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31 December 2011 @ 03:44 pm
"Tinderbox"  
Tinderbox
Summary: Being human hurts.
Genre: (Gen), angst
Character(s): Metacrisis Doctor, Rose
Warnings: none  

Tinderbox

"The tin soldier stood there, lighted up by the flame, and in the most horrible heat; but whether it was the heat of the real fire, or the warmth of his feelings, he did not know. He had lost all his gay color; it might have been from his perilous journey, or it might have been from grief, who can tell?" - The Steadfast Tin Soldier

It's looking into a mirror at his face every morning that does it to you. Feeling the hollow space in your chest where another heart should be. Going out to find something you left in the TARDIS and then realizing it isn't there because you're not him.

The funny thing is, you still remember the handful of dust that was Rose, the daleks, the cybermen, the year that never was, the Master dying in your arms, and a million other things like broken glass in your mind, fragments of a life someone else lived before you existed. You're brilliant, because he is, and everything you have, from your eyes to the suit you wear, belongs to him. You look like him, speak like him, act like him. You have nothing of your own and you think it should bother you, but it never seems to because you won't last forever, won't regenerate or change. You'll grow old and die and there will only be one of him again.

Dying is an odd thing. No matter how you've wished for it - or was that him? - you wonder what it will really be like, that strange thing like other human things you still haven't learned. Rose tries to teach you so many things and you try, really you do, even as the most mundane of tasks wear you down like a heavy coat. You try for her sake to change your clothes everyday, to remember to eat the three meals and sleep all the hours your human body requires. It's all very orderly and taken for granted by everyone around you, and you think you'll never understand it all, never fall into a schedule and carefully planned out life like other humans. And then you remember that you aren't like other humans and it seems to explain and excuse everything even as you yourself don't understand it, as you keep on behaving like him when you're not.

Like him you have nightmares. Mostly Gallifrey, the Time War, and two races burning on a dying world, voices echoing in the horror as you stand watching. Every night you're alone all over again. At first Rose tries to comfort you, holding you like a child, rocking, singing, anything to stop the violent tremors that shake you, to unclench your hands. She's frightened, you can see it in her eyes, frightened of what you might do when you dream, frightened of you when she never feared anything as long as he was with her. You try to reassure her, to tell her that you're like him, that you would die before you'd hurt her or anyone she cares about. But the words stick in your throat and you can't speak for fear you'll start screaming and never stop as you see Gallifrey in your mind, burning, always burning, like the brightest star across the galaxies.

You're a strange pair, you think, the human time lord with one heart and a body grown from a hand, and she who looked into the heart of the TARDIS and saw all of time and space in the blink of an eye. She's fantastic, you want to tell her, and then remember that it wasn't you who said that, at least not the one you're a physical clone of, or whatever you are. You're him, and not him, born of blood and battle and rage, an oncoming storm, fire and ice. But you're not wonderful, because you're just a clone, a human meta-crisis, little more than a genetic freak abandoned on a parallel world with the woman he loved and a pathetic splinter of wood that you watch over month after month, hoping yet fearing. You see Rose watch it, too, see the look in her eyes, and you fear that if it ever grows, becomes like his, she might use it, step inside and leave you behind. You're just a clone after all, and nothing more.

You don't know what to call yourself so you let Rose decide. It's "Doctor" on the days she's happy, which aren't many, "John" when she can't quite align the face with what she called him, and sometimes nothing at all. Those are the days when she keeps her eyes averted during breakfast and winces if your hand brushes her's when you reach for the sugar. She's remembering him, you know, the one that left her and left you in his place. It's those days when you wonder how she sees you, a cheap, plastic substitute for the real thing, something to look after and sometimes, on a good day, keep her mind off him. You think of that and you let her do more for you. You forget your raincoat when it's wet out, or fumble with your tie, because, if only for a moment, it takes that hollow look out of her eyes to run after you, to fix the tie, and at least she might smile then, a faint copy of the beautiful smiles she used to give. You remember those and it hurts.

There's always pain, in one form or another, because you can't take 900 years of death, dying worlds, faces, names, thoughts, and simply living, package it up, and cram it inside a human skull without it hurting. You don't show it in front of Rose and if she suspects she never lets on. You've become good at lying, attributing the lines on your face to lack of sleep or headaches, common human things. It's not even a lie because your head does ache, pounding until you can feel it in every bone of your slowly shattering body, through every pulse of your single heart. Sometimes when she's not there you curl up on the floor like the baby you never were and scream, hands digging into the sides of your head, as you wait for it to fade and it never does, like a million drums beating inside your mind.

On those days you get angry, at him for leaving you here, for not knowing about the pain, for the fact that you exist at all, even as you can't help but wonder if it wasn't just a terrible mistake and he thought he was doing the kindest thing for both of you. But he wasn't, you know, because kissing her feels like she's cheating on him, and you both know it. Because for all the ways you resemble him, from the color of your hair to the way your voice wraps around her name, the love you have for her, and all his thoughts inside your head, you're not really him.

And it's foolish to try to pretend otherwise.

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