he’d thrown on for no particular reason, and undid one button, then another. She worked faster and faster as she went, her fingers almost shaking with urgency. When she had finished, she tugged urgently at the garment. He had to let his coat slip off him as he let her take his cardigan. Now in his shirtsleeves, he uncomfortably adjusted his shirt to cover his collarbones and watched his companion with her armful of knitwear.

It was obvious that Romana wasn’t herself—not that her usual self never did odd things, but she was incapable of going so long without explaining them, often in a tone that suggested she thought she was talking to someone who’d failed first-year quantum psychometry. (Of course, he had failed first-year quantum psychometry, but that was neither here nor there.) No, this silent, driven figure with a feverish gleam in her eye was not Romana in her right mind. Her Time Lord metabolism should quickly be able to shake off whatever was affecting her, but for the time being he realized he would have to make sure she stayed safe.

His resolve was quickly tested as, apparently moved by a sudden thought, she rushed down one of the TARDIS corridors, leaving the scarf and cardigan in a pile on the console room floor. As he followed her, he realized she was heading for her bedroom. He stood awkwardly in the room’s open door, unwilling to leave her alone in her state of mind but wanting to ensure her privacy as well. But after only a moment of digging through her chest of drawers, she apparently found what she was looking for and, now pushing past him without paying him any mind at all, she ran back into the console room.

She settled on the floor of the console room, and he had to repress a gasp of shock as he realized what she was doing. She had a small, decorative pair of embroidery scissors in one hand, with a pair of knitting needles lying at the ready. She snipped at one corner of his scarf, then pulled.

“Romana, no!” he cried, but it was too late. As the fabric began to unravel in her small, capable hands, a smile of satisfaction replaced her expression of concentration. She quickly fell into a rhythm, winding the resulting yarn neatly around her fingers.

He swallowed painfully. She’d never had the proper respect for his scarf, and to see it disintegrating under her hands—well, it was hard to watch. But, not wanting to leave her alone (especially with sharp objects) while she wasn’t herself, he forced himself to ignore the pain and betrayal he felt. After all, he told himself, she didn’t know what she was doing, not really, and she was still his Romana.

He tried remonstrating with her one more time. “What’s brought on this passion for un-knitting?”

“Frogging,” she said without looking up.

He looked around but saw no amphibians. “Frogging?” he echoed.

“Not un-knitting. Frogging.”

Oh, well, as long as she had her knitting terminology right! He heaved a deep sigh, lowering himself to the floor, near Romana but well out of the way of her workspace. He extracted a book from the pocket of his coat where it lay neglected, and in minutes he was happily lost in Mr. Midshipman Hornblower while Romana, having finished her frogging, knitted at an astonishing speed.

The next morning, the two Time Lords interrupted the Chief Gardener at his breakfast.

“Something happened to my friend in your garden and I want to know what,” the Doctor announced, without preamble. “I’m the Doctor and this is Romana.”

The Chief Gardener looked up from his bowl of camaberries and quickly recognized the situation. The male visitor seemed both angry and embarrassed, while the woman simply looked exhausted, like she hadn’t slept. The garden staff did their best to prevent it, but this wasn’t the first time a couple who’d snuck into the inner gardens without first sitting through the safety briefing had turned up the next morning demanding explanations. If only, the Gardener thought blasphemously, if only the cursed flowers didn’t have such an important religious significance—he’d uproot the lot of them tomorrow.

“You must be alien travelers,” he said. The light tone of their skin suggested that at the very least they weren’t local, but offworld origins were the only way to explain the curious pinkish cast that they had rather than a healthy green.

“Yes,” said the woman—Romana—shortly. “What of it?”

“And let me guess—you somehow bypassed the holo-video presentation with the safety guidelines, or else you didn’t pay attention.”

“I always ignore guidelines,” announced the Doctor. His companion looked thoroughly fed up as she said in a more apologetic tone, “Yes, we, er, must have got lost during that portion of the tour.”

The Gardener raised his eyebrows. Clearly they’d been up to mischief, but on their own heads be it. “So,” he said, “you won’t have known to look out for the Herb of Skanna.”

“Skanna’s their god of love and marriage,” the Doctor confided in Romana’s ear, but quite audibly.

“Yes, I know,” she said. “Let the man finish.”

“This Herb of Skanna—is it a shrubby-looking sort of bush with blue flowers?” asked the Doctor.

“Well, some of our great poets would give a rather more effusive description, but—in short, yes,” the Chief Gardener replied.

“That’s it,” said Romana. “That’s the plant I thought I was allergic to.”

“But what are its effects?” demanded the Doctor.

The Chief Gardener felt his face flush a hot green with secondhand embarrassment. “Well, you must have observed…”

“Tell me, man,” the offworlder urged. “It could be vital.”

“It doesn’t affect your health long-term,” he hastened to clarify. “It just has a short-term effect on… erm… the reproductive drive,” he finished in a small voice. He hated giving aliens the talk.

“Well, but that doesn’t explain—” the Doctor began.

But the woman cut him off, leading him away by one arm. “It does,” she was saying. “It explains everything. Come on, let’s let this nice gentleman finish his breakfast. I’ll explain later.” The Doctor sighed theatrically, then followed her.

As he chewed another sweet mouthful of camaberries, the Chief Gardener reflected that it was really time to reconsider policy given the rise in offworld tourism. Maybe the things could be grown in locked greenhouses or something. He hoped the alien couple would be able to work out the issues that an evening of uncontrollable plant-fueled lust had undoubtedly left them with.

“How does that explain this?” the Doctor said as soon as he and Romana were alone. He gestured angrily at the cause of his embarrassment.

“I’ve said I’m sorry,” said Romana. “But I still think it looks good on you.”

“You took apart my scarf. And my favorite cardigan,” he said. “To make a bat sweater.” He spread his arms, and the loose sleeves of the garment hung down to display the wings of a bat. The front of the sweater portrayed the animal’s body. “An heir to the slayers of the Great Vampires. Wearing a bat sweater. Instead of my scarf.”

“You didn’t have to wear it,” said Romana.

“It used to be my scarf,” said the Doctor sadly.

“Of course,” said Romana, “if I’d been thinking straight, I would have bought new yarn. That scarf was full of snags anyway—awful to knit with. We’ll go to the Craft Emporium of Altair 6, buy some wool, and I’ll make you a nice new one.”

“That’s all by the by. What I want to know is, what in Kasterborous does any of this have to do with some—some aphrodisiac herb?”

“He didn’t say aphrodisiac,” said Romana serenely. “Weren’t you listening? He said it affects the reproductive drive.”


“So if there’d been a—” she lowered her voice slightly, modest rather than ashamed. “A Loom nearby, I would have spent all night genetic splicing.”

“But the closest equivalent that came to hand,” the Doctor said in a tone of realization, “was knitting.”

“Exactly.” She nodded firmly. “Well, now that that’s settled, let’s get going.”

He followed her as she began to walk away. “Wait, Romana,” he said. “One more question.”


“Does that make this sweater our secret love child?”