When you were a little boy, no-one seemed to have any time for you. A stray among the shuffle of brothers and sisters; forgotten to wander, hands jammed in pockets, perfecting your slouch. Content to be alone because you had to be. It’s strange; you remember everything, but you can’t recall what you said to him the day you met. As if he had always been there; a part of you, and had simply taken his time to actually arrive in a tangible form. He had sparkled like a chandelier, all the constellations in the sky. The Elders tried to explain the impermanence of these things, what time truly meant. But he was there and that was all that mattered. He was your home.
And then the Time War came. Everything wants to live, you realised, everything wants its place in the sun. You became surrounded by death; your mother, father even those distant satellites of brothers. You felt them go out like a string of Christmas lights inside of you, blinking off one by one. All gone save one: your brightest star. Your relationship had grown complicated by then.
It had all the tawdry, imprecise details as might be salaciously told by outsiders. The sharpness of a hipbone, the salt tang of warm skin, mapping out the slope of a neck, discovering a new country in a pair of lips, your territory marked out in fading bruises on his hips. But it was also whispered words into the nape of a neck, a tender loose grip around the narrow bones of a wrist, his name an invisible tattoo under your clothing. You would have gladly let him annex every part of your body.
You’ve made so many choices in your long life. The villain is the one who chooses whether to be among the left or the leaving. History tells of betrayals, bloodshed, the neat labels of villain and hero. Galifrey becomes myth, a bedtime story, more truthful with each telling. For all your crimes you managed to skip genocide. The historians are all gone; no-one is left to write about what it was like to have that final star, instead of winking out as you had feared, seeming instead to shatter.
The effect was strangely cauterizing. A cold white violence that time and pressure have turned into something sharp and glittering with lust. Your own personal blood diamond. After all these years, you can still feel it slowly cutting your insides apart, tiny serrations of your hearts until all that will be left is blood and his name.
And then you learned what it was like to die. And your nine (ten, eleven . . .) lives are up, tricky tricky. No such thing as grace under pressure for a man with the ways and means. And you found them, of course you did.
Everything wants to live. Everything wants its place in the sun.
Your own dark mechanics and a glorious painful spark, burning in your chest, told you he was near. By then you had settled upon vengeance on an indifferent cosmos. He never failed to disapprove, to prove you wrong. You always expected him to. What you hadn’t expected was how quickly, how easily you had been replaced. Rage replacing the best parts of lonely. You tried to understand; taking some of the apes at your pleasure. They were all so greedy and willing. Grabby, desperate little primates ruled by little more than biology and fear. Skin that was always too hot, faintly stinking of carrion; the death that lurks inside of every living thing. And how they longed-practically begged-to be put to use. Begged for a master.
It was akin to coming home from the war to discover your family had replaced you with a rather dim Yorkie. Oddly, it was the loss of the last ape that alerted him to you; a grief so raw and relentless you actually had to sit down. The grim satisfaction you felt was quickly shattered by the cruel realisation that you hadn’t felt that echo of grief-intensity when you had to leave him. You were half excited to feel your other half. These last years had been tough on both of you; some days you’re little more than biological clockwork, a body that had misplaced its heart; lost or stolen or given away.
And he burns, you know he burns. Any childhood claims you had on him mean nothing compared to the chance to save their ruined and dishonoured little world. Those sad, one-heart chests-panicky and tight- always pounding out a rhythm of runawayrunwayrunaway have replaced you, frameworks he has chosen to call home. He had to destroy his home once. And you both know he won’t let it happen again.
Everything wants to live. Everything wants its place in the sun. Perhaps you’ll tell him that the next time you see him.