Summary: He makes suits to order, bespoke.
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Tenth Doctor, Martha Jones
Disclaimer: All belongs to the BBC.
Original Story: Savile Row by iamsab
The tailor once read that in memory, everything happens to music.
Sometimes he finds himself humming as he sews, or takes measurements, or tallies the bills at the end of the day, as though music today could bring back yesterday's songs; he plays the radio on occasion, whistling along with the adverts until he remembers them all, quick patches on a tattered suit. Even the dramas on the telly say the past is supposed to be wailing violins and wistful oboes, a symphony of melancholia with the dramatics to match, but his soundtrack is relentlessly silent.
He works at a bespoke tailor because patterns, in all their intricate familiarity and with the passing of time into oblivion, have lost their appeal.
But as he adjusts his thick-rimmed specs to peer at the couple striding through the doors, he feels a shiver of recognition, distant strains of melody and harmony in the interlocked arms, the quick, teasing smiles.
"Got anything lined with that nice flannel?" says the man, all alarming lankiness and wild hair. "Gets chilly where I come from." He casts a glance at the girl, with a beaming grin that is equal parts inviting and exclusive; the tailor feels suddenly as though he's trespassed on an intimate joke, and pulls out his tape measure, all business.
He takes measurements, jotting strings of numbers in his notebook when he has a chance, smudging the pencil marks in his haste; the man is preternaturally cold under his hands, and he automatically reevaluates the thickness of the flannel needed. The radio starts up with a familiar tune, but he doesn't sing along.
And then, glancing up, his attention is seized by the girl with an abruptness that startles him, as though she'd been eclipsed all along by her ebullient companion and had only now stepped into the light. Memory isn't a song, he realises; it's a portrait, and that portrait is a girl - a woman - standing in a corner of a men's tailor, absurdly at ease, watching with a quiet defensiveness, a quiet something else that he knows wasn't there before. He loses track of the latest set of numbers but writes them anyway, because in that instant everything is familiar.
"You broke me," he doesn't say, and quietly rolls up the measuring tape, considering. "You broke me and put me back together, piece by piece."
The song on the radio flips back to the deejay, and the unspoken words are meaningless to him again. Shaking his head, he gestures for the man to put his clothes back on, not entirely sure he trusts his voice.
"I want pockets," the man says, and rambles on and on as though pockets are something wonderful and strange. The tailor knows what's coming next, though, and nearly whispers along with the man when he says: "And one pocket just for me. Put it anywhere you like, just make sure it's bigger on the inside."
The tailor looks at the woman as though she'll clarify everything ("You broke me, once upon a time."), but her laugh is as before, intimate and distant all at once. "I sold him on the idea of bespoke," she says, and for a giddy moment he knows that she sells everyone on the idea of bespoke, on the idea of a world made to order. "Told him he could get anything he wants."
When they leave, the tailor quietly closes shop and gets to work.
At some point, a passing car's music thump-thumps on the street, a momentary distraction, and for an instant he thinks he's lost what he'd recovered from the fog of the past. His hand pauses in its clever, impossible sewing as his mind echoes the beat, searching for patterns he'd foresworn long ago. With a screech of tyres, the car moves on, and his doubts disappear with it, his selective memory maddeningly intact.
Sometimes the knowing fades all on its own; he stares at the pocket he's been sewing for weeks and can't remember why he's started it all wrong, why it twists and folds inside itself, why he can't find the end of the fabric. Sometimes he leaves work early and has restless dreams of boxes within boxes.
In spite of it all, he is ready when the man and woman step back inside the store six weeks later, looking just the same as ever but with the slightly new smiles and laughs and rhythms that tell him it's somehow been longer for them. The man takes the suit without preamble, starts inspecting it with a nearly humorous gravitas that reminds the tailor of old spy movies, of hidden compartments and suicide pills, and the part of him that isn't listening to the classics on the radio is curious.
The woman catches his glance and rolls her eyes with an infuriatingly distant smile. "All over again, you're breaking me, shattering me against the concrete," he doesn't say, and takes the money she hands him.
The man is beckoning to her, practically hopping up and down in his excitement, and the tailor can't help a smile of his own, a secret smile, distant. Brandishing the metal wand he'd been waving along the seams, the man shows his companion the pocket in the lining.
"It's bigger on the inside!" he says, more thrilled than surprised. "Look!"
He stuffs the metal wand into the pocket, then adds the woman's wallet - she makes a sound of protest at that - and his own specs and tie. Together, they glance up at him, the woman suddenly, wonderfully off-balance.
He summons up a wink, and says: "Made to measure."
They leave ("They always leave."), and the deejay comes to the next song with a phony laugh that shatters everything. The next advert is unfamiliar, quick and lively, and he grasps for the unknown melody. Unconsciously, he ghosts a hand over the dusty fobwatch on the counter.
Somewhere, sometime, the song ends.