Well, if you think about it, a scone is sweet, but delicate. If it is to remain intact, it must be protected. The company of scones is enjoyable. This makes them useful in cases of intergalactic diplomacy and relations. They are also relatively useless in most other situations.
All of this is true.
Where I made my mistake was in prefacing these facts with the statement, "A scone is very much like a companion." In front of companions.
Had I not been quite so entranced by the crumbly perfection of Pond's patissorial efforts, I might have noticed, as I spoke, that she and the ever-protective Mr Pond were taking ever more offence. Might have stopped. Found some way to pull it back. I'm quite good at that; pulling it back. But it is rather a beautiful scone. I am about to eat it when it is snatched from my hand.
Bad doctor offends companions, no longer gets scone.
Pond lowers her head, lifts up her eyes at me from below the brow. This, I know from experience, means that she has become serious, and is not to be taken lightly. I straighten my face, attempt (fruitlessly, I might add) to avert my longing gaze from the snatched scone, and resolve to answer her truthfully.
"You're telling me, Doctor," and her voice was danger itself, "that I fulfil my role no better than a scone could?"
Why did I resolve to answer truthfully? I am allowed to lie. It is in the rules. And yet the resolution had been made, and what would it make of me to renege upon it?
Mr Pond, much as the stereotypical bartender of the Western tradition, is flicking his gaze between the two of us across the table, waiting to see how I will respond. I give my poor stolen scone one last glance, that it may know my true feelings even as I give it up forever. Open my mouth and hesitantly say, "After a fashion…"
I can pull this back. The logical argument branches and blossoms in my mind, and the words gather around it as leaves unfurling on a tree. Unfortunately, Pond takes it upon herself to chop down this particularly beautiful nascent limb.
She is irate. Stands and leans over the table, pointing a finger in my face. It is as I lean back that I realize just quite how aggravated she is.
"That scone wouldn't last ten minutes in my place!" I try nodding. Faced with such rage, and when no worlds or races are at stake, it is best to agree and concede. Pond does not seem to notice that I am nodding. "For starters, you'd probably forget it, if it wasn't running after you. It wouldn't ask the right questions, it wouldn't notice things, it doesn't know you well enough to hold you back when you're making a mess of things-" I am still nodding, hoping she will notice. Now Rory joins me in chorus. It is comforting to see my own fear on another face. "And finally," she cries, her voice reaching it's height and dropping back down into low, hissing danger, "finally, Doctor, it would not last ten minutes because you would not last ten minutes before you ate it."
She's finished, but she doesn't sit down. And if I don't say anything she is going to think of something else to say and the whole wretched thing will start again. Nodding has failed me. It is usually at this point at which something catastrophic might happen to distract her.
Nothing catastrophic happens.
Now it is I who find my eyes flicking to Mr Pond. Usually, in cases in which nothing catastrophic happens, he makes some humorous comment. The mood breaks and all is well. He says nothing. I rather fear he might be in shock; still staring wide-eyed into his wife's profile. Still, in a mild, barely-perceptible way, nodding.
I note a new flare in Pond's eyes and take it upon myself to be the one who makes the joke.
Which is how the words, "Is that a challenge?", come to escape my lips.
In the ensuing five minutes, the terms of the wager are settled. I am to take the scone, in companion capacity, to some destination not less than five suns and three hundred years from our current place on twenty-first century Earth. The direction of travel is not important. I am to travel for three days, with the scone, and gather photographic evidence of these travels. On the third day I am to return to Earth and Pond shall inspect the scone.
"But wait," interrupts Mr Pond. "How will we know you didn't just nip back to five minutes ago and steal another scone? Or just buy one somewhere before you come back?"
"Pond," I say to his wife, "Have I ever asked you to lick a scone prior to this moment?"
"Pond, if you'd be so kind, lick this scone." I hold it close to her face for her convenience. She, however, physically recoils from it and me. Tucks her chin back, presses her lips into a line and looks up at me from under her brow. This time it does not mean that she is serious, but that she wonders whether I am. "Upon my return, we can use the Tardis to check for genetic material. If it does not detect that the returning scone has been licked by Pond, you will know that it is not the same scone." I shake it slightly in my hand, reiterating that I am holding it close to Pond's face. I am doing this for her. Eventually, she sticks out her tongue and obliges.
All things settled, I set about not forgetting the scone due to its inability to run after me. Pond would not have to run if only she would keep up, but I have learned a lesson today about tact and I do not say this.
First, I try placing the scone on my shoulder, much in the jaunty manner that pirates kept their parrots. I have always thought that a parrot would be a good idea for me, just never got around to it. Well, there was one. Our friendship was troubled and brief. He was, when last I checked, a minor oracle on Cloridon 4, too fat for his perch on crackers, which are his preferred offering. We shall speak no more of him.
The scone, having no talons, almost falls. I catch it but, frightened by how nearly our journey had been over before it began, wrap it in my handkerchief and placed it in my jacket pocket this time. It rests there quite snugly.
Somewhere in the background, in the sweetly thoughtful tone that usually means he's about to say something incredibly stupid, Rory murmurs, "Do you ever get when you say something over and over, and it doesn't sound right anymore?" Stretching his face and tongue, he mangles, "Scone."
He goes on with this, in the background. I have been rather distracted by the smug smile on Pond's face. She stands square in front of me, arms folded, and is smug. To me. I stand tall, maintain my unflappable composure, ask her, "What?"
"You actually think you're going to do this, don't you?"
"Yes." I have, after all, recently resolved to be truthful. I feel like it still applies.
"Fine," she says.
"Alright," I say.
"Off you go then," she says.
"I will," I say.
In the background, "Sssscone," says Mr Pond. I step into the Tardis, and as I am closing the door he is still saying it, rolling it around his mouth like a boiled sweet, waiting for it to sound right again. He almost drowns out Pond calling me back.
I nod. This time they actually let me get the door closed. I can hear Rory outside, still going, as I set the scone on the console and unwrap the handkerchief around it. "Just you and me now," I tell it. "Where shall we go to, then?"
With one eye always on my crumbly new companion, I draw the overhead screen towards us, and call up destinations that fit the conditions of the wager. There are many, lists and lists and lists like the biggest train timetable you've ever seen. Because the sky is big. Infinite. And time does not come in far behind. Three of those tiny twenty-four hour days isn't enough to explore the tiniest corner of it all.
"Aha! Let's go to Correl. The days are eight-seven hours there."
Destination chosen, I pull the vortex lever. There is, naturally, something of a jolt. It is all I can do to spare Scone an untimely end in the console's central core.
Yes. I capitalize Scone now. What of it?